Displaced federal workers will likely enter a brave new world when they step outside their agencies. The life of a contract forest crew, for example, is a far cry from the steady, nine-to-five, home-at-night rhythm of crews on the agency payroll.
One current Lolo National Forest
contractor is Oaxaca Reforestation, based in Medford, Ore. Owner
Margarito Hernandez, who has been in business since 1988, hires
four crews; almost 80 percent of his workers are Mexican nationals
with green cards. The crews not only thin forests, but also plant
trees and put nets on seedlings to protect them from hungry deer
Hernandez's crews work an eight- or
nine-hour day, six days a week, and are paid from $10.50 to $14.50
an hour, which is comparable to Forest Service wages. But unlike
agency work crews, their clock doesn't begin ticking until they get
out of the van at a job site, which may be hours into the
mountains. If sickness or foul weather prevents them from working,
they don't get paid. The workers sometimes remain on the road for
70 days in a row, living in motels which are paid for by the
contractor, and buying their own food.
is too tired to do much after work," Hernandez says. "They usually
just stick together at the motel."
required to advertise for local workers, but few apply, despite the
good (by Montana standards) pay. Those who do usually quit after a
couple of days, unable to adjust to the nonstop work pace and life
on the road, as well as to the fact that few of their co-workers
"If the goal of (President Bush's
'competitive sourcing' order) is to save money, it's a good thing,"
says Terry Anderson of the Political Economy Research Center. "But
if it's to provide local jobs, there will be a