I've been listening to the audiobook version of Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit and the stories are absolutely gut-wrenching. Not only about what's happened to the tomato itself and modern/industrial agriculture's effects on it, but especially the migrant laborers. Most work 10-12 hour days in the sweltering hot sun and are lucky to bring home $200 dollars a week. The average annual salary is $10,000-$12,000 (from what I recall, "poverty" is considered $23,000 per year) - and that figure is skewed because of the higher salaries of the land managers. And they hardly hang on to any of it. A large majority of the money goes towards paying off extortionate fees for "room & board," paying off artificially imposed "debts," and, if they're lucky to have some left, food. Oh, and the "room & board" often consists of stuff like having eight workers stuffed into one small trailer with no running water or A/C (in at least one case, 4 men where crammed into the back of a box truck).
On top of the bruising work and living conditions, workers are frequently threatened with violence, outright beaten, or even killed. And on top of that, they are regularly sprayed with dangerous pesticides while working in the fields. Which is supposed to be illegal, and which the Big Agra companies deny doing. This led to one female worker's baby being born with no arms and legs. Another woman's was born with a deformity of the lower jaw. And yet another whose child had one ear, no nose, a cleft palate, one kidney, no anus and no visible sexual organs (a girl who died three days after being born). Yet the company still denied it.
Most people don't realize that the "cheap" food in the supermarket (both processed foods and Big-Agra produce) is anything but. Not only thanks to cheap (near slave) labor, but cheap (for the time being) energy (in the form of fertilizers, pesticides/herbicides/fungicides, and transportation). And the subsidies, too. But, hey, out of sight, out of mind.
While what they do might not be considered "high skilled" (which is an argument for another day), they are most certainly high-value. And absolutely essential. Not only is what they do essential in the supply chain, it's essential that we eat food. If they didn't do what they do, those Big Agra CEOs would not be raking in millions of dollars, because they wouldn't have a product at all to sell. That goes for the Wal-Mart supermarket type CEOs, who profit from selling the products at mark-up. And there's the simple fact that the majority of Americans wouldn't eat.
By saying they aren't "high skilled," it makes people feel justified in paying them and treating them like shit.