Monday, April 3, 2006

Sheepherders Wanted; Pay Bad, Living Conditions Worse

Sheepherding_2In the list of jobs immigrants perform that no U.S. citizen wants, sheepherding must rank near the top. The 825 or so sheepherders who work the nation's sheep farms -- mostly in California, Texas and Wyoming -- are immigrants here on H-2A visas from Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Mexico, according to the Western Range Association, an industry group.

Today's Washington Post has more on the plight on these forgotten laborers:

The seven sheepherders were eating lunch in a trailer with no toilet, heat or water, its leaky roof held down by a rope.

A lunch break, especially one together, was a rare event. But they were celebrating, sort of. Lambing season was ending. That's when the ewes give birth and the sheepherders who come to this country on three-year work visas put in their hardest 12- to 16-hour days, seven days a week.

Still, the sheepherders were steeling themselves for spring. From late March until fall, sheepherding is almost unbearably lonely. Each herder is driven deep into pastures far from town or even a paved road. For weeks on end, he sees no one but the boss, and rarely does he have a cellphone or radio.

Gee, and you thought working at Wal-Mart was bad.

More seriously, it is amazing that there are still workers in this country who must work under these inhumane conditions (91% don't have working toilets, some live in plywood trailers of 7 by 10 feet, and pay is infrequent at best).

State legislatures need to act to protect these workers and now.


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I used to fantasize about giving up law and becoming a shepherd, which I imagined would be an idyllic life. I'm glad I never went through with it!

Posted by: Eric M. Fink | Apr 3, 2006 3:02:53 PM

Sounds like a set-up for Brokeback Mountain...

Posted by: Art Leonard | Apr 5, 2006 5:58:27 AM

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