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Rural Migration Blog

December 2020

MIT: The Work of the Future

An MIT Task Force in November 2020 released a report, The Work of the Future, that emphasized the divergence between rapidly rising US productivity growth and slower US wage growth since 1980. Why did wage growth slow while productivity rose? The report points to weaker unions, a stagnant federal minimum wage, and more free trade agreements, especially with China and Mexico, that put US workers in more direct competition with workers in other countries.

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Alternatives to Hand Labor in Strawberries

The Romans thought that wild strawberries had medicinal properties, and the French developed modern hybrids in the 1750s from wild varieties found in the Americas. China produced 2.7 million tons of strawberries in 2018, followed by the US with 1.2 million tons, Mexico with 590,000 tons, Spain with 344,000 tons, and Poland with 195,000 tons. The leading exporters of fresh strawberries in 2019 were Spain, which exported $678 million worth of fresh strawberries or a quarter of global exports, Mexico, $580 million, the US, $451 million, the Netherlands, $271 million, and Belgium, $186 million.

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Alternatives to Hand Labor in US Melons

Watermelons, cantaloupes, and honeydews are cucurbits, a plant family that includes cucumbers and pumpkins, squash, and zucchini. Most melons are consumed fresh in summer. Melons are over 90 percent water, and the cost of transporting them long distances can equal production costs, especially in summer when there are many fruits and vegetables to transport.

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Federal Labor Law Enforcement in Agriculture

The purpose of labor law enforcement is to ensure that the rights of workers are protected and to level the playing field for employers, so that those who underpay workers or engage in other cost-reducing behavior in violation of labor laws do not gain a competitive advantage over law-abiding employers. The US Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is the major federal agency that protects the rights of US farm workers and H-2A guest workers.

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