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Economy | local | Rural Economy Project

Farmworker Advocates Say Hundreds Of Camps Unregistered

As thousands of migrants arrive in Oregon for the summer fruit harvest, farmworker groups say many end up living at camps that aren’t registered with the state and where conditions are appalling.

About 50,000 migrant workers travel to Oregon for the main harvest season, which starts with strawberries and ends with pears in the fall.

Workers often live as long as a couple of months in rudimentary camps provided by farmers. Most camps are registered with Oregon Occupational Safety and Health and regularly checked.

But farmworker advocates say as many as 200 camps are unregistered. OSHA spokeswoman Melanie Mesaros thinks that estimate is high, but she says, it is a problem.

“Anybody who is aware of a camp that’s not registered, we would certainly want to hear about it. And they could call us and let us know. I mean that’s something that we do struggle with at times,” Mesaros said.

Mesaros says Oregon OSHA has eight staff to check camps. And, if they’re checking a farm’s packing plant, for example, and find unregistered housing, a farmer can be fined up to $7,000 dollars.

Many workers stay instead in their cars, under bridges, or with family.


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