Working Conditions in Labor-Intensive Forestry Jobs in Oregon
Forestry workers in labor-intensive jobs have long been an important, yet under recognized, component of forest management on both public and private lands. These workers perform strenuous, seasonal activities, such as planting and maintaining tree seedlings, thinning small trees, piling and burning brush, fighting wildland fires, and other activities. They also play a major role in forest and watershed restoration. Although mill workers and loggers have been subject to considerable study, nonlogging forestry workers have had less attention from researchers. For the most part, forest workers in labor-intensive jobs are employed by businesses that contract with landowners, rather than by the landowners directly. Some landowners, such as the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, may use both contract crews and in-house crews to perform similar activities. Despite the stereotype of forest workers as rural, white loggers, the labor-intensive segment of the forestry industry is multiethnic, with Hispanics making up a significant proportion of the workforce (Brown 2000; Mackie 1990; McDaniel and Casanova 2005). In the Pacific Northwest at least, this has been the case since the late 1970s (Mackie 1994). In addition, many of the activities that these forest workers perform, such as tree planting and fire suppression, are highly seasonal (Moseley and Reyes 2006; Brown and Martín-Hernández 2000). Finally, over the past decades, the news media and scholarly literature have questioned the working conditions of forest workers in labor-intensive jobs, sometimes finding labor-law violations, lack of attention to worker safety, or degrading treatment, particularly of Hispanic workers (Mackie 1990; Knudson 2005; Bowman and Campopesco 1993; Mann 2001). Given the importance of seasonality and job quality in this segment of the forest management industry, this study seeks to address two central questions: 1) How do forestry workers in labor-intensive jobs construct their work lives to address the reality that much of the work that they do is seasonal? 2) What are the working conditions of forest workers in labor-intensive jobs, and how do these conditions differ across ethnic groups?
- EWP Working Papers