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Rural Migration Blog

August 2020

California Agricultural Employment in 2020

California’s Employment Development Department reported that agricultural employment in 2020 was 20 to 30 percent lower than in 2019, with the largest drop in June 2020. All farm employers with 250 or more workers are asked to report their employment for the payroll period that includes the 12th of the month; a sample of smaller employers provide employment data.

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1965: A Year of Transition away from Braceros

PL 78, the 1951 law that allowed Mexican Braceros to be employed in seasonal US farm jobs, expired in 1964, ushering in a year of transition in 1965 as US farmers hired US workers to replace Braceros. DOL prepared a report on farm labor that emphasized 1965 was a first step on a long road to encourage farm employers to improve wages and working conditions in order to attract and retain US farm workers.

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California’s Hired Farm Workers in 1965

The year 1965 was a “time of transition” in farm labor as farmers who had relied on Mexican Braceros hired more US workers. The US admitted 4.5 million Braceros between 1942 and 1964. Since many returned year-after year, perhaps two million Mexicans were employed on US farms over 22 years. Bracero admissions were less than half of their peak 1956 levels in 1964.

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Farm and Nonfarm Labor Markets in the 21st Century

For most of the 20th century, farm labor reformers such as Varden Fuller and Carey McWilliams wanted farm labor markets to be more like nonfarm labor markets. Reformers criticized three features of many farm labor markets: limited coverage of farm workers under labor laws, intermediaries such as labor contractors who were often in a weak bargaining position relative to the farmers for whom they provided workers, and piece-rate wage systems that made costs predictable for farmers but earnings uncertain for workers.

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