Farm workers

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For Chandler Heights, Combs, Higley, and Queen Creek, the farm worker has played a significant role in agricultural production and in community development.

During of the Mexican Revolution in the early 1900s, more families migrated to the Arizona Territory to escape the violence and to seek the opportunity to live a better life. Although some were educated, most were not and had to work as farm workers. Many were poor, their lives were hard, and they sometimes encountered a great deal of prejudice. We can take pride in knowing that the San Tan area is still home for many that moved here in the late 1930s – the Aldecoa, Trujillo, and Valenzuela families first working as irrigators in the vegetable and cotton fields.

FarmworkerDuring those first few years, when transportation was poor and there were no banks, wages were paid in script to be used in trade at the Ellsworth store. Only coins were produced, having the appearance of silver in 5, 10, 25, and 50 cent pieces. The amount was stamped on one side of the coins; on the other was printed Ellsworth Bros. The farm worker’s children would attend the Rittenhouse School when there were no crops to harvest; but, were segregated into one classroom, regardless of age, until they learned English. Many of them dropped out of school when they reached the ages of 10 and 11 so they could work to help support their families.

According to an UFW white paper, wages of the more than two million farm workers in the US have failed to keep pace with inflation over the past 20 years, making it difficult and often impossible to afford the basic necessities of housing, food, health care and education for their children. Farm workers do back-breaking manual labor, and do not normally receive such benefits as health insurance, pension plans, and paid vacation; or even overtime pay for working more than eight hours per day. Most estimates place the Mexican and Central American farm worker population at over 90% of all farm workers in the US. While most speak only Spanish, there is an increasing number who speak neither Spanish nor English but rather the native languages of the region from which they came. The fact that the vast majority of farm workers are non-white adds a dimension of racial and ethnic discrimination against them; not only in terms of employment practices but also in the relationships within the established communities in which they work.