“I have been working for Starrh and Starrh for five years”, Alejandro Gil told us. “The working conditions are awful. We are exposed to a lot of dust and we do not have any protection. In the last two or three days, I have been feeling a pain in my chest and my back when I breathe…The owner’s brother-in-law always puts pressure on workers. He wants more production. The brother-in-law always carries a gun on his waist to scare workers.”
“We never had bathrooms, fresh water or water to wash our hands. Sometimes we do not get any breaks. They put a lot of pressure on us to work faster. When I helped them packing hay, I worked up to 16 hours without breaks.” said Gerardo Negrete. “I am a sprayer and they do not give us what we need to protect ourselves from the chemicals. I have sprayed [pesticide] without gloves, masks or overalls. They only give those to us when we are close to roads where maybe some inspectors can see us…The foremen make fun of us for not having the protection we need.”
After reading this, I sat down and did some thinking about how stereotypes about immigrants are perpetuated in this society. Alejandro Gil, is only one person but his experiences are representative of the conditions that many--dare I say, most--undocumented workers are subjected to in the agricultural industrial complex. I can't stop thinking about the long-term effects of being subjected to such a toxic environment.
Society really is creating a disability class. It's kind of difficult for me to articulate the difference between the disability community and the disability class. I don't have a problem with an expanding disability community. In fact, I really want it to expand because I think that a lot of people could benefit by becoming a part of our community. However, what I do not want is for people to become a part of the class of individuals who are disabled by society because they were subjected to inhumane conditions.
After that, I thought about how there's all this talk about how much "illegals" are supposedly costing "us" (because, of course, they are not a part of "us" even though they live and work and die here, too) in health care benefits. Still, there's nary a mention of how much the exploitation of workers is causing many of these people to have to seek medical care in our health system. Who's going to calculate that?