Sign-on: NAWS letter to Secretary Chao

February 8, 2005

The Honorable Elaine Chao
Secretary of Labor
U.S. Department of Labor
Washington, D.C. 20210

Dear Secretary of Labor Chao

The National Farmworker Alliance and the undersigned organizations request that the Department of Labor continue the National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) and that it rescind the stop-work order regarding the field surveys for the upcoming season.

Migrant and seasonal farmworkers remain a critically-important asset to the nation's food supply, especially in labor-intensive fruits, vegetables and other horticultural products. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that the value of fruit and tree nut crops in 2003 had increased to $13.1 billion, and that the value of fresh vegetables and melons was $9.67 billion. Farmworkers are important to the economic benefits of trade as well as to feeding the world. USDA reported that the dollar value of our nation's exports of fruits, nuts and vegetables during the first eleven months of 2004 was $8.68 billion.

Accurate Information regarding migrant and seasonal farmworkers is in short supply. Many obstacles impede collection of information from such workers, including nontraditional housing, long work hours, lack of telephones, migration, language differences, limited education, and tenuous or non-unauthorized immigration status. These obstacles and a lack of resources contribute to the paucity of data about farmworkers. In addition, much information that is collected about agricultural workers is limited in value or fundamentally flawed because the studies fail to confront the reality of farmworkers' living and working conditions and therefore rely on samples of unrepresentative workers. Some studies that do provide useful information are nevertheless limited in value because they focus on narrow geographic areas or sub sectors of the agricultural economy.

The NAWS is one of the very few sources of solid information about migrant and seasonal farmworkers. The demographic, economic and other information provided by NAWS offers a useful portrait of the nation's farmworkers that is not available in any other study. Its findings provide the public and policy makers with important information related to employment, immigration, health, public benefits, education, and wages and income. Numerous government and non-government agencies rely on NAWS to fulfill their missions regarding health, education, employment and training, and disaster relief. In the absence of the NAWS, the public and policy makers would be forced to rely on other data, much of which contains misleading conclusions about such basic issues as the race, ethnicity, national origin, wages, amount of work and immigration status.

The NAWS is especially necessary as we confront challenges posed by an increasingly global economy marked by expanded agricultural trade, greater labor migration, the need for continuing recent increases in agricultural-worker productivity, and efforts to reduce poverty. In the presence of a major debate regarding immigration policy, it is especially important that the Department continue the ongoing study of changes in the farmworker population, including immigration status of farmworkers. The study should not be interrupted with a lapse in surveys.

The relatively small investment in NAWS has yielded major results and should continue. We understand that there have been discussions regarding a shift of the NAWS to other agencies, but we strongly believe the best approach would be to continue to house the study in the Department of Labor because this is fundamentally an issue about workers and their working and living conditions.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

cc: Honorable Veronica Vargas Stidvent
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Policy

Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs
Coalition of Florida Farmworker Organization
Eastern Alliance of Farmworkers Advocates (EFA)
Farmworker Justice Fund, Inc.
Housing Assistance Council (HAC)
League of United Latin American Citizens, LULAC
Migrant Legal Action Program
National Council of La Raza
National Association of State Directors of Migrant Education
National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association
United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO
American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
American Federation Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations
American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), AFL-CIO
American Friends Service Committee
Alliance of Forest Workers and Harvesters, California
Brennan Center for Justice
Broward Immigration Coalition
California Human Development Corporation
Catholic Diocese of Cleveland
Catholic Migrant Farmworker Network
CAUSA, Oregon's Immigrant Rights Coalition
Center for Artistic Revolution (CAR)
Center for New Community
Center for Community Change
Central Florida Health Center, Inc
Central Valley Partnership for Citizenship
Centro Campesino Farmworker Center Inc., Florida
Colorado Legal Services
Columbia Valley Community Health
Committee on Education and the Workforce
Community Action Council of South Texas
CRLA Foundation
Diringer and Associates
El Paso Mexican American Bar Association
The Episcopal Church, USA
Equal Justice Center, Texas
El Pueblo, Inc., North Carolina
Eslabon & Associates, Arizona
Fair Immigration Reform Movement
Family Health / La Clinica
Farmworker Health Services, Inc.
Farmworker Legal Services of New York, Inc.
Franciscan Friars of St. Barbara Province, JPIC Office
Florida Community Health Centers, Inc
Greater Hartford Legal Aid
Guatemalan-Maya Center
Immigrant Legal Resource Center
Immigrant Rights Action Task Force
Institute for a Sustainable Environment, University of Oregon
Interfaith Worker Justice
Kooskooskie Commons, Washington
Korean American Resource & Cultural Center (KRCC)
Korean Resource Center (KRC)
La Clinica de Familia, Inc.
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA)
Latino Leadership, Inc.
Latinos Unidos Siempre
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
Legal Aid Services of Oregon
Lideres Campesinas, California
Maine Migrant Health Program
Maui Economic Opportunity, Inc., Hawaii
Maverick Farms
Mexican-American Council, Florida
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)
Migrant Health Promotion
Migration and Refugee Services, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Minnesota Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride
Montana Migrant & Seasonal Farmworker Council, Inc.
NAF Multicultural Human Development Corporation (NAF-MHDC), Nebraska
National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium
National Association of Community Health Centers
National Center for Farmworker Health
National Center for Primary Care, Morehouse School of Medicine
National Community Reinvestment Coalition
National Employment Law Project (NELP)
National Farm Worker Ministry
National Immigrant Solidarity Network
National Immigration Forum
National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
NC Farmworkers Project
NC Justice Center
New England Farm Workers' Council
New River Valley Community Services
North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Project
Northwest Regional Primary Care Association
Nueva Vista Group LLC
Nuestra Clinica Del Valle
OIC of Washington
Oregon Human Development Corporation
Oregon Law Center
Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sister
PCUN, NW Treeplanters and Farmworkers United, Oregon
Presbyterian (PCUSA) Youth Connection
Proteus, Inc.
Quincy/Moses Lake Community Health Centers
Relational Culture Institute
Rocky Mountain (SER)
Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural
Rural Family Development
Rural Missouri, Inc.
Rural Opportunities, Inc. (ROI)
Salem/Keizer Coalition for Equality
Shawnee Health Service
Shenandoah Valley Medical System, Inc. (SVMS)
Sisters of Charity
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
South Dade Skills Center, Florida
Telamon Corporation
Tennessee Opportunity Programs
Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid
The Agricultural and Labor Program, Inc.
The United Methodist Church - General Board of Church and Society
Transition Resources Corporation
Tri-County Community Health Council, Inc., North Carolina
United Auto Workers - UAW, AFL-CIO
United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, AFL-CIO
University of Connecticut School of Medicine
Virginia Justice Center for Farm and Immigrant Workers
Watershed Center, California
YKASEC – Empowering the Korean American Community