Friday, January 25, 2019


David Bacon Fotografias y Historias
By David Bacon
Capital & Main, 1/24/19

Workers struck against wage cuts at this San Joaquin Valley ranch two years ago, and later won a union contract.

California growers have complained of a tight labor market for years, as a militarized border and a decade of mass deportations restrict the flow of migrants into the fields.  Some growers, like Salinas' D'Arrigo Brothers Co., have signed union contracts and provided better wages and benefits in order to attract a stable workforce.  Others, however, are actively seeking to hold wages down. This recipe for confrontation has produced an escalating legal battle in Washington DC, and a walkout by hundreds of tangerine pickers in the Central Valley.

Growers have increasingly turned to H-2A visas for guest workers, with the decade ending in 2018 seeing a more than 370 percent increase, with no decline in sight. In Washington DC, the National Council of Agricultural Employers, a national lobbying organization for U.S. growers, filed suit in January against the U.S. Department of Labor to freeze the wages of H-2A guest workers at a level barely above the minimum wage.

H-2A workers are recruited by growers every year in other countries, mainly Mexico.  They're given visas for less than a year, which require them to work for the employer that contracts them.  They must leave the country when their work is done.  Growers have to advertise for local workers first, and can only bring in guest workers if none are available.

Companies using the H-2A program must apply to the U.S. Department of Labor, specifying the work, and the living conditions and wages workers will receive.  Each year the Federal government sets state-by-state an Adverse Effect Wage Rate - the wage growers must pay H-2A workers.  It is set at a level that supposedly won't undermine the wages of local workers, but it's usually just slightly above the minimum wage.  In 2019 the AEWR wage in California is set to increase from $13.18/hour to $13.92.  California's minimum wage, for employers with more than 25 workers, will go to $12.00.

On January 8, the day before the new H-2A wages were to go into effect, the NCAE was denied a temporary injunction to halt the increases.  The organization then filed suit to roll back AEWR wages to 2018 levels.  Michael Marsh, NCAE president and CEO, said the increases were "unsustainable," and would cost growers "hundreds of millions of dollars."  Agribusiness is being "hammered by unfair retaliatory tariffs," he charged, in a dig directed against Trump's trade war with China.

The increases directly affect a sizeable chunk of the farm labor workforce.  According to the Department of Labor's National Agricultural Workers Survey, the best analysis of farm worker demographics for over two decades, there are about 2.5 million farm workers in the U.S., about three quarters of whom were born outside the U.S., and half of whom are undocumented.  Last year growers were certified to bring in 242,762 H-2A workers - a tenth of the total workforce and a number that is rising rapidly.  Holding down their wages would save growers a lot of money.

But halting the increase would also impact farm workers as a whole.  Farmworker Justice, a Washington DC farm worker advocacy coalition, says the average family's yearly income is $17,500-$19,999.  A quarter of all farm worker families earned below the federal poverty line of $19,790. 

Farmworker Justice and the United Farm Workers both requested to intervene in the NCAE suit on the side of the Department of Labor, upholding the wage increases.  "The growers' suit will affect farm workers across the country," said UFW President Teresa Romero.  "If H-2A wages are frozen, fewer farm workers already living here will want to work for them.  Growers will have an excuse to bring in more H-2A workers.  It's becoming more like the bracero program."

[. . .]

Exhibition Schedule
Exhibitions of photographs are scheduled for the following venues and dates:

In the Fields of the North / En los campos del norte
Scheduled exhibitions:

January 13, 2019 - March 10, 2019
Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum, Vallejo
June 16, 2019 - August 18, 2019

The Museum of Ventura County's Agricultural Museum, Santa Paula
September 1, 2019 - December 22, 2019
Hi-Desert Nature Museum, Yucca Valley
January 5, 2020 - March 1, 2020
Community Memorial Museum of Sutter County, Yuba City
March 21, 2021 - May 23, 2021
Carnegie Arts Center, Turlock

In Washington’s Fields 
Scheduled exhibition:

February 5, 2020 - July 15, 2020
Washington State Historical Museum, Tacoma, WA

In the Fields of the North / En los Campos del Norte
Photographs and text by David Bacon
University of California Press / Colegio de la Frontera Norte

302 photographs, 450pp, 9”x9”
paperback, $34.95 (in the U.S.)

order the book on the UC Press website:
use source code  16M4197  at checkoutreceive a 30% discount

En Mexico se puede pedir el libro en el sitio de COLEF:

Los Angeles Times reviews In the Fields of the North / En los Campos del Norte - clickhere

En los campos del Norte documenta la vida de trabajadores agrícolas en Estados Unidos -
Entrevista con el Instituto Nacional de la Antropologia y Historia

Entrevista en la television de UNAM

David Bacon comparte su mirada del trabajo agrícola de migrantes mexicanos en el Museo Archivo de la Fotografia

Trabajo agrícola, migración y resistencia cultural: el mosaico de los “Campos del Norte”
Entrevista de David Bacon por Iván Gutiérrez / A los 4 Vientos

"Los fotógrafos tomamos partido"
Entrevista por Melina Balcázar Moreno - Laberinto

Die Kunst der Grenze für "eine andere Welt"

Die Apfel-Pflücker aus dem Yakima-Tal


"Documenting the Farm Worker Rebellion"
"The Radical Resistance to Immigration Enforcement"
Havens Center lectures, University of Wisconsin, click here

San Francisco Commonweallth Club presentation by David Bacon and Jose Padilla, clickhere

EN LOS CAMPOS DEL NORTE:  Farm worker photographs on the U.S./Mexico border wall
Entrevista sobre la exhibicion con Alfonso Caraveo (Español) REALITY CHECK - David Bacon blog

Cat Brooks interview on KPFA about In the Fields of the North  - Advance the time to 33:15

Book TV: A presentation of the ideas in The Right to Stay Home at the CUNY Graduate Center

Other Books by David Bacon

The Right to Stay Home:  How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration  (Beacon Press, 2013)
Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants  (Beacon Press, 2008)
Recipient: C.L.R. James Award, best book of 2007-2008

Communities Without Borders (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006)

The Children of NAFTA, Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border (University of California, 2004)

En Español:

EL DERECHO A QUEDARSE EN CASA  (Critica - Planeta de Libros)


For more articles and images, see and