Learn a Lil’ : Food jobs on an H-2 Visa

Mid-summer, Buzzfeed published an in-depth investigative piece about foreign workers in the U.S., leading with two women’s stomach-churning tale of labor on a Louisiana crawfish farm. Of the top 10 jobs for H-2 visas offered to foreign workers, many work in meat, poultry, and fish processing. And the side affects are not pretty: unpaid overtime; dangerous equipment; sexual harassment; threats; poor and unclean on-site, shared living conditions; unclear hours or wages; and missing, undocumented pay checks, for starters.

This is a seriously mind-warping article. If you haven’t already, please do read it:

The New American Slavery: Invited to the U.S., Foreign Workers Find a Nightmare

This thorough investigation whirled my mind back to New York Times’ scary findings in the nail salon industry (The Price of Nice Nails) published this past May.

If we want to fight against salon workers’ exploitation, we can swear off manicures and never walk into a shop again. If we don’t want to support food industry business owners who run their production plants like labor camps, then we can limit ourselves to only, only, only local food, and promise to meet the workers ourselves. Neither of these are the solution.

New York officials have since worked toward more regulations within the nail industry. Not as much can be said about legislation regarding workers with H-2 visas. I’m not sure what the immediate solution looks like, but beyond where our food is coming from, food workers could use better representation all around, from the farm to the restaurant. Let’s take note.


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