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Growers Explain Why They Hire Immigrant Workers

Many bosses deliberately hired workers who did not share common languages or ethnic backgrounds. Here, a manager of a Hawaii sugar plantation explains this anti-labor tactic to a Honolulu commission investigating strike activity. Other growers had difficulty finding American-born white workers to endure the miserable conditions and low wages in Western fruit and vegetable fields. In the second quote, a fruit grower explains the necessity of Asian immigrants in California agriculture.

George H. Fairfield, manager of Hawaiian sugar plantations, 1895:

Keep a variety of laborers, that is different nationalities, and thus prevent any concerted action in case of strikes, for there are few, if any, cases of Japs, Chinese, and Portuguese entering into a strike as a unit.

Anonymous fruit grower, in the San Francisco Chronicle, 1907:

I write of conditions as they are here, and they do not differ greatly from those in other parts of the state. We assert that the farmers do not want to exclude Japanese labor until such time as they can secure substitutes for them. You ask why? Because we are wholly dependent upon their labor. If they are excluded, we shall have to give up our farms and go out of business. That is reason enough. It is not a question with us of white labor or brown labor, because we cannot get white labor and we can get brown labor. Again, the Japanese and Chinese do a class of labor that white men cannot do, and will not do at any price. It is not a question of cheap labor or efficient labor, but of laborers of any kind at any price.  

Source | First quote--George H. Fairfield, 1895; second quote--Anonymous, San Francisco Chronicle, 2 January 1907; quoted in American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, "Labor and Ethnicity in the American West: The Oxnard Sugar Beet Strike, 1903" (Teacher's Handbook).
Creator | George H. Fairfield and Anonymous
Item Type | Government Document
Cite This document | George H. Fairfield and Anonymous, “Growers Explain Why They Hire Immigrant Workers,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed January 18, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1565.

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