[Marxism] shaking the trees

Les Schaffer schaffer at optonline.net
Mon Mar 22 08:43:28 MST 2004

a tale of overproduction, immigrant labor, and machinery to reduce labor 

    In Florida Groves, Cheap Labor Means Machines


Published: March 22, 2004

MMOKALEE, Fla. — Chugging down a row of trees, the pair of canopy 
shakers in Paul Meador's orange grove here seem like a cross between a 
bulldozer and a hairbrush, their hungry steel bristles working through 
the tree crowns as if untangling colossal heads of hair.

In under 15 minutes, the machines shake loose 36,000 pounds of oranges 
from 100 trees, catch the fruit and drop it into a large storage car. 
"This would have taken four pickers all day long," Mr. Meador said.

Canopy shakers are still an unusual sight in Florida's orange groves. 
Most of the crop is harvested by hand, mainly by illegal Mexican 
immigrants. Nylon sacks slung across their backs, perched atop 16-foot 
ladders, they pluck oranges at a rate of 70 to 90 cents per 90-pound 
box, or less than $75 a day.

But as globalization creeps into the groves, it is threatening to 
displace the workers. Facing increased competition from Brazil and a 
glut of oranges on world markets, alarmed growers here have been turning 
to labor-saving technology as their best hope for survival.


les schaffer

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