The Harvest ~ La Cosecha : a documentary

Claim 3: There is no guaranteed minimum wage for migrant child workers.

December 3, 2014 · 1,049 Comments

A true (but unfortunate) statement!

The Department of Labor does exclude youth migrant workers from earning a minimum wage. Assuming that it is indeed legal for them to work (such that they are between 14 and 16 years of age) this dictates that they should receive a minimum wage. But according to The Harvest, children accompanying their parents can only contribute so much labor due to physical and mental constraints, even if they work the same amount of hours.

Upon further investigation, it can be seen that these low wages are found across all ages, but are especially exaggerated for child workers because of their inability to work quickly and efficiently using the “piece rate” method. A study by Fritz M. Roka illustrates an example of how the piece rate payment method can be a loophole for small farms to avoid complying with state and federal minimum wage standards.

“If a worker’s productivity is low and at a level where at the stated piece rate he fails to earn the minimum wage, his daily earnings need to be augmented until total daily earnings equal the hours worked multiplied by the minimum wage.”

Are wages really augmented in reality? The very simple answer is no. Why? According to this chart published in 2009 by an advocacy group called Farmworker Justice, only 36 out of 50 states are required by law to augment piece rate incomes. Even if farmworkers were paid by the hour (which 83% of them are according to the National Agricultural Worker Survey), they would still struggle to make minimum wage because either:

a) the season is not long enough for a minimum wage salary to provide an income that is above the annual poverty line,

b) the farm is a “small farm” so does not have to comply with the Department of Labor Standards (according to the Human Rights Watch’s analysis on DOL publications),

c) all of the above.


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