05/2006

The Work

Workers labor long hours from dawn to dusk, often 6 or 7 days per week. It is physically arduous work, and the conditions are grueling.

"When I went to work I weighed about 190 and when I came back, I weighed about 130, 135. My first week planting trees, I earned $60. [After paying rent] I didn't have any money so I went to buy potatoes and I boiled them with salt. I didn't have anything to drink so there was this bucket that my co-workers had left clean so I filled it with tap water and drank it.

Not just anyone can tolerate this work. You never forget it. If you can tolerate this work, you can tolerate anything."

Sergio Roldan, H-2B forestry worker

"Sometimes we had to plant in water. You plant a tree every three steps. If you walked three steps and you ended up in water, you had to plant there. They didn't give us boots, we worked in . . . normal shoes. The bags we used to carry the trees were old. We paid for them. There is a part that clips onto your waist to hold it up. These parts would rub on your hips because the spongy pad had worn off because they were old. I had blisters from the rubbing. It was so hard to plant the next day with blisters like that."

Otto Rafael Boton-Gonzalez, H-2B forestry worker

"After the planting was over, we used chemicals to kill weeds so the trees would grow faster. The pumps were very old and would often get clogged. When we first would use them, we would get head aches. The chemical would leak on our shirts and at the end of the day we would be wet. Sometimes our hands became blue from the chemicals and we ate like that because there was no water to wash with. This chemical is pure poison."

Leonel Hernandez-Lopez, H-2B forestry worker

"[While working in the National Forest] we were forced to camp in the mountains as temperatures approached freezing. There were no sleeping pads, mattresses, or sleeping bags. The only drinking water came from the creek."

Candelario Perez, H-2B forestry worker