Migrant Workers


Larry Karol


Everybody's heard about the migrant workers and the painthat they go through to get enough money to barely survive. But no onehas really entered the depths that lie beyond the workers themselves. Peopletake migrant workers for granted without really developing a real relationshipfor them.

Migratory labor has been defined by the Unites States Departmentof Labor as, "workers who occasionally or habitually move, with orwithout their families, to seek or engage in second or temporary employment,and who do not have the status of residents in the localities of expectedjob opportunity or employment." (1)

In 1965, the Federal Government required crew leaders tocarry liability insurance on workers while on the road. (2) This is bothgood and bad. It is good because it covers workers while on the road, however,it is bad because it doesn't cover workers while being engaged in familytype pleasure. Here are just a few reasons why the Federal Government passedthis law:

1. On May 18, 1963, a bus load of 27 people hooked bumperswith a semi and plunged into a canal. Everyone in the bus died; 12 of thesewere children still at the age to attend school, and this is where thesechildren should have been.

2. On September 18, 1963, a bus load of 63 Mexicans werecrossing a railroad track. The old bus that they were driving started toslow down, and before the driver knew it, it was too late, the brakes hadfailed. The old bus went plunging into the side of a very untimely andswift moving locomotive. Everyone in the bus was killed without any warningor last requests from anyone. A worker out in a field beside the trackssaid, "that mangled bodies flew everywhere, in the field right besideme, under the train only to be crushed by the ever-sharp wheels, and some,God only knows how, stayed inside the bus. And worst of all, the trainwasn't able to stop for a half a mile afterwards."

Migratory laborers are usually thought of to be workingwith fruits and vegetables. This is most certainly true, but some workis still being done by migrant workers in the areas of lumbering, road construction,and mining. Migratory labor has been diminishing because of the great modernizationof farm machinery. Around here, farmers have started to hire kids duringthe summer to hoe their sugar beets for them. This is because it's cheaper. Even though, these migrant workers suffer great pain and face many longhardships and disasters that middle class people would turn away from orlook upon someone else to help them with their problem. They do all thisfor an annual income of approximately one thousand dollars. (3)

The clothing that migrant workers wear isn't for peoplewho drive by to look at and admire; although they would be pretty astonished,the clothes that they wear are basically for protection from the sun andthe rain.

The most common clothing worn by migrant worker women area bandanna, a large straw hat, an oversized man's shirt, a full skirt, apair of pants rolled up to just above the ankles. Rubber was put on theknees of the pants to reinforce them when kneeling down.

The men wore long shirts and wool pants that were tattered,dirty, and ill-fitting.

The necessity for migratory labor is usually expected whena company or industry cannot obtain a sufficient labor force from the localsources. Whenever this demand for workers is temporary and the work ispiling up without anybody to do it, the migrant workers enter the scene. The United States Department of Labor estimated that there are about onemillion migrant workers in the United States today. (4) This number fluctuatesdepending on the climatic, moral, and economic values of the year.

The life of a migrant worker is a very hard life to follow. They are exposed to abnormal economic hazards. The migrant workers employmentis not certain from year to year. A migrant worker is required to travelaround by himself or with his family in search of some kind of employment. The migrant worker takes any kind of employment under almost any kind ofconditions, and most of all, for about any kind or sized pay check. Housingis usually below standards, but in the last few years the United StatesDepartment of Labor has passed a law saying that all houses must have indoorbathrooms, running water, and electricity. Even though they've done thismany migrant workers still don't get near the housing we do. A migrantworker is usually looked upon with suspicion while walking down the streetsof the city or town by which he works.

Usually, the most defenseless member of the migratory laborer'sfamily is the child. These children, in order to help their families makeenough money to survive, work hard long hours deprived of an adequate childhood. Their attendance in public schools is very limited. It is not a law forthese children to attend school if their parents don't want them to, infact, many schools won't even accept them as part of their attendance. At the best, attendance for a child, which is for shorter periods of time,it is not nearly enough education to train him or her adequately. Eventhough migrant workers are proven to be less healthy than other workers,they do not as a whole like to accept charity. These migrant workers seemedto be the forgotten part of the world's population.

These workers, despite all their punishment, perform veryvital economic functions. If these workers never showed up, it would bea near disaster to the people needing them as well as the rest of the world. Since these migratory laborers are moving around constantly, it is veryuncertain to the number of workers a location is to get. Many companies,in order to be sure they get enough workers, over advertise and end up withan excess of workers which then leads to a lower paying job for the migrantworker. This also leads to unemployment and trouble for those people togo through in order to get some place where there might be some availablework.

The key to these problems is said to be in better utilizationof government offices, the dissemination of more accurate information, andgreater concern for the well-being of the migrant worker himself.

These suggestions are expected to reduce some of the paidand agony suffered by migrant workers in recruitment, but yet insure anadequate labor supply. These migrant workers need to be prevented againstmany available hardships, and their children need to be guaranteed a fightingchance to escape their present economic position by getting an adequateamount of education. And all of us here in the Red River Valley can makequite a dent in the migrant workers misfortune, because every summer weall can see them any time of the day. Lets make them our friends as wellas our neighbors.


(1) Truman Moore, The Slaves We Rent, Random House, 1965pp. 37-38

(2) Encyclopedia Americana, Vol 16, 1964 by Americana Corporation.pp. 573-574

(3) Truman Moore, The Slaves We Rent, Random House, 1965pp. 38-39

(4) Truman Moore, The Slaves We Rent, Random House, 1965pp. 37-38



Truman Moore, The Slaves We Rent, Random House, 1965, pp.37 - 38

Encyclopedia Americana, Vol. 16, 1964, Americana Corporation,pp. 573-574andom House, 1965, pp.37 - 38

Encyclopedia Americana, Vol. 16, 1964, Americana Corporation,pp. 573-574