New WRAL News Documentary Examines Housing for North Carolina’s Migrant Farmworkers
Agriculture is our state’s number one industry, generating nearly $8 billion a year. Farmers say it depends on migrant labor, but many migrant workers live in housing that is overcrowded and unhealthy. The next Focal Point documentary, “Standards of Living”, examines the condition of housing for migrant workers in North Carolina and a battle underway to improve it. WRAL News anchor David Crabtree hosts the program, which airs Wednesday August 3, 2005, at 7:30pm.
“These workers make an important contribution to North Carolina’s economy but many of them live in conditions most of us would find intolerable”, says Jim Hefner, General Manager of WRAL-TV. “We wanted to examine those conditions and find out what measures our state is taking to ensure that these workers are being treated fairly and humanely.”
In 1960 CBS first aired Edward R. Murrow’s landmark documentary “Harvest of Shame”, which exposed the poor living conditions of migrant farmworkers, including many in North Carolina. There are remarkable similarities between the migrant labor camps of today and those depicted in Murrow’s 45-year-old documentary.
- North Carolina’s housing standards for migrant farmworkers are less than what they are for prison inmates; one toilet for every 15 residents, one showerhead for every ten and farmers aren’t required to provide mattresses.
- New legislation is being proposed to raise those standards, but the state’s commissioners of Labor and Agriculture, along with agricultural lobbyists, oppose it. They say raising the standards will cost farmers too much.
- Advocates for migrant farmworkers say the extra cost is minimal and that better housing can actually benefit farmers by making workers healthier and more productive. They say the current standards are too low and allow workers to live in conditions that can be detrimental to their safety and health.
- There are also labor camps not registered with the state that fall below the state’s minimal standards.
Advocates say that regardless of a migrant worker’s immigration status, the farmers who employ them have a moral obligation to treat them humanely. “Standards of Living” shows the poor living conditions of some of North Carolina’s migrant farmworkers and looks at the debate over raising state standards to improve them.
Standards of Living is the eighth episode in the WRAL News series called Focal Point. These in-depth news documentaries focus on a single topic, bringing depth and clarity to complicated issues facing North Carolina. From North Carolina’s economy and environment, to health care and race relations – Focal Point takes viewers inside the lives of the people most affected. Focal Point tackles the tough questions with leaders and policymakers who have the power to effect change. WRAL News anchors, including David Crabtree, Pam Saulsby, Bill Leslie, Gerald Owens and Debra Morgan, host the series. Six to eight new episodes of Focal Point will be produced each year.