migrant labor


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migrant labor,

term applied in the United States to laborers who travel from place to place harvesting crops that must be picked as soon as they ripen. Although migrant labor patterns exist in other parts of the world (e.g., Africa, Australia, Canada, Europe, and South America), none compares with the extent and magnitude of the system in the United States. Migrant laborers may travel on their own or they may be transported by a contractor who has agreed to supply the farmer with the needed workers. They may be urban dwellers who go on the land only for the season or migrants whose only means of living is to follow the crops from one place to another. Efforts to enforce sanitary conditions, prevent child labor, and protect the workers from exploitation met with only slight success until the 1960s.

In the 1930s, a combination of droughts, the depression, and the increased mechanization of farming prompted a migration of small farmers and laborers from Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas to the W United States. It was estimated that this type of permanent migrant worker, without home, voting privileges, or union representation, numbered more than 3 million. John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath is a dramatic representation of the life of those migrants. In World War II another type of migrant worker sprang into being with the need for labor in the defense industries. These uprooted workers experienced housing problems, but they were protected by wage and hour laws that did not apply to agricultural labor.

Since the 1940s, thousands of workers each year have been brought into the United States from foreign countries, principally from Mexico. Migrant labor, which remains almost exclusively agricultural, continues to receive little legal protection. However, in the mid-1960s, under the leadership of Cesar ChavezChavez, Cesar Estrada
, 1927–93, American agrarian labor leader, b. near Yuma, Ariz. A migrant worker, he became involved (1952) in the self-help Community Service Organization (CSO) in California, working among Mexicans and Mexican Americans; from 1958 to 1962 he was its
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, organization of migrant workers began in the West, mainly in California. In 1970, after years of strikes, marches, and a nationwide boycott, more than 65% of California's grape growers signed contracts with the AFL-CIO's United Farm Workers Organizing Committee headed by Chavez. That organization, which became a full-fledged union as the United Farm Workers (UFW) in 1972, had some success in negotiating contracts in other states as well. However, it found itself locked in a fierce struggle with the Teamsters Union, which also claimed to represent migrant laborers and succeeded in renegotiating many of the UFW's contracts in California. The Teamsters' attempt to break up the UFW led to many strikes and some violence. The rivalry also significantly reduced UFW's membership (down to 24,000 members in 1996, compared to 100,000 in the late 1970s).

Bibliography

See C. McWilliams, Factories in the Field (1939, repr. 1971); D. Nelkin, On the Season (1970); W. A. Cornelius, ed., The Changing Role of Mexican Labor in the U.S. Economy (1989); D. Cohen, Braceros (2011).

References in periodicals archive ?
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Addressing a regional consultation meeting on international migration in the Arab region, Assistant Foreign Minister for International Organizations Nasser Al-Hayyen called for developing mechanisms for enabling the Arab countries to enhance the necessary arrangements for securing the human rights of migrant labor, and fair recognition of their skills and qualifications through providing them with a safe environment.
Summary: On March 22, the International Labor Organization moved to give Qatar until November to reform its laws governing migrant labor.
I really requested to join dahil sa overseas migrant labor na nasa Middle East, napakaraming Ilokano, napakaraming kababaihan so importante sa akin na malaman sitwasyon nila kung nagimprove na ba dahil ang pagkaalam ko libu-libo parin ang naiiwan dun although we have to work on it,' Marcos said.
Synopsis: In the California heartland of 1932, at a migrant labor camp whose very name means forgotten, a child's sudden illness leads to tensions between workers wishing to break camp and the land barons enforcing their contracts.
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