“Cheap Labor” – Fifty Years of Deception


The Senate Judiciary Committee`s outrageous proposal to grant amnesty to illegal aliens as well as increase the numbers of guest workers and non-immigrant work visas marks another low in government`s endless efforts to cram more immigration down the unwilling throats of Americans.

In California, where bracero/guest worker programs started over half a century ago, large groups of agitators—prodded by far-left wing socialist and communist groupsmarched to protest H.R. 4437 in Los Angeles, Sacramento. Even my little hometown of Lodi, students cut class to carry Mexican flags and signs in Spanish.

But the party may not turn out quite the way the organizers hoped. The Internet is flooded with images of arrogant aliens.  Apparently, Hispanic leaders can`t or won`t learn from what happened when similar anti-Proposition 187 demonstrations took place in 1994. Voters, no doubt surprised and outraged by the ugliness of the street marches, overwhelmingly passed Prop 187.

In the 12-years that have elapsed since Prop 187, millions more illegal aliens have become more meddlesome and more demanding.

And if you think the anti-American sentiment you see outside your window is scary, just imagine what awaits you if Hispanics get real control. For a preview, consider the macho, in-your-face statements of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

"There are no illegal people here today "  said Villaraigosa recently, adding "America was built on the backs of immigrants." [Civil rights? How about lawlessness?, By Joe R. Hicks, LA Times, April 1, 2006]

Street anarchy is the predictable outcome of a nearly a half a century of capitulation to the business, government and subversive forces that promote more immigration.

For more than 50 years, Americans have passively bought into the concept that cheap, unskilled labor—either officially invited by Congress or present as uninvited intruders—is essential to our economy.

If only early resistance had been mounted…if only a modicum of logic had prevailed at the beginning…if only a shred of political courage had been exercised, we may have been able to avoid the crisis swirling around us.

But a look back into history confirms that the problem all along has been wages — not a shortage of willing workers.

(My source here: Bracero Politics: Longest Crap Game in California`s Agricultural History, by William Turner, Ramparts Magazine, September 1965, not online.)

In January 1959, Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, California`s newly elected governor, took office.

A former painter`s union attorney and civil rights leader, Brown gave early indications that he would resist agribusiness pressure to retain the long-standing bracero program that brought cheap labor from Mexico to California.

Brown insisted that he would improve the working conditions of native California farm laborers impoverished by braceros.

For starters, Brown proposed including farm laborers in a state minimum wage hike to $1.25 an hour from the existing level of 90 cents.

Said Brown:

If a person is worth hiring, he is worth paying a decent living wage. The special interest group which denies that imperils its own future as well as California`s.”

Brown`s sense of fair play didn`t last long.

Within two years, Brown was completely in the pocket of agribusiness giants like California Packing (Del Monte) and Hunt Foods and Industries.

And in turn the Bank of America controlled the food packers and growers. The bank insisted on the lowest payroll possible…that meant hiring braceros even though domestic workers were available at the minimum wage.

By spring 1965, with the bracero program facing increasing opposition because of flagrant exploitation of Mexican workers by agribusiness, growers like Salinas Strawberries, Inc. predicted their crops would rot if more pickers weren`t brought in from Mexico.

But Gilroy farmer Les Grube and his Community Recruitment of Personnel easily proved that the variable wasn`t available workers but wages.

Grube immediately offered $1.40 an hour—the mandatory minimum wage set by U.S. Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz before growers could hire braceros—and quickly filled up buses headed to Salinas.

The revised pay scale—a 40 percent hike—confirmed what Grube and the Stockton-based Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee had been saying all along…that allegations of worker shortages were nothing but grower`s hype.

According to the AWOC director, C. Al Green:

The fact is there have been few real efforts made to attract United States farm workers. The wages offered are low and the working conditions miserable. When real efforts have been made to attract U.S. farm workers, the workers have responded with enthusiasm.”

And when the wage offered was higher than the minimum, the results were dramatic.

During the summer of 1965, Blythe, CA-melon growers increased their pay scale to $1.75 plus a 25 cent an hour bonus to workers who stayed to the end of the harvest. They ended up turning away domestic workers, many of whom had traveled from out-of-state in the hope of earning a decent wage.

In the mid-1960s, Congress finally killed the bracero program.

But after the bracero program ended, illegal alien workers started flooding in. And they have never stopped coming. In short order the aliens, providing the cheapest labor, reduced Cesar Chavez`s United Farm Workers Union to shell of its once powerful self.

(Read Steve Sailer`s analysis here)

Nevertheless, California growers still make the same labor shortage claim—without any reference to wages— by repeating their predictable lie every spring with clockwork precision: “We have no one pick the raisins, the grapes, the peaches, etc

(This suggestion just in from California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher: “I say let the prisoners pick the fruit.”)

Fascinating: agribusiness creates a domestic shortage by refusing to pay a living wage; then complains about it to Congress and demands more poor workers from Mexico and Central America – whose cost is partly borne by the American taxpayer through free schools, Emergency Room health care etc.

Now Congress, never one to dig too deeply for the facts, is poised to make its most colossal immigration mistake ever.

During the bracero program, anywhere from two to five million Mexicans came to the U.S. But today Congress wants to open the doors for many million more plus legalize the 20 million already illegally living here.

And what about real border security to keep out more illegal aliens who might under cut the guest workers? Good luck.

But don`t abandon hope.

The biggest difference between the 1960s and the early 21st Century is public awareness.  Every American`s eyes are finally open.

The furious public outcry to the Senate`s sell-out reverberates throughout the nation.

Here`s my take: this is where we have fought for years to be!

Our cause is front-page national news every day. Talk-show radio hosts back us 99 percent. Internet bloggers and public opinion are overwhelmingly in our corner.

Those on the other side look foolish, at best. Whether they are truants marching in the streets or pompous legislators bloviating in Congress, their actions have an air of desperation about them.

Fear not. We cannot win without just this kind of turf war.

Our day is coming. And it may be here sooner than you think.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.