St. Paul’s Lutheran Church honored migrant tree planters in the area with a thank-you feast May 23.
More than 100 migrant workers attended the dinner, which included Thanksgiving-style dinner staples and a wide array of desserts. Organizer Patti Wheeler said the dinner was the congregation’s way of giving back to the workers for their tree-planting efforts.
“We want to say thank you for coming here and being part of our community, and working so hard to plant the trees” organizer Patti Wheeler said.
Three workers agreed to share part of their experiences: Alejandro Ramirez, Adrian Allardo and Pedro Gonzales Flores of Mexico. The men said they have worked as tree planters in the area for nine years, five years and six years, respectively. All said they were satisfied with their work, and were happy to have the opportunity.
“I’m happy people bring us here to do the job,” Mr. Ramirez said. “I’m pleased that it helps the community and the forests around the area.”
The three men are in the United States on H-2A8 month work shifts per year, working roughly eight-hour days each day during which they have daily contact with their families by phone.
Each of the men said they support their families by the wages they make in the United States. By federal law, workers in the United States on Green Card visas are required to be paid at least minimum wage for the work they do. The national average pay for H-2A workers is $12.96 per hour. Many workers are paid based on number of trees planted, though deductions can be made by employers for food and housing in some cases.
Both Mr. Ramirez and Mr. Allardo said they are due to return home in July, while Mr. Flores is due to remain in Oregon on another job through September. They will then return home until the next work season begins in January.
“I’m hoping to enjoy time with my family,” Mr. Allardo said.
When asked about politics in the U.S. – in particular whether President Donald Trump’s policies have affected their work – they said they hadn’t seen any difference, and didn’t have an opinion on either him or his public statements regarding Mexico.
“We don’t have time to watch TV,” Mr. Flores said.
All three men said they were thankful for the effort St. Paul’s Lutheran Church put into the dinner honoring their efforts. They said they had received similar dinners from other communities before, but that they were always happy to feel appreciated by the community they serve.
“I’m more than thankful for them providing this meal for us,” Mr. Flores said. “It really shows us that they notice our work.”
“People here have treated us right,” Mr. Allardo said. “I like to serve the community, and I like that they’re willing to serve us, too.”