Photo Essay: California Farmworker – LeRoy
Syndic Literary Journal

Photo Essay: California Farmworker – Swamping Grapes

SWAMPING TABLE GRAPES
 
Photo by Jon Lewis (1966)
 
 
California farmworkers are swamping boxes of table grapes from the fields. Each box, weighing 26 lbs, is tossed up from ground level several feet above the truck bed to be caught and stacked on pallets 7 boxes high, then driven to grower’s cold storage plant to be unloaded. 
 
The workers are paid piece rate by the box – the more boxes they throw and stack –  the more they earn. Only young workers need apply because after several harvest seasons of lifting, throwing and stacking,  they are physically unable to do this work.
 
How many boxes of table grapes were produced in California last year? If you stacked these grape boxes end-to-end, and 12 boxes high, you could build a wall from Delano to Boston – a distance of 3,000 miles.
 
 Unlike millions of other workers in the U.S., these farmworkers have been specifically excluded from the protections of the 1935  National Labor Relations Act. South Africa had its racial apartheid, the U.S. has its labor apartheid. The time for the emancipation of farmworkers is long, long overdue.

 

 

 

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