Napa immigration law threatens labour pool

  • Monday 2 October 2006

Napa Valley's US$9bn wine industry could face a ‘huge labour shortage’ if the US Congress passes a law imposing strict penalties and fines for employers of illegal immigrants.

'A majority of our workers are Mexican citizens. Many do not have legal status,' Davie Piña of Piña Vineyard Management, which provides labourers for over 50 Napa wineries, told decanter.com.

'Some use day passes to come across the border and end up staying. But they are skilled labourers. If they won't let people come across to work, we are going to be hurting for employees.’

Piña believes the labour shortage would force many producers to switch to machines instead of hand picking, changing many vineyard practices such as green harvesting – picking selected bunches before ripeness in order to reduce yield.

'We're not looking forward to that. A machine harvester cannot green harvest. When vineyards make between six and eight passes in a harvest, they need skilled labourers.'

There are an estimated 3m illegal aliens in California.

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