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Agricultural Labor & Immigration Issues. California’s First Laborers. 64,500 Native California Indians Spanish Colonists – 21 California Missions from San Diego to Sonoma-rich agricultural centers Mexican rancheros California Gold Rush 1883-23,000 Indians remaining. The Chinese.

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california s first laborers
California’s First Laborers
  • 64,500 Native California Indians
  • Spanish Colonists – 21 California Missions

from San Diego to Sonoma-rich agricultural centers

  • Mexican rancheros
  • California Gold Rush
  • 1883-23,000 Indians


the chinese
The Chinese
  • California Gold Rush-Foreign Miner’s Tax
  • Independent miners, entrepreneurs, professionals, and artisans
  • Transcontinental Railroad-Sierra Nevada
  • The Delta water system
  • Establishment of orchard crops
  • Tongs-an attempt at organized


  • 1883-Chinese immigration


how did california agriculture become different from the rest of the united states
How Did California Agriculture Become Different From The Rest of the United States?
  • Less demand for wheat, lower interest rates
  • Wheat fields replaced by orchards and vineyards
  • Workforce-relatively unskilled, seasonal laborers willing to work for low wages in short, intermittent bursts
  • Low wages led to higher land prices and less family farms
  • Landowners increase their use of immigrant workers
  • Laborers are transient and totally dependent on available work leading to their chronic poverty
the japanese
The Japanese
  • Issei and Nisei-hard workers
  • Strawberries-leased land, wanted to own land
  • California’s Alien Land Law of 1913, 3 yr. limit on leasing then no leasing
  • Immigration stopped in 1924
  • Pearl Harbor-camps and deportation
  • 1944-camps closed-allowed to go back to Japan but 57,000 stayed
mexican labor
Mexican Labor
  • World War I-workers from India & Pakistan
  • Prior to WWI, Mexican workers joined the labor force but were stopped by Civil War in Mexico
  • 1917-1st Bracero program-many problems so halted in 1921 but Mexicans continued to cross the border
the great depression
The Great Depression
  • Mexicans sent home
  • 285,000 “Okies” and “Arkies” escape the Dust Bowl hoping to establish family farms
  • “Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck
  • World War II-workers to army and industry
  • Bracero agreements
today s farm worker
Today’s Farm Worker

1/3 jobs are in crop harvest

82% are men

61% are married

9/10 work in fruit, nuts, and vegetables

Average 6 years of education

Average age is 33

Most expect to remain in farm work

56% have children

3/10 are employed by Farm Labor Contractors

<10% speak or read English fluently

8/10 hold 2 or more farm jobs in a 1 year period

economic significance of farm workers
Economic Significance of Farm Workers
  • United States: 749,000 workers

Average wage of $8.73/hour

Work an average of 36.8

hours per week

  • California: 128,000 workers

Average wage $9.95/hr.

Work an average of 39.9 hours

per week

  • San Joaquin Region: 50,900 workers
farm labor vs non farm labor
Farm Labor vs. Non-Farm Labor
  • Industry earnings: $9.27 in textile mills to $20.44 in primary metal manufacturing
the issues wages

Labor intensive, strenuous work raises labor costs and makes it difficult to find workers

Cost of labor is 20% to 40% of production costs

Farm Laborers

$7 to $8 an hour

versus $14 to $15 per hour in industry

Farm workers average 24.4 weeks of work per year for a total of $5,500

High unemployment-15% in summer, 40% in winter

Only 12% speak English, 85% have not finished high school

The IssuesWages
immigration issues
U.S. Government

Bracero Program-1942 to 1964-more Mexicans were apprehended than entered the U.S. legally

Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986-onus on employers-noncompliance equals fines and jail time

1985-86-unauthorized persons allowed to apply for immigrant status


Poverty caused by fear of returning to Mexico and not being allowed back into the U.S.

Reforms thought to improve wages and benefits through a legal workforce result in legal workers moving to industry and an increase in illegal immigration

Illegal workers now make up 50% of the immigrant workforce

Immigration Issues
farm labor contractors

Don’t have to deal directly with the workers

Can overcome language barriers

Ample supply of workers when needed

Training provided by contractor


Recruiters responsible to train new workers

Exploitation-contractors make money off other services-banking, food, lodging, transportation

No written contracts-labor law violations

Day-haul labor markets

Farm Labor Contractors
piece rate versus hourly rate

1/3 of agriculture workers receive piece rate pay

Advantage to employer-no employee screening or close supervision to ensure productivity

Minimum standards are set and enforced

May result in lower quality work


Reduced piece rates due to high productivity

Unreasonable expectations for minimum standards

Piece Rate VersusHourly Rate
  • 800,000 people hired to work on California farms yearly
  • There are 2,100 family housing units in 26 centers and each houses fewer than two workers
  • An additional 1,044 centers will house five or more workers leaving the remaining workers to find housing from private sources
  • Government agencies and NGOs; subsidized housing through government grants and loans
  • 13% on employer provided housing, 37% live with family members, 50% pay an average of $238/mo. rent
other farm worker issues
Other Farm Worker Issues
  • Less than 1/3 of workers have CA driver’s licenses
  • 70% pay an average of $5 per day for transportation to work
  • 97% say they pay for their own tools even though the employer is required to pay
  • Lack of health care
  • Inadequate sanitary facilities
  • Little opportunity for upward mobility
more farm worker issues
More Farm Worker Issues
  • Technology has reduced

available jobs

  • Training needed in

semiskilled and skilled tasks

  • Farm workers are at

risk for pesticide


laws regulations
Laws & Regulations
  • U.S. Dept. of Labor-Employer must provide Wages, UI, Workers Compensation & Social Security
  • U.S. Code-Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act
  • USDA Labor Affairs-immigration, H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker Program, Worker Protection Standards for pesticide use, agricultural labor supply, and farm worker employment
laws regulations19
Laws & Regulations
  • Targeted Industries Partnership Program (1992) requires state and federal agencies to inspect sanitary facilities
  • U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service-employment eligibility verification I-9 form
  • California Labor Code-Wages, Hours and Working Conditions; Agricultural Labor Relations; Farm Labor Contractors; Workers' Compensation
  • Agricultural Labor Relations Board
Mandatory Benefits

Social Security, unemployment insurance and worker’s compensation

Many workers do not know they are covered

Illegal workers have no benefits-50% of the workforce

Voluntary Benefits

Pensions, health insurance, and vacation pay

No overtime pay during the peak season

Poverty-assistance programs such as

Medi-Cal, Food Stamps, and the Women, Infants and Children program.

organized labor
Organized Labor
  • Early attempts at organized labor met with “threats of deportation, widespread arrests, strikebreakers and violence
  • Strikes in 1930, 32 and 33-Agriculture Workers Union-higher wages
  • Growers-Associated Farmers-force and numbers
  • National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) formed in 1962 by Cesar Chavez which later became the United Farm Workers of America.
united farm workers of america
Based in Delano, California

Originally chartered in 1966 as the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee

Chavez- president-firm believer in peaceful demonstration and negotiation

Joined Filipino grape pickers in 1965-nationwide boycott of California table grapes-higher wages

1966-march on Sacramento-70 workers led by Chavez-grew to 10,000 as they approached the state capitol

1968-25 day fast to gather support for the union

United Farm Workers of America
1968-Grape boycott worldwide-$25 million lawsuit by 100 grape growers and shippers against Chavez and the UFW
  • 1970-grape workers reach contract agreements-lettuce boycott begins
  • 1973-United Farm Workers of America-60,000 farm workers-new round of boycotts for grape growers
  • 1988-Chavez fasts for 36 days to protest pesticide use.
  • 1990-Chavez negotiates an agreement with the Mexican government- Mexican farm workers in the U.S. can provide medical benefits to their families in Mexico
  • Chavez-receives Aguila Azteca, highest Mexican civilian award
  • Cesar Chavez dies of natural causes on April 23, 1993 in San Luis, Arizona
  • Chavez receives the U.S. Medal of Freedom from Pres. Clinton in 1994 Cesar Chavez Day-March 21st