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Photo Essay: California Farmworker – Cabin Row N


Photo by John Kouns (c.1965)

In order to survive on poverty-level wages, migrant farmworker families rented shacks in county farm labor camps such as the one pictured here near Porterville CA. Made out of tin – hot as hell during the summer and ice cold in the winter – these one room shacks were built on a concrete slab, contained an electrical outlet and a bed . Water was provided from faucets scattered throughout the complex and residents used common toilet and shower facilities.

It boggles the mind to rationalize why county governments felt compelled to use tax money to subsidize California’s largest industry – agribusiness – by building and managing shack housing for its workers. Had farmworkers not been excluded by Southern Segregationist Senators in 1935 from the protections of national labor legislation, farmworkers would have been guaranteed the right to organize, bargain collectively, earn a living wage, and live in decent housing – like other workers in the U.S.

This government-sanctioned racial and economic discrimination continues today – 83 years and counting – with no change in the offing.


Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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