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OAK HARBOR, OH (Toledo News Now) -
largest tomato grower in northwest Ohio has shut down operations and moved to
Jones Produce in Oak Harbor usually employs up to 500 migrant works each summer
to help harvest and ship out their tomato crop, but this year, the owners says
he couldn't hire enough workers and had to shut down.
to Baldemar Velasquez, president and founder of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee
(FLOC), it is a sign of the immigration problems of the southwest growing into
it's been a problem now for a number of years, but intensified when they built
that new border patrol station up in Sandusky," Velasquez said.
FLOC represents thousands of migrant workers in Ohio and other states, and has
been on the forefront of immigration reform for years. Velasquez says the extra
pressure from immigration authorities in the area over the last year has
created a hostile environment for workers.
you have that threat, that intimidation on a work force, they're going to be
looking over their shoulders," he said. "They're going to be worried about
their families' safety."
because of that worry, workers did not make the trip to Jones Produce this year.
According to Velasquez, the economic impact of the 500 lost jobs to the area is
around $3 million.
hopes the shutdown of this major grower will show people that immigration
issues have a rippling effect on the economy and that immigration reform should
be a top priority in Washington.
door is not closed on whether Jones [Produce] will operate next year," he said.
"It depends on immigration reform."
News Now called the Charles Jones Produce offices in South Carolina, but did
not get a response.