David Bacon

David Bacon is a California writer and photojournalist; his latest book is In the Fields of the North / En los Campos del Norte (University of California / El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, 2017).

Recent Articles

Counties Cancel ICE Detention Contracts

But advocates want detainees freed, not sent to for-profit jails

David Bacon The Reverend Izzy Alvaran, who gained asylum from the Philippines a decade ago, leads protesters in a chant outside the detention center. M ost Latina teenagers celebrate their a quinceañera, or 15th birthday, with parties and dances. Sometimes their families even rent a hall and hire a band. On June 9, Alexa Lopez, dressed in a pink tulle gown, held her quinceañera outside the West County Detention Center in Richmond, California. Her father, Raul, had been locked inside for a year and a half. The celebration, organized with the help of the Interfaith Movement 4 Human Integrity (IM4HI), was in part an effort to help Alexa feel that, despite her family’s separation, she was surrounded by a community that understood the importance of that day. But it was also a way to show to the larger world the terrible cost of immigration detention and family separation. Perhaps that was one element convincing Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston to announce, a month later, that...

Farm Work Can Be a Skilled and Permanent Job

A Salinas grower and the union bet that a new contract will become an alternative to employing guest workers.

(David Bacon)
(David Bacon) U p and down the Pacific coast, many of the largest growers are rapidly increasing their use of guest workers recruited in Mexico as temporary harvest labor. Farm labor, in their view, is unskilled. The workers who perform it should show up at harvest time, work as hard as possible, and then effectively disappear until the next season. This has been the common view for over a century. It is the justification for a renewed Republican push to establish a vastly expanded guest worker program. But is the road to improving the lives of farmworkers to legislate even more massive contract-labor programs? Or is it to treat farm labor as skilled and permanent work, and provide security and decent wages to those who do it? One Salinas grower, D'Arrigo Brothers Company, is choosing the second alternative, a choice its workers feel reflects the value of their labor. “I started working at D’Arrigo in 1979,” says Efrain Fraide, who works in a company broccoli crew. “I’ve cut and...

How Unions Help Immigrants Resist Deportations

In California, labor has long protected its immigrant members—and now, it’s defending non-members as well.

(Photo: David Bacon) In San Francisco, janitors and other workers support A.B. 450, a bill to protect workers during immigration raids and enforcement actions. L abor historian Fred Glass, looking at the impact of immigration on California's labor movement, notes that many immigrants have arrived in the state with a long history of labor and left-wing activism. Unions have then called on that history and consciousness to aid in organizing drives among janitors, farm workers, hotel housekeepers, and others. “Because the labor movement has understood this fact and designed its efforts around it,” he argues, “California's unionization rate remains at 16 percent while the national average is 11 percent.” The state has 2.55 million union members, far more than any other. To union leaders, that's also one explanation—in addition to the state designating itself as a sanctuary—for the announcement by the Trump administration that it is targeting California for intensive workplace immigration...

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