When pictures lie

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 17, 2014

SALISBURY — For her homemade video, a woman trained a smart phone on the bus which has just delivered adults to Salisbury’s Walmart.
It went downhill from there.
She delivered running commentary as the folks of Latin American descent got on and off the old school bus. She shot the video through the windshield of her car.
“This is something that is a major problem for our government today,” she said, narrating. “I don’t know why this is happening. I don’t know why they’re allowing these illegal immigrants to come here and give them government subsidies to shop here and get supplies.”
The video captured about two-and-a-half minutes as the woman also interjected that “not one of them speaks English” and how “they’re new to America.” She said she had learned they were staying in China Grove, and she promised a person walking by she would be posting her video to the Internet.
“This is a major issue for America,” the woman said. “… I’m so upset right now. I’m really, really upset.”
Pretty much none of what the woman’s video portends to be factual is. They were not illegal immigrants. They were spending their own money, not the government’s, and few were new to America.
In short, the video with its narration is a gross misrepresentation of what was going on, but the woman followed through on her promise to post the video on YouTube.
As of Wednesday, it had gained traction (13,000 views), much to the concern of Rowan County’s Patterson Farm Inc. where these guest workers are part of the season’s workforce.
Comments below the video identified Patterson Farm as the employer of these “illegal immigrants.”
The video was shared to several other sites, and the farm began receiving a lot of calls questioning what was going on with the workers. The governor’s office even made an inquiry by telephone.
The video’s title on YouTube — “Migrant workers with EBT cards in school buses arrive at N.C. Walmart” — was another inaccuracy.
“We truly value these workers and what they do for our farm to provide food for people in this country,” Michelle Patterson said Wednesday. “We’re concerned they’re being misrepresented, and we don’t want them to feel threatened in any way. They’re just trying to get groceries to make it through the week.”
Patterson Farm employs about 120 agricultural guest workers through the H2A program authorized by Congress in 1986.
Some of the guest workers have worked at Patterson Farm for more than 20 years. To abide by the Immigration Reform and Control Act, the farm is required to pay the guest workers’ transportation from and back to their countries of origin.
Patterson Farm also provides housing, low-cost meals and guaranteed employment for at least 75 percent of the period specified in their work contracts.
As pay, the H2A guest workers receive an “adverse effect wage rate” from Patterson Farm of $9.87 a hour, well above the federal minimum wage in North Carolina of $7.25 an hour.
Patterson Farm deposits the workers’ wages onto individual pay cards, which they can use to purchase items when they go shopping at places such as Walmart, which welcomes the business.
The farm provides a former school bus to take the guest workers to Salisbury’s Walmart on Sundays so they can buy groceries and other items they might need for the coming week.
Before you lodge a complaint about the guest workers taking jobs from U.S. citizens, you should know that Patterson Farm has to establish “there are not sufficient U.S. workers who are able, willing and qualified” for these same jobs.
Patterson Farm is required to make efforts to find U.S. workers and advertise these jobs each year. Michelle Patterson said the farm does that, but it still would not be able to produce the fruits and vegetables it does without the guest workers.
In years past, she noted, the farm has hired upwards of 90 local people one day only to find they didn’t return the next because they found the work too hard.
“Our crops are very labor-intensive,” Patterson said.
It’s the peak of the growing season now for tomatoes and other crops, and Patterson Farm is bustling with activity. The guest workers are here for six months, coming in the spring and leaving in the fall.
They help with the planting, harvesting and grading, and Patterson said the guest workers send a lot of their earnings to families back home.
“It concerns us that they are being misrepresented,” she repeated about this video making the rounds. “The whole thing is false, that whole situation is false.
“… I think it’s a sensitive time because of other things happening in the country right now.”
By late Wednesday morning, the video had a disclaimer attached. It said, “a local Tea Party group has confirmed that these are not part of Obama’s illegal immigrant surge being bused in from the border right now. … While these are legal immigrants, please remain diligent for Obama’s dropoffs of illegals in your communities. Great work team!”
Yeah, great work.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mark.wineka@salisburypost.com.