Lapas attēli

apples and vegetables. The Japanese in Texas are in specialized agriculture, consisting of rice-growing, trucking and horticulture. They soon learn American methods and the English language; most of them have invested comparatively large amounts of capital in their enterprises and some are agricultural students. The Japanese in Michigan and Wisconsin are laborers in the sugar-beet fields. The movement of Portuguese to the farm is small. The White Portuguese come from the mainland and the Azores, and the Black Portuguese, or Bravas, from the Cape Verde Islands. The White Portuguese are efficient farm workers and supply practically all the agricultural labor in Rhode Island. The Black Portuguese are either seasonal farm-laborers or dock hands. Some of the White Portuguese are owners and renters of land in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The Portuguese potato growers in Rhode Island often succeed better than their native neighbors, chiefly because they have a lower standard of living.

Seasonal Agricultural Laborers

In all parts of the United States where specialized crops necessitate hand labor at certain seasons of the year, thousands of so-called seasonal laborers are employed, many of whom are foreign-born persons. In dairy and stock farming it is becoming more common to employ labor by the year, but in grain, vegetable and fruit growing, the seasonal laborers far outnumber the yearly ones. In addition to the number employed for the entire crop season, there is a large body of laborers employed for specific tasks by the piece, or by the day. They come in gangs, often

from a distance, and their season of employment is generally from four to eight weeks.

The races more usually engaging in seasonal farm. labor are the South Italians, Poles, and Black Portuguese on Cape Cod, an increasing number of Greeks, and Syrians, and in sugar-beet culture the Belgians, Bohemians, Finns, Poles, Hungarians, and Japanese* are employed. These races have been supplanting native Americans and the older immigrant races in berrypicking and to some extent in beet-culture. The Syrians, at present, are only one-fourth of the number working in the vicinity of Oneida, New York, but they are entering into competition with the South Italians. Since 1905 Greeks have, to a certain extent, been forcing out South Italians near Geneva, New York.

As the work of picking berries, weeding, and hoeing vegetables is very simple, women and children can easily do it. The seasonal farm work comes at a time when the schools are closed, so that frequently children and others who have no regular gainful occupation, do this temporary agricultural work. Many races make the family the working unit in the busy

summer season.

The Hammonton, New Jersey, berry-pickers are typical of thousands of other seasonal laborers. Most of those studied by the Immigration Commission were South Italians, mainly family units, who spent their summers in berry fields and cranberry bogs, and their winters in Philadelphia. The cranberry-pickers of Massachusetts are largely Black Portuguese, who work as dock hands in New Bedford and other seacoast towns most of the year. Fivesixths of them are single men, or boys, who have

Japanese farming in the West is discust in Chapter XII.

succeeded in forcing out the Poles, Italians, and, to a large degree, the Finns. The Wisconsin cranberrypickers are Indians or Poles. The Indians come from neighboring reservations and the Poles sometimes come from a distance of 100 miles with their families.

The sugar-beet laborers are chiefly Belgians, tho in Wisconsin several races do this type of work. In the winter, they are mostly in industrial employments; some of the Belgians, for instance, become lumbermen in Michigan.

Wherever Italian laborers are recruited from a distance, the padrone system is in force. Sometimes the Massachusetts bog owners apply to labor agencies in Boston, Providence, or New Bedford, and a labor agent or boss handles the cranberry bog hands. Foremen are essential where unskilled foreign labor is employed.

Wages and hours vary greatly, and earnings vary both with the wages and the length of the season. In berry-picking and in beet culture, piece wages are the rule. The sugar-beet laborers are paid by the acre. The company guarantees the wages and there is a contract between the grower and the laborer. In Wisconsin the workers are paid $20 per acre and one laborer by working long hours can take care of about ten acres. In Western New York the Poles earn about $18 to $20 a month and board the year round, when they work at general agriculture. South Italian families of four or five members working from April to November, average from $350 to $450 a season. Piece wages for men and women bring in from $1.25 to $1.75 a day in the summer and women often earn as much as men. In New York, the wages at agricultural work are better than in other industrial day labor,

when the cost of living is considered. Canning company employees in the State of New York work nine or ten hours a day, and the regular cranberry bog hands nine hours.

The housing conditions differ greatly among the different groups of seasonal laborers. There are three systems of housing: first, permanent dwellings owned or rented the year round by the laborers, themselves; (This system exists where Poles and Italians live near their place of employment) as in Geneva and in Orleans County, New York; second, permanent quarters or "barracks" built by the employers for use during the season; third, the portable houses provided by the sugar-beet companies.

As has been noted before, the standard of living of the seasonal laborers is much lower than that of permanent agricultural laborers of the same race. The Bravas, Italians, Greeks, Syrians and Japanese eat chiefly vegetable food; the Belgians and Slavs have more meat. The Sicilians in New Jersey sometimes spend as little as 25 cents a week for food, and the Italian workers on the New York cannery-farms, from 50 cents to $1.00 per week. In one New York settlement, the cost of living for a family of four or five persons has been estimated at $12 a month, when the family raised their own meat and vegetables. When all food was bought, the cost was raised to $20 per month.

The Poles, Bravas and most sugar-beet laborers save some money. The Bravas are the most thrifty and deposit their earnings in savings banks. There are fewer citizens among seasonal laborers than among permanent farmers of the same race. The Bohemians and Germans, it is true, are in seasonal labor tempo

rarily, using it as a stepping-stone to permanent farm work. With some of the South Italians, however, it is apparently a permanent status. The conditions among seasonal laborers are more satisfactory than the surroundings of the same laborers in railroad work, but the limited duration of the season has prevented a great influx of foreigners into agricultural industries. There is no regular labor organization among seasonal laborers, but occasionally they strike for improvements and when there is a scarcity of laborers they generally win.

The Dearth of Farm Labor

The dearth of farmers and farm laborers has become a universally acknowledged and generally lamented fact. Mining, manufacturing and commercial centers within recent years have grown up like magic. By their glamor they have attracted large portions of the agricultural population. It has become more and more difficult and, had it not been for the invention of labor-saving machinery, it would be impossible to secure the necessary labor to prepare the soil and to harvest our large staple crops. In the South and West the absence of a proper labor supply has prevented the bringing of vast areas of vacant lands under cultivation.

Strange as it may seem, contemporaneously with the decline in numbers of our agricultural population, there has been an ever-growing alien influx to our industrial centers, consisting of farmers and farm laborers from the south and east of Europe. During the past decade seven out of every ten immigrants who landed at our ports were southern and eastern

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »