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ADMIRERS of Thomas Jefferson have long quoted his statement about black men and women that is inscribed on the Jefferson Memorial: "Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free. But critics of O'Brien's assessment of Jefferson should remember the deceptive inscription on the memorial. O'Brien is to a large extent reacting to a history of distortion by Jefferson hagiographers who have created a Jefferson to suit their purposes, applying their own contemporary standards while picking and choosing among Jefferson's words. Still, it is important to ask why the hagiographers have tried at best to excuse or at worst to sanitize Jefferson.

Content:
  • Archival Collections A-Z
  • How Japanese and Mexican American farm workers formed an alliance that made history
  • What Jefferson Helps to Explain
  • Back to issue
  • The Little Project That Couldn't; Others Learn From a Failed Test in Worker Democracy
  • How Progressives Can Recapture Seven Deeply Held American Values
WATCH RELATED VIDEO: Ford to spend $11.4B on battery and assembly plants

Archival Collections A-Z

Berry season is waning, but the harvest hasn't always been so sweet for the migrant workers who pick the fruit in fields across the United States. A conflict between Mexican migrant workers and the Japanese American family-owned Sakuma Brothers berry farm in Washington state shows just how thorny the harvest can be. But conflicts over wages and worker rights are not unique to this time and place, or even to the berry harvest.

Along with other migrant groups, workers of Japanese and Mexican heritage have been central to the story of modern American agriculture. And as field workers, farmers, tenants, strikers and scabs, their stories have intersected at many points along the way. In the s, Mexican braceros filled jobs left behind when Japanese Americans were incarcerated at the height of the spring harvest. While the two groups were on opposing sides in many of these encounters, there were also remarkable instances of unity.

One example stands out in its demonstration of solidarity. The story brings us back to turn-of-the-century Oxnard, California. The region was experiencing a major agricultural boom, owing to the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad and a newly completed network of irrigation channels. This multilingual, multinational and easily replenishable workforce allowed businessmen and farm owners to keep wages low and their workers disenfranchised. They built a massive processing plant and developed acres of fields, transforming land that had, within recent living memory, belonged to Mexico and Chumash Indians.

Seasonal workers — Mexican Americans and Japanese immigrants brought in by labor contractors — toiled to thin, irrigate, harvest and top beets, before transporting them to a massive processing plant where the mostly white workforce would transform them into sugar. But when the company hired an outside contractor that sought to reduce wages and force workers to be paid in credit at overpriced company stores rather than in cash, workers rallied in opposition. Around Mexican betabeleros beet pickers and 1, Japanese buranke katsugi blanket carriers, so named for their itinerant lifestyles united.

Communicating through interpreters, this multilingual group successfully negotiated a strategy for action. Labor and Working-Class History. Workers unload beets from wagons at the Oxnard factory, sometime between andWorkers unload beets from cars at the Oxnard sugar beet factory, in a photo taken between andAs workers there sought reform and to unionize, they got an unexpected blow from an organization that ought to have been an ally: the American Federation of Labor AFL.

As tensions mounted, the conflict turned violent. One man, Louis Vasquez, was killed and four others wounded. The murderous farmer was tried but found not guilty, leading the JMLA to take a militant turn. Many of us have families, were born in this country, and are lawfully seeking to protect the only property that we have — our labor.

It is just as necessary for the welfare of the valley that we get a decent living wage, as it is that the machines in the great sugar factory be properly oiled — if the machines stop, the wealth of the valley stops, and likewise if the laborers are not given decent wage, they too, must stop work, and the whole people of the country will stop with them.

The movement grew in size and visibility and the American Beet Sugar Company eventually caved to their demands, agreeing to return to the original wage scale. But as the JMLA sought to transform itself into the chartered Sugar Beet Farm Laborers Union, they received an unexpected blow from an organization that ought to have been an ally. The American Federation of Labor AFL — the body that governed labor unions — issued a charter to formally recognize the union.

In response to Gompers, the union sent the unsigned charter back and stood by their Japanese American brothers. Lizarraras, wrote:. We would be false to them and to ourselves and to the cause of Unionism if we, now, accepted privileges for ourselves which are not accorded to them.

We are going to stand by men who stood by us in the long, hard fight which ended in a victory over the enemy. We therefore respectfully petition the A. We will refuse any other kind of charter, except one which will wipe out race prejudices and recognize our fellow workers as being as good as ourselves.

The AFL stood its ground and refused to grant a charter to the union. That, combined with a revision to the labor contractor system in Oxnard, led to the quick dissolution of the new sugar beer union. The organization had a short life, but this union of Japanese and Mexican American workers stands as a powerful example of interracial solidarity in a history of labor relations that would, more often than not, turn sour as power dynamics shifted.

Over the next several decades, Japanese Americans were able to pool resources and form partnerships that helped them leverage their social positions relative to other migrant groups.

Strategically working around the alien land laws that prevented them from owning farm land, Japanese Americans slowly began expanding their agricultural holdings.

The unjust and illegal incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II disrupted this trajectory, but by the late s the alien land laws had been rendered unenforceable and many Japanese Americans were again on the path to prosperity. Soon, these exploited Mexican laborers were scorned just as Asian workers had been earlier in the century. Here, a bracero is vaccinated while others wait in line at the Monterrey Processing Center, Mexico inGrassroots activism in opposition to the Bracero Program eventually led to its termination in , and farm workers who remained in the US gradually won union representation and leverage for better working conditions.

While the movement was led by Mexican Americans, the group had wide support from others, including Larry Itliong and other Filipino Americans who comprised another agricultural underclass. But Japanese and Mexican Americans again found themselves at odds over agricultural and labor issues. Many farm owners felt they were being unfairly targeted. In response, the farmers banded together to form the Nisei Farmers League.

Their hope was to collectively protect their interests in the face of UFW actions and to defend their reputations as Japanese Americans. In a full-page ad published in 20 leading California newspapers, Harry Kubo, the first president of the NFL reminded readers of the historical injustice he had suffered and used it as a justification to stand his ground against the UFW.

Alongside a portrait of Kubo, the ad read:. Tule Lake Japanese-American detention camp. My family lost everything. I was 20 years old and I gave up my personal rights without a fight. Never again. In addition to inter-ethnic conflict, the opposition to the United Farm Workers movement took a toll on Japanese Americans. Disputes between younger generations of Sansei and older generations of Nisei broke out.

The rift was felt deeply by the Japanese American Citizens League , where clashes over Sansei support for the UFW and other social justice issues eventually led to Sansei employees resigning from their league positions en masse inWhile the divisions between the farmers league and the union were complicated by social, economic, and generational factors, both sides summoned history and cultural identity in waging attacks and articulating defenses.

The spirit of unity seen between Japanese and Mexican American farm workers in the Oxnard strike was evident in Sansei solidarity, but nowhere to be found in the exchanges between the two groups most closely involved in the labor dispute. More: Despite history, Japanese Americans and African Americans are working together to claim their rights. Divisions among workers, as well as between farmers and the agricultural labor force, helps keep workers disenfranchised and profits high.

Add to this the fact that immigrant groups have historically been incentivized to elevate their own status by standing on the backs of fellow newcomers.

But the interracial allegiance in Oxnard in remains as a powerful example of what can happen when groups unite in solidarity instead of giving into the social forces working to pit them against one another.

Japanese migrant strawberry pickers, possibly on Vashon Island, Washington, February 14,Courtesy of the Ouchi Family Collection.


How Japanese and Mexican American farm workers formed an alliance that made history

Historical Essay. A good deal has been written about the experiences of left-led unions in the United States at the outbreak of the Cold War, but much less has been written about the origins and mechanics of the radicalism for which individual unions were targeted during the accompanying red scare. In shaping the character of the MCS, the role of communism—both as a body of ideas and through the practical interpretation of those ideas by the Communist Party CP —is far from incidental. At this time, the possibility of a radical kind of worker self-management, the urgency of anti-fascism, and the palpable weight of black American exclusion and oppression hung in the air together at numerous flashpoints of unrest in an American workplace that was slowly absorbing the black diaspora from the U. South and experiencing perhaps to an unprecedented degree the manipulation of a government-business alliance.

the Highland Park Ford Plant in , the automobile industry in Detroit exploded Detroit's African Americans and the Labor Unions.

What Jefferson Helps to Explain

Please click here to improve this chapter. But Altamont was a disorganized disaster. Inadequate sanitation, a horrid sound system, and tainted drugs strained concertgoers. Fights broke out. Tensions rose. The Angels, drunk and high, armed themselves with sawed-off pool cues and indiscriminately beat concertgoers who tried to come on the stage. The Grateful Dead refused to play. Finally, the Stones came on stage. Fights continued near the stage. Pissed off and high on methamphetamines, Hunter brandished a pistol, charged again, and was stabbed and killed by an Angel.

Back to issue

Throughout the 19 th and early 20 th century, the labor movement struggled to overcome racism in the midst of a society divided by race. However, its affiliated unions continued to exclude or segregate workers by race, as white members tried to limit competition from African Americans for jobs. In the s, a new national labor organization arose, the Knights of Labor. The Knights vowed to admit workers of all races and nationalities, but this principle did not prevent the organization from tolerating segregated assemblies in the South.

Berry season is waning, but the harvest hasn't always been so sweet for the migrant workers who pick the fruit in fields across the United States. A conflict between Mexican migrant workers and the Japanese American family-owned Sakuma Brothers berry farm in Washington state shows just how thorny the harvest can be.

The Little Project That Couldn't; Others Learn From a Failed Test in Worker Democracy

The s were a period of economic growth and transition. Real wages for most workers increased, while stock prices advanced as much during the s as they had in the previous three decades. The US census of revealed that, for the first time, a majority of Americans lived in cities and towns with at least 2, residents. The s also boasted a uniquely modern culture that celebrated the fast pace of cosmopolitan life. Yet in many ways, the United States was still mired in the past. Progressive reformers sought to publicize the tragedy of preventable diseases and child mortality among the poor.

How Progressives Can Recapture Seven Deeply Held American Values

The show also streams on CBSN beginning at a. You can also download the free "Sunday Morning" podcast at iTunes. Now you'll never miss the trumpet! COVER STORY: Art that breaks through prison walls Watch Video Inmates at Maine's state prisons, many of whom are facing decades behind bars without a chance of parole, are finding new purpose through creative expression, making artwork and crafts for sale outside of prison walls. Correspondent Nancy Giles reports on a program that correction officials say has reduced recidivism dramatically. Jon LaPook on holiday gatherings Watch Video With the increase in coronavirus caseloads due to the spreading Delta and Omicron variants, CBS News' chief medical correspondent discusses the precautions to be taken at end-of-year get-togethers, to better ensure a safe holiday season.

How to Guess Your Age (By C. Ford) Interracial marriages should be discouraged. ploying: The expansion of the factory will mean employment of.

In July the city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy, the largest American city ever to do so. Just across the Detroit River lies the Canadian city of Windsor, Ontario, which has historically shared a similar reliance on automotive manufacturing, and yet has not suffered as sharp an economic downturn. Bill Anderson looks at the close links between the two cities, writing that while Windsor may have performed better economically, like Detroit, it can no longer rely on the automotive industry to guarantee long term growth and employment and must diversify its interests. The fiscal collapse has been well covered in the local media and on the Detroit television stations that many Windsorites watch.

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In June , the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples can marry in all 50 states, setting off a flurry of reaction by Christians and virtually everyone else on social media and beyond. Ed Stetzer wrote a helpful background post to the shift in opinion that led to the decision and included links to a number of other leading articles in his post. The social media reaction ranged from surprising to predictable to disappointing to occasionally refreshing. I write from the perspective of a pastor of an evangelical church in a country where same-sex marriage has been the law of the land for a decade. I hope what I offer can help. My fingers tremble at the keyboard because my goal is to help in the midst of a dialogue that seems far more divisive than it is uniting or constructive.

Alongside the movement for civil rights in the South came a series of protests in the North over the de facto color bar in several industries, most importantly, construction.

Successful unionization campaigns by the United Auto Workers UAW in the s and early s resulted in contracts that guaranteed particular wage increases, reduced the power of foremen, and created a process for resolving workplace conflicts. In the late s and early s UAW president Walter Reuther negotiated generous medical benefits and pensions for autoworkers. The volatility of the auto industry, however, often brought layoffs that undermined economic security. By the s overproduction and automation contributed heavily to instability for autoworkers. The UAW officially supported racial and gender equality, but realities in auto plants and the makeup of union leadership often belied those principles. Beginning in the s US autoworkers faced disruptions caused by high oil prices, foreign competition, and outsourcing to Mexico. Contract concessions at unionized plants began in the late s and continued into the s.

This graphic is from November 12,Although the WCF proclaimed itself a champion of civil liberties upon its conception, its commitment to the rectification of racial injustice and its promotion of civil liberties for racial minorities must be subject to the same critical analysis as the history of the Communist Party of the United States of America CPUSA. More than 1, delegates attend Seattle convention of the Washington Commonwealth Federation. The WCF nominated candidates for state and local offices, functioning as a leftwing caucus within the Democratic Party.