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January 2008, Volume 14, Number 1

Northwest, Northeast

Oregon. Oregon produces more Christmas trees than any other state, and finds its industry threatened by artificial trees- half of the trees used in US households are artificial, usually made in China. Holiday Tree Farms in Corvallis, Oregon may be the world's largest Christmas tree grower, harvesting over a million trees. The US has about 450,000 acres planted in Christmas trees, and harvested 29 million trees worth $1.2 billion in 2006.

Oregon's minimum wage rose from $7.80 to $7.95 on January 1, 2008; Washington's rose from $7.93 to $8.07 an hour. The federal minimum wage is $5.85 an hour, and is slated to rise to $6.55 an hour July 24, 2008.

Washington. Carlos Diaz, the CEO of the Washington State Migrant Council based in Sunnyside, was fired in December 2007 as the WSMC Board responded to complaints of nepotism and mis-management at the $30 million a year agency. The WSMC serves 10,000 families and children a year with funds from various federal and state programs. Suits alleged that Diaz ran the WSMC as his personal fiefdom, and retaliated against employees who complained.

New York. Some 1,400 fruit and vegetable farms and 1,600 dairies were sent questionnaires asking about the employment and earnings of hired and family workers in 2007. The purpose of the survey is to determine the extent and impact of labor shortages.

In testimony before the House Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry on October 4, 2007, the Farm Credit of Western New York said that 832 of the 35,000 New York farms were vulnerable to going out of business if there was effective no-match enforcement, including 445 dairy farms. According to the testimony, up to 7,000 full-time equivalent jobs could be eliminated.

The Migrant Labor Project of Bard College interviewed Hudson Valley farm workers in 2002, and released a report in October 2007 that found 79 percent of the workers were unauthorized (63 percent were born in Mexico), average hourly farm earnings were $6.56, and 41 percent lived in the Hudson Valley year-round. The Farm Bureau emphasized that most Hudson Valley farm workers are in the region for only 10 weeks a year.

Ross Courtney, "Diaz out at Migrant Council," Yakima Herald-Republic, December 17, 2007.

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