“Enough nurses?”

Q4 Crisis
Short staffing is exhausting to the bedside staff. The staffing coordinator also feels it: one called it “the q4 crisis.” I worked at [Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center] as a float nurse for years before the sellout, and months afterward. I was, of course, always sent to understaffed areas. Christus brought a bean counting, false economy to [CSVRMC], and it sounds like it’s getting worse. If someone you love is there, stay with them yourself. Jack White


Bean Counters If you are a nurse here with experience, you are a target more than an asset. We have lost so many nurses with experience and  [the] administration says that this is a “transition phase.” So, we hire new nurses for low wages and shape them to be “Team Players.” I have never worked anywhere that the administration does not care what their staff has to say about the lack of care of the patients like they do here. Then they hide behind a fake cross and call themselves servants of Jesus Christ, with a name like Christus. Don’t be fooled: they are corporate bean counters that answer to Houston, Texas. CSVRN


Cover, Sept. 4:
“Hard Harvest” A Better Day

I want to acknowledge Joseph Sorrentino’s excellent investigative article, “Hard Harvest,” on migrant farmworkers’ plight presently—this article centers on the El Paso area. His story (and photographs) is one of the best informed and beautifully written I’ve read of this nature in a long time.

I was living in California in the ‘60s when César Chávez began organizing the farmworkers and eventually created the first unions.    Conditions were deplorable then; there were many abuses,  physical, emotional and financial.  So I felt really disturbed about migrant farmworkers’ conditions today; not a whole lot has changed.

It made me ache to hear stories about the younger members of whole families in the fields just after midnight, and having to stop by 1 pm because of extreme heat and complete exhaustion. Only on a lucky day one might earn as much as $70. Out of that comes money to pay for the buses to bring them to the fields, food and other tariffs. Many of these bright kids quit school so that they can help their older family members make enough money to feed the family. [There are o]nly a few stories told of hope for a better day in the future. I wish this story could be shown as a documentary in every school in the country.

If the migrant workers refused to “pick” in America at harvest time,  within weeks, crops in the millions would fail, and the economic downfall would be disastrous. Because, as the author said, Americans will not and cannot do this kind of long-term exhaustive, menial labor. (And, with the $70/day, most families send half [of it] back to Mexico.) Barbara Gage

Santa Fe

Minimum Wage My name is María Martínez Sánchez. I am a staff attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. I first want to thank you for publishing Joseph Sorrentino’s “Hard Harvest,” which described the deplorable working and living conditions of our states’ farm workers. We are obsessed with our chile in this state, but no one ever thinks to consider the people who bring it to us. As an attorney who works on improving the labor conditions of our states’ agricultural workers, I very much appreciated the article.

I know Joseph Sorrentino, and I very much respect his work as a photographer and a writer, however, I wanted to point out one error in his article. In regard to farmworker pay, he mistakenly stated that, “Weeding and thinning chile plants pays an hourly wage, and New Mexico’s agriculture industry is exempt from paying the state minimum wage of $7.50 per hour.”   This is incorrect. There are some exemptions in New Mexico’s Minimum Wage Act for agricultural employers, however, they are extremely limited, mainly focusing on very small farms and those who work on dairies and with livestock.  The vast majority of our state’s farm workers (ie, field workers) do not fit into these exemptions, and thus are entitled to our state minimum wage of $7.50 per hour.  While this may appear to be a minor error, what concerns me is that agricultural employers may see this article and think they are exempt from paying these very low-income workers less than the state minimum wage. We see this on a daily basis in southern New Mexico, where both farmworkers and farm owners are under the impression that they are exempt from the law. María Martínez Sánchez


Editor's note: Lawyers disagree about this state law. A Las Cruces attorney advised Sorrentino for the story. Cover, Sept. 11: