Is There an Exit From the Labyrinth of “Horizontal” Low-wage Jobs for Farmworkers?

Dena Popova
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I investigated the difficulties that farmworkers encounter in keeping their employment and the reasons that hamper them to go up the ladder in the agricultural industry. The goal of my research was to find out why just a small number of the Latino farmworkers succeed in achieving upward job mobility.

Methods: I began working on the project by looking for previous research on job mobility and Latino farmworkers in the agriculture industry. While there is a considerable amount of literature on the nature of migrant farmworking and the structure of the agriculture industry, I directed my research to the personal stories of success or difficulties with job mobility. I conducted interviews with farmworkers living either in Farm Labor Housing or in self-owned homes; with farm owners; social service providers; union leaders and second generation Mexican-Americans.


  • The labor structure in agriculture itself provides very few options for upward mobility that become very competitive.
  • Usually higher positions such as irrigation managers and crew leaders are given to people who have worked the longest number of years on the farm.
  • A major factor that farmworkers identify as a restriction for better job positions is their lack of English fluency and the lack of time to attend ESL classes and to practice the foreign language.
  • However, after conducting the primary research, I can draw the conclusion that fluency in English is not always necessarily required for all of the higher position.


  • It would be extremely beneficial to farmworkers if there were more options for professional job trainings in accessible locations, times, language, that could also work as hiring networks that would provide job information.
  • Stimulating Private sector initiative in professional and skill training for farmworkers (smaller farms, e.g.)
  • Educational policymakers should consider integrating specialized farmworking classes in the programs of local community colleges, accessible to farmworkers
  • Increase the schedule variety of Community Colleges free ESL classes

Community Partner: Rosalinda Mendoza, Washington State Housing Trust

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