With the bad old days that spanned that period between October, 1929 through August, 1945 seen only in the rear view mirror, many Americans began to enjoy the high life that came with the booming post-war economy - a buying spree that wouldn't slow until the mid Seventies. In the midst of so much plenty American magazines began to run articles about some of the folks who weren't partaking in all the fun, and this article is a fine example - it is about the 2,000,000 white people who toiled in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley. Thirteen years later they would be outsourced by a labor pool willing to work for even less money.
"... They get no unemployment insurance. They get no social security benefits. The law does not, in the main, protect them."
This article was penned in 1951 by Hank Hasiwar, a loyal New Deal Democrat and president of the National Farm Labor Union (formerly the Southern Tenant Farmer's Union). His column was written in order to express his complete and utter outrage that there were members of congress who openly worked to undermine the welfare of American workers:
"U.S. Senator Clinton Anderson (D-NM) made a strenuous attempt to flood the farming areas with hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals to be brought in at great expense to the taxpayers in order to provide cheap labor for the farm owners."
"In the midst of the Imperial Valley labor strife, on June 27, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill by a vote of 240 to 139 making it possible for farmers to hire illegally entered [Mexicans]."
Writing to the editors of the news monthly, Commonweal during the Autumn of 1947 was Harry Leland Mitchell (1906 – 1989), president of the Southern Tenant Farmer's Union who reported that the National Farm Labor Union was engaged in an important strike against the Di Giorgio Corporation in Bakersfield, California:
"First, the Di Giorgio Corporation is the world's largest fruit-producing corporation... it is to large scale industrialized agriculture what Ford is to the automobile industry. If the National Farm Labor Union wins the strike, it will be possible to proceed rapidly to the [organizing] of the migratory agricultural workers of California."
- but the union didn't win. Di Giorgio, in league with the Department of Agriculture, secured foreign laborers to break the strike.
This 1938 magazine article can be filed in the "the more things change, the more they stay the same folder". It lists all the assorted means by which Mexicans have attempted to illegally cross over the Southern border, whether to smuggle others, import illegal drugs or for their own gratification.
"One day up the road somewhere about Chula Vista, the speed cops bore down on a young Mexican driver who was singing loudly and twisting all over the highway."
"He came out of his car fighting like a Sonoran javilina, conked one of the policemen and laid him out cold, drew a gun and would have killed the other one but for a snappy bit jiu jitsu application..."
Marijuana was becoming a problem in 1938, too. Read about it here.
This 1947 COLLIER'S article, "Heartless Harvest" by Howard Whitman makes clear the sad story of migrant agricultural laborers who picked the fruits and vegetables for the Americans of the Forties:
"A new crop of Okies, estimated in the millions, is wandering about the country, following the crops they pick. To get their story the author traveled 9,000 miles through 17 states, toiling in the fields. Here he describes working and living conditions you wouldn't believe could be tolerated in America today."