Immigrant Rights Coalition decries death of bill targeting state's worst job

sheepherders camper.jpg
Not much of a home on the range.
In January, Alan Prendergast argued that herding sheep may be Colorado's worst job. He cited research from Colorado Legal Services showing that the vast majority of herders, many of them brought to the U.S. by industry types from Peru, Bolivia or Mexico, "don't get time off, don't have access to toilets or other conveniences, and are paid around $750 a month" for doing "brutish, filthy, back-breaking work."

Nonetheless, the senate agriculture committee unanimously voted down HB 1407, a bill to create a range worker advisory council tasked with examining the working and living conditions of such employees. That frustrates the folks at the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, an organization that helped craft the measure.

With all the furor over the Arizona Immigration law in these parts, this legislative move won't get much attention -- but CIRC's sounding off anyhow. Here's the group's take:

CIRC's Attempt at Balanced Discussion on Colorado Range Workers Thwarted

When an industry refuses to engage in a neutral stakeholder process, questions arise as to what is really going on

Colorado -- Today, HB 1407, the range worker advisory council bill was killed by a unanimous vote against the bill in the Senate Agriculture Committee. The bill would have created a stake holder process to discuss issues concerning range workers in Colorado who are working under the federal H-2A visa program. The council would have included a wide range of perspectives on the issue, from representatives of the wool growing industry to advocates for migrant workers. The following is a statement from the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC), a statewide organization that worked to craft the bill:

"The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition is disappointed by the defeat of HB 1407 today. We entered this process wanting to have a conversation with the herding industry that employs Colorado's range workers, to discuss potential issues and arrive at common solutions. Instead, the herding industry backed out on their commitment to an even-handed, balanced conversation.

"Range worker advocates and the herding industry negotiated the content of this bill, agreeing that an advisory council on this issue was a fair and open medium for a necessary conversation. In the advisory council, the living and working conditions of Colorado's range workers could be discussed without any predetermined legislative solutions.

"One would think that such a process would be in the herding industry's best interest, in order to establish themselves as good actors in our state's economy and resolve concerns about the way they treat H-2A employees.

"Instead, the industry acted in bad faith, backing out of commitments and ultimately appearing to oppose this bill. We are left wondering: when an industry opposes an open, well-balanced conversation, what is really going on?"

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