Will Obama emancipate US farmworkers and domestics from involuntary servitude? The man has a busy agenda, but it’s a fair question.
The vast majority of immigrants to the US have had to serve a sentence, often a life sentence, of involuntary servitude for the privilege of coming to America. Historically, first generation immigrants have endured the hardest and dirtiest jobs in the country to give their children the opportunity for a decent life and a shot at the American Dream.
For immigrants who have found work as farmerworkers or domestic servants, the sentence of involuntary servitude has often been passed on to succeeding generations. This curse has plagued unauthorized migrants from the global south more than others.
One of the main reasons for their predicament is that in 1935, when the US Congress passed the Wagner Act, it specifically excluded “agricultural laborers” and “domestics,” placing them outside the protection of US labor law. The resulting social injustice has now endured for 73 years.
Is Obama a Justice President?
President Obama is in a unique position to right this historic wrong. The economic crisis in the US and the world has brought the question of social justice to center stage. The entire economic structure of the world is going to have to be rebuilt. The question is, is it going to be rebuilt on the old foundation of class privilege or the much firmer cornerstone of social justice?
Obama is on record that he favors change. He is facing stiff opposition and needs all the help he can get.
Bringing all working people into the fold is a step in the right direction. LABOR JUSTICE, a campaign recently launched by the Farmworker Movement Documentation Project, is an attempt to insure that any national labor law reform includes farmworkers and domestics. The co-founders of LABOR JUSTICE envision a future where farmworkers and domestics nationwide would have the same protections as those won by farmworkers in California in the 1970s.
LABOR JUSTICE is looking for 1,000 Founding Members for this important campaign. For details, go to <farmworkermovement.org/laborjustice/index.shtml>.
Richard D. Vogel is a political reporter who monitors the effects of globalization on working people and their communities. Other works include: “The NAFTA Corridors: Offshoring U.S. Transportation Jobs to Mexico”; and “Transient Servitude: The U.S. Guest Worker Program for Exploiting Mexican and Central American Workers.” Contact: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.