Skip to content. Vernon Ichisaka checks the weight of beans picked at Seabrook Farms in Field laborers had to meet daily quotas on the amount of vegetables they picked. Beginning in , Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during World War II became eligible to work for select companies. Though they were often born in the US, their limited job choices and restricted mobility meant that they were treated like guest workers.
A lesson from history about protecting migrant workers
Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center. Truman, dictated to an unnamed typist, ends. Illness prevented him from working and the company apparently sent him to family members in Boston to recover. Roach was anxious about having to return to Barbados without having earned any money. He did not think that extending his stay would hurt Americans in any way.
Cecil Roach fell ill after coming to the US as a guest worker and, in violation of his contract, was sent by Seabrook Farms to relatives in Boston who became responsible for his care. In this letter addressed to President Truman, Roach requests an extension of his contract so that he might "make a little money to carry home.
It authorized agricultural employers, with the help of the federal government, to hire and import guest workers like Roach from the Caribbean.
In the Midwest and West, this same piece of legislation led to the creation of the bracero program, which allowed businesses to recruit Mexican workers on a temporary basis, and overcome labor shortages. In theory, migrants from Barbados, Jamaica, and the Bahamas were protected by US agreements with the British Colonial Office, which governed the islands as colonial possessions.
Upholding wage and living standards, however, proved almost impossible. The lax enforcement of employment contracts is a major problem for guest workers who, in worst case scenarios, are forced to remain with employers and prevented from either returning home or switching jobs. In the s and '50s, guest workers were permitted to remain in the US only if they stuck to the terms of contracts binding them to specific employers. If guest workers left the jobs — whether because of wage disputes, poor treatment, or to seek out higher-paying employment — their names were passed on to immigration officials so they could be tracked down for deportation.
At Seabrook Farms, this was a relatively frequent occurrence. They were identified in a list sent to immigration officials and targeted for removal.
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Today, while some politicians have called for reforms designed to better protect foreign workers, others have focused on whether guest worker programs harm Americans through unfair job competition. This was an issue at Seabrook Farms as well. African American workers, who migrated on a seasonal basis to New Jersey from the South, regularly complained that the available supply of West Indian guest workers gave the company leverage to keep wages down and make them disposable.
Access to clean water and toilets installed over pits were among the concerns of those trying to improve conditions for guest workers. A visitor to Bridgeton in the summer of would have encountered a series of sprawling migrant labor camps dotting the landscape between the town and Seabrook Farms. The Big Oaks and Orchard Center camps were home to about 1, migrant laborers who lived in wooden barracks, shanties and open tents without indoor plumbing, electricity or facilities for storing food. Formerly a Spanish land grant known as Morris Cove, the town began to assume its modern shape in when.
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