Bill aims to improve wages, working conditions for immigrant shepherds

State Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Denver, is proposing a bill to improve conditions for immigrant shepherds on Colorado’s Western Slope, according to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.

His efforts are reportedly based on a two-year survey of 93 shepherds conducted by Mesa State College Spanish professor Thomas Acker for the Migrant Farm Workers Division of the nonprofit Colorado Legal Services group.

The survey of nearly one-third of the estimated 300 immigrant shepherds currently working in Colorado found extremely low pay (sometimes as little as $2 an hour), long hours (up to 90 a week), total isolation in the state’s most remote regions and subpar living conditions.

Ranching representatives pointed out that many of the state’s shepherds return to Colorado each year under the federal government’s H-2A visa program, but advocates counter they’re compelled by even worse poverty in their home countries.

Kagan told the Daily Sentinel he hopes to raise the shepherds’ current minimum wage of $750 a month to $1,000 a month, although he admitted even that amount was “still pretty paltry pay and far, far less than legal migrant farm workers get.”

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