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Low-Wage America: Rafael Romero

Rafael Taminez Romero in Kennett Square, Penn.
Noah Adams, NPR /
/
Rafael Taminez Romero in Kennett Square, Penn.
Racks of mushrooms under a greenhouse.
Noah Adams, NPR /
/
Racks of mushrooms under a greenhouse.

A mushroom picker does his or her work in the cold, moist air of a modern mushroom farm. Rafael Taminez Romero, a 19-year-old Mexican immigrant from the town of Puebla, is one of those workers, earning a living working at a mushroom farm in Kennet Square, Penn.

He tells NPR's Noah Adams he's happy with his job, which pays $6.56 an hour. But it's tough work -- the day starts at 5 a.m., and by the next morning a mushroom Romero picked could be in an omelet in a New York City restaurant.

He says he endures the hard work to send money home to his family. Some paydays, it's $150, sent via Western Union. Other times, there's nothing to send. He says he dreamed of going to school, "but I am forced to do what I am doing." Still, he says, "I don't envy anyone."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Noah Adams, long-time co-host of NPR's All Things Considered, brings more than three decades of radio experience to his current job as a contributing correspondent for NPR's National Desk., focusing on the low-wage workforce, farm issues, and the Katrina aftermath. Now based in Ohio, he travels extensively for his reporting assignments, a position he's held since 2003.