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tv   Lectures in History Agricultural Labor Since 1930 and Organic Farming  CSPAN  September 11, 2022 4:25pm-5:16pm EDT

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all right. well, then what i want to do today is i'm going to give us our third lecture in our unit about labor and american foodways. and if we've talked about the beef industry on monday and looked at the jungle in upton sinclair and on wednesday we
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looked at chicken fat factories and labor production and the chicken industry here in the american south today, we're going to be looking at agricultural labor. and as i said, those in the room were vegetarians are not off the hook. in fact, we have to of think about the ways in which agriculture, natural labor, has often been exploited and that very difficult conditions under which the vegetables that we eat are often consumed. there's been a very large rise in the recent years about the importance of eating locally and eating more vegetarian style food and more vegetables. michael pollan, many of you might have heard of, he wrote the omnivore's dilemma as well as food rules. he had sort of a catch phrase that was very popular, which was eat food, not too much, mostly plants. and this is probably pretty good advice for those of us who are concerned about our health. but the idea was that, you know,
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we should eat less meat. and again, we should eat things that are real food. alice waters, who is the chef at chez panisse as well as barbara kingsolver, are both writers have written a lot about the value of eating locally. how many of you have heard this like we should eat locally? how many of you have been to a farmer's market? almost all of you. this. this idea that we should be eating more locally and that this, in fact, as a moral and ethical resonance. resonance that makes us closer to our food. some of you might have done woofing how many of you have had friends who've done this? does anyone? one or two. this is the idea that you would go to organic farms being involved in local sustainable agriculture culture. this is actually marketed as a cultural exchange program as well. but again, there is this sense that there's something that is going to be make us improve ourselves, right? that if we eat locally, we will know more about where our food is coming from. it'll be better for the environment, better for our community, and better for our
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bodies. and in fact, this is probably in some ways the satirical version of this is from this portlandia episode in 2011. i'm sorry that his head is covered by the powerpoint slide, but there's a way in which this is a famous first episode of portlandia. i see a student shaking her head where they ask, well, what about that chicken? how a local is it? what is the chicken's name? who's taking care of the chicken? it goes on. this ongoing thing about our sort of ongoing interest and how local our food is, but what our author who you read for today, margaret gravely, asks us, is if we locally. does that actually mean that labor conditions are included? and this idea of ethical eating. who in fact, is growing organic vegetables? what does that mean if we say that it is sort of fair or good farming? what do we expect in our local farming? and she really sort of criticizes and critiques this idea that it is only about the
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quality of vegetable or animal, and it is not about the working conditions. and so today, i want to be looking at agricultural labor and the pollan michael pollan has said, look, we should eat more plants. well, then we should know, well, where do those plants come from as well? there's actually a very long history of industrial agriculture in america and with very difficult labor conditions and also a long history of labor organizing as well. related to agricultural work. i'm going to be looking both at the history of the bracero program, which is in califor nia as well as the rise of the united farm workers and cesar chavez in the 1960s. then we're going to turn from just think about agriculture to thinking, well, okay, fine. professor levin knew it would big scale agriculture. how about those small farms? isn't that actually still better? and then we will turn to great work and we'll be looking at new york state and in particular the conditions on smaller farms in
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the hudson valley region. so that is where we are moving today. and i'm going to begin by talking a little bit about labor law. so one of many questions before we move forward. all right. i want to talk first just about some of the labor law that is governor running this sort of track. i talked a lot about this 1935 national labor relations act. this is the single largest piece of labor legislation that passed in us history and only followed by one other federal law, the 1938 fair labor standards act that protects workers rights and the national labor relations act protects the right to organize. it establishes the national national labor relations board. so as i said, for example, when the cio is organizing in the meatpacking industry in the 1930s, they're able to have an elected often have majority of people voted for the union. the employer is supposed to recognize that union. and this sets up our federal
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labor law. but there's a big excess option. it's passed in 1935. and the exception of agricultural workers and domestic workers. all right. so we talked about this and we talked about meatpacking. we talked about and we talked about the poultry industry. but i didn't think i don't think i actually point out that it doesn't cover agricultural workers and domestic workers. and so what does why not why do we have a labor law that doesn't cover these two large sectors of american employment? and the reason is really related to american racism and histories of segregation and job discrimination, which is that a large number of southern agriculture in the 1930s is being farmed by sharecroppers and in particular, african-americans, sharecroppers and white southern democrats who the democratic coalition needed to pass this legislation during the new deal were not willing to extend labor protections to industries that were largely african american workers.
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so this means that agriculture will work and domestic work to area is predominantly african-american or disproportionately so. we're not protected by the right to unionize. and what you should know is this gets up to a majority, it's able to pass. but this still stands. so nationally, there is no national protection for farm workers to this day. this also means that farm workers, unlike other types of work, can work over time and not get paid overtime. so if we think our average work week is must be 40 hours and you get paid more if you work more than 40 hours a week, that is not true. if you were working in agriculture. and most states there are about a dozen states that have individual laws for their states, for agricultural protections. but on the whole, there's still no federal protection. so that is in many ways framing this discussion when we talk
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about agricultural workers, we have to recognize that they are working with fewer protec actions than industrial workers in our food system. and this brings me to california, which is really the iconic place. and i just show this image. this is dorothea lange, who then goes on to not only she famous for this image and her images of the depression, but she goes on to become an extremely important photographer documenting farm labor in california in the 1930s. so i want to begin by talking about california in particular and farm work. and we're going to talk about both the rise of agricultural labor in california, as well as what will become known as the brussels era program. so california, to this day, it's one of the largest of agricultural industries in the country. many of you are from california. i only have you because many i
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often have classes. so if you think about the imperial valley, this is still where we have large, large numbers of farm workers. many, although not all undocumented, still very difficult labor conditions. and this is still where those of us i like going to, rather than be able to get strawberries in january right. i'm sure most of you do, too. we like being able to get this fresh produce here around. part of this is because of our agricultural industry in places like california and florida. california alone accounted for 30% of all large scale farms. the united states in 1929 and in the 1920s. this labor of men and women, because it is women as well who are working in california, is largely migrant workers, disproportionate numbers of mexicans and also, you might be less aware of this filipinos as we have a large immigrant population, the number of mexicans doubles during this decade. to 1.4 million.
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and you should know now the changes initially when mexicans would come, they might get a job on an individual farm. and by getting a job on one farm, you'd have certain benefits. the paternalism that gray writes about you might have a single boss, you might have a relationship with that individual. and you might get some more benefits, more days off or a little bit more sort of attention. but as the agriculture industry grows, you get more and more migrant labor and farms relying on workers going from farm to farm to farm to farm. this would be make make sure that these mexican and filipino workers themselves did not own the land. they would go follow the seasons, cotton and fruit, vegetable crops. they got paid fairly low wages. this is unsteady work that could be easily fired and physically extremely demanding and dorothea lange goes and she begins to photograph these workers.
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in the 1930s, while she herself is working as a photographer for the federal government. what we need to think about here is to really think about the ways in which these workers are then. in fact, as i said, taken out of agriculture, all farming, but out of the labor law. right. they're not protected. there are, in fact, union organizing going on in the 1930s. so the cio just like we talked about in the industrial setting, is in fact also in the agricultural setting, but they don't have the same protections. so you have certain organizing of temps, but they're not particularly successful. so here's another image of an agricultural worker this year. if you're interested in this topic. carey mcwilliams is an author in the 1930 to write this book called factories in the field. it's one of the first exposes about the discrimination farm
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workers face. so if we think about upton sinclair writing about the meatpacking industry. carey mcwilliams there's something very similar for the agricultural industry. he's the first one to really write about california from an immigrant lens. he writes about mexican laws and filipinos, and he really is trying to write about this new vision of the united states, one based on immigrants and workers here, too, like sinclair, is a political leftist and an activist and these could be seen as parallel books. but what changes this is up to? about the 19th thirties. okay. and then in the early 1940s, we have the run up to world war two. okay. and in world war two and war business all of a sudden is having a labor shortage. you begin to have more and more workers. and in the industry, you also have men who are going to fight in world war two. and this means large agricultural industry in
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california are starting to say, wait a second, who's going to actually pick the crops? right. we're not having as many workers as we're used to. we don't have enough people at the time of the harvest. and so they want the us government as well as the mexican government to become involved and to help solve their labor programs problems. and they set up this program called the brasileira program. and one of the reasons why i want to spend time on this is because this is essentially the same program gray writes about in the reading for today, which she writes about jamaican guest workers. right. so brazil era braceros are like means arms, bringing extra physical labor into the united states. but the united states still has guest workers and guest workers still work on american farms. so what is this guest worker program? why was it important for american agriculture? so as i said, there was sort of a sense there's a labor shortage during world war two.
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and you should know it first. and this was the idea to be a program. so you had the u.s. government and the mexican government would get together and they would say, we need this. many workers in the united states. we'll recruit them in mexico and we'll bring them into the united states. but they can only work for the set of their contract for six months, three months, a year, and then they're going to go back to mexico. so it's not meant to be an immigration program. it's meant to be a labor program. and you you know, at first the u.s. government was very skeptical of this program. they said a couple of things. first, all the labor department the labor department was worried. they said, wait a sec, i'm going to bring in all these workers from mexico. isn't that going to bring wages down? you know, if we're actually bringing in all these workers to come in specifically to do low wage agricultural work, then they're not competing with american workers. this means that wages are going down. second, we i am s immigration
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and also worried about this program. they're worried that this is going to lead to more undocumented workers. right. these mexicans are going to come into the united states. are they really going to go back? are they going to stay in the united states? so there's definitely skepticism on the point of view of the us government or branches of it about the brought zero program and initially it's only supposed to be temporary. it's an emergency situation. this is world war two. we need to get these crops picked. we don't have enough workers. but the program, as you can see, lasts for over 20 years. and it becomes central to american agricultural labor practices for the mid-century and essentially the agricultural industry has a strong lobby. they're able to convince the government that this is in fact, good for the economy, good for the country. and so the press there, a program gets put in place. the idea of the broad sara program and later future guest worker programs is the following. first, you would apply for the job in your home country.
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so these are mexicans lining up for the jobs in mexico. you apply in mexico for this type of work. you you then go through a screening process in your home country. you come to the united states on a very specific counter draft. you're told how much you're going to get paid. you're told how long you're allowed to work for, and you're told who your employer is going to be. and this is really important. this makes it very different from other types of immigrant workers. for example, if we think about someone in a poultry factory and they're an undocumented worker and they don't like their employer, they can quit. right. and they can go look for another job. now, they might not have a lot of options, but they can, in fact, quit and look for another job. guest workers cannot quit and look for another job and remain legally on their contract. this means it's very difficult for guest workers to organize or
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advocate because they're not allowed to look for other jobs. if they complain or criticize or try to organize. they can be sent home. that can be a violation of their contract. also, guest workers are not allowed to stay in the united states past their contract. so the idea is that they come in, they do the labor. they can send their money home and they are able to then go back to their home country at the end. and here we can see some of the brushstrokes. in fact, working in the fields. you should know there's a couple of different consequences to this. first of all, the wages are fairly low. they start around $0.30 and they go up to about $0.50. but they're very hard to enforce these levels. and that the department of labor is concerned that this was going to depress farm workers, labor wages with accurate right for having all these people coming in, working at a set price. they're not going to be able to bring up the wages more broadly
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for american workers and also the u.s. government says we're not going to discriminate against these individuals, are not going to have to face jim crow like experiences. but this is very hard to monitor. but mexicans take these jobs and large numbers. and why? because it is more money than they would be making in mexico. so they come to the united states. they work for short time periods. they make enough money. they go home, they come back in another contract. and this is not a small program. this is about 200,000 people a year. they worked in cotton, citrus and lettuce. and they very much were central to american agriculture. they also, you can see here, lived in bunkhouses like this one. they often have their housing, including but often very poor and close conditions. and they often did, in fact, complain about what they felt was having their wages risk
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tended, or they wouldn't necessarily feel like they got their full amount of money. the most common complaint the processors had was underpayment. people also complained about housing, about the food not being good enough, about their pay being taken out, illegal deductions. about threats. about occupation hazards in the field. and the reason we know about this is because they wrote letters to the mexican consulate. they write letters to the mexican government. and they would say about how badly they were being treated. and they'd be asking for help. for example, one person said, quote, we were promised room and board, but we had to pay for it. another said, i left because i had not made much money and lost a lot of time because of the rain. the company did not furnish me my meals. we stayed in a shack. the roof leaked and there were bugs all over. we cannot see how much cotton we picked because they would not let us weigh it ourselves or see how much it weighed. so of course, we felt the
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company, the business was taking advantage of them. right. trying to take money away from them, charging them more for food, charging them more for their barracks, not giving them a good quality living situation. and yet there were enough workers that this program persisted. well, into the mid 1960s and forth, this all this material comes from this book addressed by deborah cohen. again, if you're interested, this is a good book to start with. and the people who criticize the brush sara program, the most were both labor activists. the afl-cio did not like the broad sara program. they thought it kept wages too low. but honest to god, lahsa is an important person to know about. how many of you have heard of cesar chavez? and so most of you we've heard on some point having our own esther galarza, many fewer. i think it's really important we think about ernesto galarza. he really predates chavez as a mexican-american labor activist, and he comes to prominence
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because he's very interested in organizing farm workers rights to unionize. but he's also opposed to the bracero program, and he becomes a leading intellectual and labor activist. he writes this important book, i didn't actually bring his card merchants of labor. and he criticizes this program because he argues that agricultural industry is intense, only getting vulnerable workers. and these vulnerable workers can't unionize because they're not protected by labor law. they can't even quit. and if they try to, in fact, campaign for themselves, they could easily just not be hired back or be sent home. and one of the reasons why i think galarza is very informative is that he doesn't criticize the individual braceros. he recognizes why these next and he himself is mexican-american. any comes during the early 20th century and he comes to san jose i believe and he's very
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interested not in criticizing the bracero himself. right. he's not angry at the mexican worker coming over to work in the fields. he understands why they want to make money, why this is seen as a more desirable job than not. his critique is structural. he's says that what this does allows agribusiness to pit undocumented workers and braceros against each other, keeping a large group of workers who are largely vulnerable and are not able to advocate for themselves. he said, quote, bracero that uses the term wets, which is a racialized term for undocumented mexicans. right. but says braceros and wets are the two sides. the same phony coin that aim to cut down the wages of farm labor, to break strikes, and to prevent union organization to run american citizens off farm jobs. jobs especially on the corporation ranches. so he really becomes a strong
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advocate and the press, their program does end in 1964. i should say. it's not just because of our néstor galarza. he did not actually have that much power or clout necessary, but also because of changes in mechanized action in agriculture, it's because of new immigration law that's getting passed in 1965. and in many ways the changes of the agricultural industry. but the bracero program is ended in 1964 and that leaves an opening for cesar chavez to, in fact, again begin thinking about agricultural labor organizing in the mid 1960s when you have a broad sara program, it's almost impossible to unionize, right? because all of these workers are able to essentially take those places where the end of the brought their a program and makes it easier for agriculture workers to think about joining a union. although the barriers are still very high. all right. let's stop there and see if anyone has any questions about either calif or the bracero program. yes. and this.
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wait one second. so using the process program, would workers, if they like, renewed or reapply? well, were they likely to go back to the same farm? different farms? could they request a different farm? what was that process like? that's a really interesting question. so the short answer is yes. people go back to the same places. all of the time and i guess i have two different ways of answering. so in this 1940s and fifties period, i actually have somewhat less not i guess the exact same farm sometimes yesterday. so but they're also going to multiple farms. so they're going to one farm, then the next farm, then the next farm. and then they would often go home for like a month, and then they'd go back out on another contract. so people do go year after year to california or to texas. they also go to other states as well. you should also know that some people overstay and then become undocumented, right? and they sort of leave. other people get married and then become legal citizens. so it goes in multiple directions. i'll talk about it briefly, but just all, i'm going to skip
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forward a little bit in new york state, people do really go back to the same farms over and over again. so this was an article about jamaican guest workers, which is a very similar type of program we still have today. and those cases, people often do go back to the same farm over and over again year after year. so it depends a bit. other questions. all right. so i'm going to talk about cesar chavez very briefly, because i do want to get to new york, but i feel like you can't talk about agricultural labor in some ways in a class like this one without mentioning farm workers. and in many ways, the inspiration this gave for both mexican-american activists and for farm workers labor activism. so i'm going to ask you to come up. so who is cesar chavez? what do people know about cesar chavez? the almost every one of their hand up. so who is cesar chavez? what do people know about him? maybe you've learned about cesar chavez and want to offer any thoughts? yeah, in the back over there.
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okay. a workers revolution. what do you do? everything else or. okay, here's a worker's revolution. yeah, he's a labor activist. give it out for people who are harvesting grapes. exactly right. the focus was on grapes. okay. and on california. okay. so he's focused in california. grapes are going to be the key crop. i don't know anything else about him, how hard his name is on a stamp. some of you might have these streets named after him. he's very probably the most well-known mexican american activist from this time period. look, i'm in general, there's a very romantic idea around cesar chavez. i'll talk somewhat about that. and i have a few cautionary thoughts at the end. so he is in california. he's actually born in arizona. his family moved to california himself, works as a migrant farm worker, first time. but he then becomes a community organizer in the 1960s. and as a community organizer, he's very interested in particularly in mexican-american rights, and he wants to really
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improve the quality of life for mexican-american farmworkers. and he goes to dell and he's in delano, california. this, again, is a little bit of a side, but names you might be less familiar with are vera cruz, which is this man here. and larry itliong, which is this man here. the key point i want you to know is i'm going to be talking about chavez and mexican americans. but this was actually a coalition between filipino workers and mexican americans. and we should think about this as an inter ethnic coalition and as well. in fact, the filipino workers are the ones who push chavez on strike. the first time. and this really and this is 1965. the goal was a higher hourly minimum wage of a dollar 50 an hour. the right to unemployment insurance and also the right to hire, have a union and have them be hired by the union home. chavez always wanted more than just a union. he really saw this in the scenes
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and the back is larger movement, right? as a movement from mexican american rights and also for labor rights. and the first strike happens in 1965. and chavez really uses three tactics, which i'll talk about, to help workers unionize in the agricultural industry. and the first was the most, in some ways iconic, which is the strike right farm workers were going to go on strike and at first asian, i was actually the filipino workers at a group called a walk sing, and they had a filipino workers union and they wanted to go on strike. they felt they're not getting paid enough. they want to increase their wages. and so they basically put them pressure on chavez. and the mexican-americans said, look, we're walking out. are you going to be with us? and chavez felt they weren't quite ready, but he didn't want to leave his coat. you know, his their company arose and the breach and he called a strike for the ufw and in this way, he becomes a national figure. the strike gets national attention, and they set up
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roving picket lines in the field where they would send picket lines out to different places in the california fields with a goal of trying to prevent other workers from taking their place. but this was only partially successful. sometimes the employers could hire other workers again. they were trying to move this around. the act of a whole group called teatro campesinos of sort of theater, going out and doing sort of guerilla theater in the fields. but they were able to get some higher wages, but not across the board. and while the is spanish first reich here. okay. so here again is the idea of of the strike. and so the second thing that chavez does is he begins a march and again, thinking about what are the tactics that could be used to improve these workers working conditions? because if we're not getting everyone in the strike, we can't
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actually stop production. so what we're going to do instead is we're going to march that more people see us and in 1966, the ufw and chavez lead a march from delano to sacramento and sacramento over the course, the capital of california. at this point, the strike had been going on for six months, and the idea was to bring more attention to the workers, get out of the fields. who's going to see them in the fields? we need to be public. we need to be political. people need to see us. and this was also imbued with religious connotations. chavez did this so they would end there on easter sunday. they use images like the virgin mary. and this was done both to give in ethical argument to the idea of farm workers rights as well as really resonated with a mexican-american population that was strongly catholic. so here we have again the march, and we can see here these
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marches are going up to sacramento. finally, what they become most associated with is but the students that over here, which is the boycott oc and so the strike useful but not totally success for the march they're able to get their message known to a larger population, particularly in california, but also nationally. but they still don't have a union and they still don't have better wages. so how are they going to do this? and this is where it again, ties into our reading to for today, where they decide to focus on consumers. okay. all of us in this room and they said, wow. and then trying to focus on the company or on the state legislature, we're going to bring consumers into this and we're going to tell them that it's not ethical to eat grapes. okay? that if they grapes, that they are supporting poor working conditions, that they don't care about the farm workers. but if they boycott grapes that this is in solidary with us
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because we care about where our food comes from and how it is. in fact, you know, grown produce, packaged food. and we won't eat grapes if we think that they're being unethically produced. okay. this is an interesting sort of tidbit into labor law. the national labor relations act that i talked about in 1935 and actually outlaw the boycott. you can't use the boycott if you're trying to actively start a union. however, because the farmworkers aren't covered by labor law, they're able to use the boycott. okay. so there's actually a moment where they're able to navigate around the law and the fact that they're not protected by it means they can use something like the boycott. this becomes a national boycott and it's very successful because it's cross class. and just like we think about the locavore movement today, in many ways targeting wealthier consumers, middle class consumers, people who can go to the farmer's market on a sunday afternoon, this movement
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targeted middle class largely liberal women consumers in cities across america. my grandmother definitely one of them. my grandmother to this day still as grapes. okay. she lives in california. you know, she's like, what do you mean, you eat grapes? i was like, i do eat grapes now, but there's very much that that this, in fact, becomes tied to the sense of liberal politics, of standing up with the grape workers and the way that the ufw was able to make this a national movement as they send farm workers to cities all over america and canada, detroit, chicago, boston, philadelphia, montreal, toronto and they create coalitions between farm workers and consumers. and they say this is what we need to do to actually get improved means in farm workers lives. and there's a real sense of optimism. the high point is in 1970, when, in fact, many of these farms do sign contracts with the united farm workers, and there are
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millions of supporters across the country. and it really, in some ways is seen as one of the most successful boycotts in 20th century american history. and again, it's thinking about this idea of labor, politics and food ethics. right. how do they go together? however, the story is not all so romantic because 1970, that's the high point that means things go off afterwards. and so as much as i would like to tell you that this is a story things really improve a lot. in fact, things very quickly go back to the same types of long hours, difficult working conditions. and without labor recognition in years that follow and many ways the united farm workers a much more successful social movement specifically creating space for mexican american political activism and much less successful as a union. so i don't need to go into all the details right now, but if you're interested, i have many books i can suggest to you, but they become fights between. the ufw and the teamsters. and there are fights within the ufw itself, and they're actually
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about to represent fewer and fewer farm workers over the course the seventies, eighties and nineties. and then, in fact, today, very few farm workers in places like california even where there is now state legislation are protected by union contracts. in addition, south of us himself has an interesting longer history as well and he himself is very critical of undocumented workers because he sees them competing with the mexican workers, who he's mexican-americans. he's trying to represent in california. so here are some images again of the boycott. i think this is a good image. again, there's clearly to not look like hippies, right? so you can see that in their suits. they're trying demonstrate their respectability politics here again, boycott california grapes, sort of cross class cross racial coalition. and this in many ways is a symbol of this idea, consumerism and labor politics coming together. so any questions about chavez,
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the grape boycotts, etc. , questions. okay. all right. so i went out, moved and the last segment of this lecture, which is going to be about new york state and locavore ism today, which is where are your reading was. and again about how does it actually affect what eat today and about the ongoing relationship between farm labor and work often very difficult conditions and often far fewer rights than those of us who work, whether it's in universities or in fast food restaurants, in poultry plants who are protected by labor law, at least on paper, while farm workers are not. so this is just, you know, new york state. how many of you guys are from new york? i think of you more of it more. are you from new york and california? all right. so then thinking about this, new york still has a large agricultural sector. how many of you have been to the hudson valley? i mean, i've gone there and went there on vacation. was a beautiful ride. and what is it?
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new york is really promoting? is this idea of going to the farm that's going to be close to nature, that there's something both pastoral, the sort of agrarian tradition that we are going to be able to be at one with sort of both the countryside the earth. and this is going to give us a respite and a sense of sort of ethical or moral sort of sensibility of new york, even though it's really urban, as most of us know, is have a large agricultural industry, which is important, both for agriculture and for tourism. they also have a very high direct to consumer sales, which means they really care about this idea of localism, right. they make a lot of money saying our farms are local, these are small farms. these are not the california big agriculture. this is not florida. we know our workers. we have a small farm, etc. . so this is what we have here and how new york is different. so the question then is who is
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working in new york? who are our workers in new york state? and the first answer is the jamaican guest worker program. so i talk about the prospero program having ended in the 1960s, but this doesn't mean the guest workers themselves are the program ends and in fact, the program morphs. if you're interested. this is a really good book about it in the hammer, which is book no man's land. it's an excellent book about the history of guest workers in the united states. we still have guest workers working in new york state in large numbers, although increasingly, increasingly less. and this was an article just last month in the new york times about these jamaican guest workers. this allows farms in the northeast to recruit non us labor. and it also the idea that the farm has to actually advertise, say there is no american who wants these jobs and then get the paperwork to bring in the
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guest workers and as the student asked of you, many of these workers come back, these same farms over and over again for multiple years. they send much of their money back to jamaica and. the idea is that at the end they will not stay in the united states, but that they will in fact return to jamaica. jamaica sees this program as beneficial for their country because the economy there is depressed. this is a way to bring down dollars into jamaica in particular. however, it is also again, these workers have relatively few options in many ways. they cannot quit and stay in the united states legally. they make them difficult to protest their working conditions and they often are very isolated as well unlike in california, we have large numbers of workers working in these farms. the downside of a small farm, if you're a farm worker, you might be one of seven or eight people
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on a farm, right? you might be more isolated. you'll be farther away from your community. some of these workers drop out and become undocumented. some marry u.s. citizens. again. but these guest worker programs really do underpin of the agricultural in new york state. and gray writes about that in the reading that you did for but it goes on the decline as more and more farms begin to in fact hire under documented workers. i shouldn't say listening to npr this morning, there's actually going to be a story about this on the news afternoon. so if you're listening to npr this afternoon and all things considered, they're actually doing a whole segment about guest worker and about the aging population. if you look at these men, they are not young. look, this idea that many men are older. and what this means for both them as workers and also them, what is the sort of commitment that these farms made to them? do they need to keep hiring them year after year because they feel a commitment, to these workers or do they simply go to
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less expensive workers? and this is a great argues happens in new york. she argues that there is a move from guest workers to undocumented workers. and this is again from an npr in 2012 and this is day new york farm farms farms generally hire undocumented workers rather than guest worker programs. this is not across the board, but the guest worker program is bureaucratic and requires a lot of paperwork. and you do have to pay people at a particular level. and so many farms now have turned to undocumented workers, both populate are vulnerable. both populations in many ways have limited ability to advocate for their labor rights and farms are able to use these populations in concert as they work and need their crops to be to be picked up. and some of these, the guest workers are actually sometimes they say, look, if i was a u.s.
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citizen, quote, i could ask for more money maybe to walk off the job any time i was ready, i could get an easier job. and the department of labor says, look, this is all a strategy. again, to pay people less. the department of labor officers, i'd quote you and i know the reason you bring in jamaican and mexican workers is control their abuse they can't leave. don't push it under the you know, more than all of us. you see it every day. and what farmers come back and say is, look, like we such a small margin, right. if there's a bad season, if it rains, what are we supposed to do? we can't pay people more because they themselves feel like they're working on such a small margin. so what we have then is yet a final strategy for trying to improve workers conditions and the margaret gray, she works alongside justice for farm workers campaign. and i want you to think about her comparison to sousa and sinclair. what does it mean for these writers to be activists and writers? do you trust them?
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do you not trust them? what is what are their polish checks? but any case, justice for farmworkers decides to focus on legislation. they say, look, we're never going to get anywhere unionizing or trying to get a workers union. people are to spread out. they're too scared. they can be fired. we're going to work on we're going to try to change the law in new york state so they are able to get some good laws passed, in my opinion, in the 1990s. and again, i think someone talked about this last week with the bathroom breaks, right? like sort of like basic dignity. so in 1996, a law was passed in new york that employers were required to provide drinking water for all farm workers. this is before the idea of a certain number of workers. and if did have fewer, you didn't have to buy enough water now. so it doesn't matter if you have one employer, employee or ten employees. everyone deserves water. similarly, in 1998, a law was passed that you had to have a porta potty, a toilet and washing hand washing facilities
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again, if you have three, four or five, six workers before you even exempt. now they said, look, even if you're a small farm, you only have six workers. you need to provide people a place where they can use the bathroom. and in 1999, they raised the minimum wage up to the standard state minimum wage. and in 2010, they tried to pass new legislation. and this was called the farm workers fair labor practices act. and it reaches the new york senate and is the first real debate about labor protections and almost a century, or at least 70 years and this is what the law would have done. one, it would have said that farm workers deserve overtime. again, farm workers currently do not get overtime pay and that is legal. the reason is, is the idea that a farm needs people to work long hours. it's not, they say, like a factory worker, someone can work 8 hours, they can hire someone else for 8 hours on a
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farm. you need someone to milk the cow every 4 hours. we can't just hire someone for an eight hour shift. we need to hire someone for longer. what? this bill would have done is actually would have created over time, although it was over time after 55 hours. so it still longer than what you would work in, in an industrial setting. they also said that people should be required one day off a week, a 24 hour rest period again, even though they're in farm labor, that they should be able to get a day off of rest and third, that they would have collective bargaining rights so that if someone was trying to organize, they would not be fired and that would be legal. right now, if you're trying to organize and you're fired, there's no protection against that. on a farm based on federal law. so these would be the three things in this law. and yet it did not pass. it was very close. it was 31 down against 28 for this largely fit around urban, rural lines, not surprisingly
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many of the sort of city reps were supporting, though, union rights and the upstate rep representatives, both democrat and republican like republicans, said, well, you don't understand farm industry. we can't have because this is in fact going to kill family farms. and in fact, what great argues is really interesting is that many of the attacks against the labor legislation, use the same sort of rhetoric of agrarian ism. don't turn farms into factories. they use the rhetoric of paternalism to really try to say, look, the fact we in the farm are different, we don't need the same protections. we take care of our people. we won't be able to make enough if we have these protections in place. and it's really interesting to think about how this comes together, right? that this is, in fact, a moment where the rhetoric of sort of the pastoralism is used to explain away labor rights, where
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i'd like to sort of conclude with a thinking about is just this summer. there's yet another court case. again, should farm workers in new york have the right to organize? this is going through new york state courts right now. i think it challenges us to think about when we eat our vegetables and i do eat organic apples and i eat organic strawberries and all of these things. i also like going to the farmer's market right. but we just think about this beyond just the question of what pesticide was used to think about this beyond a question of does the chicken get to roam around? if we think back to that portlandia skit, how much space does the chicken have? does it have to mandate antibiotics? how is it fed? but thinking about the ethics of the men and women who in fact grow these vegetables, pick them in the harvest, and in fact, need to cultivate these vegetables so that someone like myself can go and buy them. does this mean that consumers people need to think about paying more for local food? does that mean when we pay more
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for organic but when all to pay more for food that was grown under better working conditions and this is something that one might ask themselves as one worker said, one to lead sort of plaintiffs in this case here, quote, we deserve to be treated with dignity. our labor is important, said mr. hernandez, who no longer works in the dairy industry. they treat the cows better than they treat us. the whole industry, this is this way. so when we think about this question of eating to make sure we recognize who is actually producing food in front of us. margaret gray ends her book by saying this new approach to pursuing justice could be characterized as the inverse of upton sinclair's old maxim. farmworker advocates are now aiming at the public's stomach, trying to make a thing about what we're eating in order to get to our hearts. right. so rather than the reverse. all right. so a couple of things just to make sure we know. so think about things you need to know. one is thinking about the process or program and the politics of guest workers, thinking about chavez and
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thinking about the united farm workers. and finally about the politics and smaller farms, particularly in upstate new york. again, make sure your name is on this list and then we'll see everyone in discussion section on monday. we are. exactlyokay, let's get started s
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second half of the material. we're going to be discussing mass production and the american system of manufacturers. now as you well know. there are differences in the way economists and historians discuss issues in particular. i would sort of say historians


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