Last year, Tom Wark wrote an interesting piece on immigration and the serious shortage of day laborers in the Sonoma Valley. The projected implication of the shortage being that both food and wine prices would significantly rise.
Now, the great fear of immigration and the continual mind-boggling ineptitude of Spanish bureaucracy has crossed over the big blue pond into the great wine producing country of Spain, as reported by The Times Online. Every year, thousands of Romanians and Bulgarians make their way towards Spain to work in sectors such as agriculture and construction. These sectors are the bread and butter of Spain, providing the means for politicians to enjoy their million dollar condos and bottles of Vega Sicilia. Without these day laborers, the Spanish wine we’ve applauded for both its high quality and exceptional value will spiral into chaos leaving a wake of shriveled grapes sitting idly on the vine and bottle prices well above their normal shelf price.
The Spanish government is working overtime to diminish the number of immigrants into Spain. Not only illegal immigrants mind you, but legal as well. Both Bulgaria and Romania were accepted into the EU this year, providing its citizens the authorization to work anywhere in the EU legally. Unfortunately, there have been reports of politicians not recognizing their new EU status. Last month, the mayor of a small down in the Albacete province of Castilla La Mancha ordered police to expel thousands of Romanians living just outside the city limits. More than 20,000 immigrants, many of which are legal, have experienced the same treatment throughout Spain.
The government will attest that the issue isn’t that Romanians and Bulgarians can’t work as seasonal laborers in Spain, but they must do so legally by proving the work is seasonal. However, in order to prove seasonal status, this requires small wineries to jump through half a dozen hoops that they don’t either have the time, nor energy, to do.
Granted, I am more than sympathetic to Spain’s plight with over 1,000 immigrants coming through the Canary Islands a day. However, Spain is also one of the highest performing European economies. Since 2002, unemployment has dropped from 20 to 8.6 percent, and growth has soared to around 3.1 percent. Hence, jobs need to be filled, and if Eastern Europeans have the skill set and motivation to occupy positions that Spaniards don’t want, let’s find a legitimate and safe way to do it.
While Americans ruffle their feathers over immigrants taking their jobs illegally, isn’t a little strange that Spanish wineries can’t find a way for legal immigrants to harvest their grapes?