Letters to the Editor

From the week of February 15, 2001

Stop complaining and do something for a change!

Susan Smith

The rest is history: Has the Black American West Museum considered partnering with other historical organizations? I believe that Historic Denver helped to obtain and move the Justina Ford house to its current location to use as their museum site. Perhaps a partnership similar to the Molly Brown and Four Mile House would help?

Robert B. Renfro

Give Them a Hand

Pasture point of no return: Congratulations on a first-rate piece of reporting with Stuart Steers's "Meaner Pastures," in the February 1 issue. I used to be a volunteer literacy tutor, and I worked with a Mexican ranch hand (yes, he was a legal resident) who was trying to improve his English. This man worked six days a week, as much as eighteen hours a day, at a horse ranch in Douglas County. His experiences were nowhere near as harrowing as those of the sheepherders, but still attest to the need for more legal protection for this most vulnerable section of the labor force.

Keep up the good work.

Mary Helen Spooner
via the Internet

Counting sheep: I am a sheep producer in southern Wyoming/northwestern Colorado. While the conditions for sheepherders are not ones that most Americans will work under, these jobs are very much sought after by foreign employees. The income they earn in the United States represents a great deal of money in Peru or Chile; it commonly means the difference between abject poverty and providing their families with a decent standard of living. Once I was teasing a herder about fixing up another young, single herder with his sister in Peru, and he drew himself up and said, "My sister is in medical school." Remember, the herders are also provided room and board (ample in virtually all cases). Most of our herders improve their health and gain weight while in our employ.

I want to emphasize that the vast majority of herders are well-treated, as well as hardworking and valuable to employers. The comments from labor groups do not reflect reality. Sheep producers are hardly "vastly powerful" (would that we were!). Our industry is barely hanging on. If we lose the H2A program, or are compelled to pay significantly higher wages, the entire range-sheep industry will be lost.

It may be, anyway: Labor is just one card in the house of cards that is our business. Eliminating legal jobs will not benefit these workers either, because they commonly work ten years or so, then return home with money to start a business.

Sharon S. O'Toole
via the Internet

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