Sunday, June 22, 2014

We had to destroy the tent village in order to save it

We might call this from Ross Courtney of the Yakima Herald Republic The Cherry Orchard (and its economics);
“It’s comfortable,” said Salvador Sosa of Portervile, Calif., who is spending his fifth cherry harvest at Reddout Orchards, jokingly calling his time here like a “vacation.”
Sosa, 59, is one of roughly 100 temporary workers saving money by living in tents that orchardist Helen Reddout rents from the state each year.
Reddout is one of 13 growers in the state, but the only one in Yakima County [Washington state], to use the state’s rent-a-tent program, created nearly 15 years ago as a way to fill a critical housing need and help farmers attract a seasonal workforce to make sure this signature crop makes it off the trees.
Hip, hip, hooray for the government! Because;
The state’s tent program started around the year 2000 after years of widespread illegal camping throughout the orchards, forests, parks and riverbanks of Eastern Washington, which created health and safety issues. 
And therein lies a tale...a textbook one. If the textbook is from a class on Public Choice Economics, that is. Let's travel back to June 22, 1999, and read this from the Seattle Times;
Bureaucratic bickering leaves thousands of migrant workers homeless
 A fight between state and federal bureaucrats over how best to house migrant cherry pickers will leave about 7,000 workers homeless during the harvest that gets under way in earnest this week.
Migrant pickers huddling in misery in forests, on the riverbanks and in their cars is nothing new to Washington. But the crisis is worse than ever this year because even as the tree-fruit industry booms, one of the state's biggest programs to address the migrant-housing crisis has been shut down by the feds. 
A little further down in the article;
Mike Barnes, a cherry grower at View Orchards in Finley, Benton County, was disgusted by the last-minute bureaucratic train wreck that forced him to close his camp, licensed for 135 workers.
"What a bunch of idiots," he said of federal and state regulators. "I mean, don't they have telephones? They don't talk to each other? It seems a little silly to us." 
Silly, it is definitely not. It's merely an example of what happens when well focused special interests, looking to expand their political power, and caring not a whit who has to suffer, make their power play;
Temporary, on-farm tent camps paid for by the growers and licensed by the Department of Health for the cherry harvest have been tried since the summer of 1995. The camps provided a place to sleep with hot showers, toilets and cleandrinking water for about 2,000 workers.
But under pressure from union organizers and labor advocates the U.S. Department of Labor this year declared they would no longer tolerate the state-licensed camps because they don't meet the federal minimum standard.
Bold in the above by HSIB, of course.

So, it turns out that the state's rent-a-tent program is merely replacing what the private sector orchardists were doing--for over a hundred years--on their own volition. Because it made economic sense to make it easy for its labor force to get to the cherry trees that needed picking.

The cherry growers managed to get back to square one, the taxpayers of the state of Washington have spent over $40 million dollars, and union organizers and labor advocates got to self-promote. Seems there must be a better way.

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