UMOS expanding to Illinois under new Department of Labor contract

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Milwaukee-based UMOS, Inc. is opening four new offices in Illinois after being awarded a U.S. Department of Labor contract to provide farmworker job support services statewide.

The nonprofit agency has been awarded a $1.75 million annual contract, for five years, to provide job training that will help farmworkers attain higher wages as part of the National Farmworker Jobs Program. 

The organization currently operates the program in Wisconsin and Missouri. 

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UMOS plans to open office locations in areas with higher concentrations of farmworkers, including the Rock Island area, Champaign and the Marion/Mount Vernon area. The fourth location has not yet been confirmed. 

The national program is intended to address chronic unemployment and underemployment of farmworkers who depend primarily on income from agricultural labor. UMOS provides job training and other career services to help workers earn higher wages in the agricultural sector or start new careers in other fields, such as transportation, manufacturing, construction or health care. 

Rod Ritcherson, spokesman for UMOS, noted the organization has helped several farmworkers in Wisconsin transition to the trucking industry, allowing them to increase their annual earnings from about $13,000 to more than $40,000. 

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UMOS serves about 500 migrant farmers through the program in Wisconsin. 

There are approximately 2,500 migrant and seasonal farm workers certified to work in Illinois. UMOS plans to collaborate with the State Monitor Advocate to coordinate outreach to farmworkers who migrate to Illinois each year, high school seniors and community college students, and rural residents who work in seasonal agriculture jobs. 

“We are excited about this new opportunity to provide services to migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the state of Illinois,” says Lupe Martinez, president and chief executive officer of UMOS. “This targeted migrant and seasonal workforce has been deemed essential to continue to meet the nation’s food supply needs.” 

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With the new contract, UMOS now has operations in Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Texas and Wisconsin. 

Since being incorporated in 1965 as migrant farmworker advocacy agency United Migrant Opportunity Services, the organization has grown into a multi-state social services agency with 40-plus contracts and about 610 employees. As of the end of August, its grant revenues totaled $39.5 million. 

Its services fall largely within three divisions: workforce development, which includes the farmworkers job, TechHire, and Wisconsin Works (W-2) programs; child development, which includes federal Migrant Head Start and child care programs; and social services, which includes a bilingual domestic violence prevention, home energy assistance, food pantry, HIV testing and case management and off-farm labor housing assistance programs. 

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