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Friday, September 7, 2007
Chapter 2: Labor in America
LABOR IN AMERICA:
We often hear the question, “Who built America?” Many people, races, cultures are the Laborers that built America. Besides the traditional Immigrants and Native Americans, others laborers include:
From the 1600´s through 1865, people of African descent were legally and inhumanely enslaved within the boundaries of the present U. S.
The wealth of the U.S. in the first half of the 19th century was greatly enhanced by this exploitation of African American slaves. The slave labor system was abolished after the Civil War. After the war, southern cotton plantations became much less profitable. Approximately 12 million Africans were shipped to the Americas from the 17th to the 19th centuries.Of these, 5.4%, 645,000, were brought to what is now the United States. The slave population in the U.S. had grown to 4 million by the 1860 Census.
COOLIES: late 19th – early 20th century.
Workers from various countries in Asia were termed “Coolies.” After slavery was abolished, there was a severe shortage of labor. Although laborers were supposed to be recruited by voluntary negotiation, it is evident that trickery and deceit were common and outright kidnapping occurred as well.
In 1868, the Burlingame Treaty repealed the century old prohibition law of the Chinese government and opened a floodgate of Chinese immigration. A decade later, the American economy was in a slump and Chinese laborers were hired as scabs when white workers went on strike. During these years of unemployment and depression, anti-Chinese sentiment built around the country, fueled by demagogues such as Denis Kearney of San Francisco, who would rail in front of crowds that "To an American, death is preferable to life on a par with the Chinese."
Although Chinese labor contributed to the building of the Transcontinental Railroad in the United States and of the Canadian Pacific Railway in western Canada, Chinese settlement was discouraged after completion of the construction. California's Anti-Coolie Act of 1862 and Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 contributed to the oppression of Chinese laborers in the United States.
Latin Migrant Workers: Around the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, between 1853 and 1880, 55,000 Mexican workers immigrated to the United States to become field hands. The presence of Mexican workers in the American labor scene started with the construction of the railroad between Mexico and the U.S. As much as 60 percent of the railway working crews were Mexican. Mexican workers performed well in the industry and service fields, working in trades such as machinists, mechanics, painters and plumbers. Agencies in Mexico recruited for the railway and agriculture industries in the United States.
Ebbs and Flows of immigration occurred starting from the mid 1800s through today. Whenever the US found a reason to close the door on Mexican Immigration, an historic even occurred which resulted in their opening the door again. These ebbs and flows include: WW1, Mexican Repatriation, WW2 – Bracero Programs, Operation Wetback, Amnesties, etc.