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Undercover Boss: Chiquita CEO Agrees with Stephen Colbert -- Americans Don't Want Farm Jobs

In an interview with BNET, Chiquita CEO Fernando Aguirre, who appears on CBS' Undercover Boss this Sunday, has laid out a compelling, and often overlooked, argument for why we need a plan for comprehensive immigration reform. Without Hispanic immigrants, he says, Chiquita would stop functioning.

That's because more than three quarters of the workers who pick and pack lettuce and spinach for the company's Fresh Express salads are immigrants, many of them from Mexico. And these jobs are so grueling and physically demanding that Americans, even the 9.2% who are unemployed, simply don't want them. In a Q&A session that will be published in full on Monday, Aguirre explained the labor challenge his and other agricultural companies face:

They're very difficult jobs and clearly not everyone wants to be out at 4or 5 in the morning in the fields, bending over picking lettuce and doing all that physical labor. At Chiquita, we pay competitive wages and are very pro-union and we believe in treating everyone fairly, but there still aren't enough people out there who want to take those jobs.
Aguirre's comments echo those of the United Farm Workers, which started a "Take Our Jobs" campaign in June to illustrate the absurdity of the argument, often heard in anti-immigration circles, that Mexicans are stealing jobs from hard-working Americans. The UFW, a union that represents farm workers in 10 states, says that so far just 10 people have taken them up on the challenge to become farm workers. One of them was comedian Stephen Colbert who went to work on a farm in upstate New York for a day and then gave a hilarious but much-criticized account of how hard it was at at a Congressional hearing last month.

Undercover Boss afforded Aguirre, who himself immigrated from Mexico when he was 17 and became a citizen only last year, a similar firsthand learning experience while working undercover as an immigrant named Manuel in a lettuce field in Salinas, CA:

If I'd known how grueling coring lettuce was I probably would have tried to lose some weight and get in better shape.
Aguirre, who spent 24 years at P&G before coming to Chiquita, says he knows there's no easy solution to the politically charged issue of immigration, but he says it's something that desperately needs to be addressed since much of his workforce, at least for the immediate future, is going to be coming from Mexico, not Milwaukee.
There has got to be a way for workers to come into the country legally, earn money, pay their taxes, go back home and then come back and remain legal.
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