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

Can Organic Farming and Unions Transform California's Hottest Farm Belt?

Combined, they have to power to improve the lives of farmworkers and save the Salton Sea.

David Bacon
Capital & Main is an award-winning publication that reports from California on economic, political, and social issues. The American Prospect is co-publishing this piece. This article was written and produced with the support of a journalism fellowship from New America Media, the Gerontological Society of America, and the Silver Century Foundation. Forty-one years ago, I was a young organizer for the United Farm Workers in the Coachella Valley, helping agricultural laborers win union elections and negotiate contracts. Suspicion of growers was a survival attitude. I was beaten by the son of one rancher in a vineyard while trying to talk to people sitting in the vines on their lunch hour. When I met with workers in another field, my old Plymouth Valiant convertible was filled with fertilizer and its tires slashed. By those standards, I could see that HMS Ranch Management, which manages day-to-day operations for ranch owners, was different. I'm sure Ole Fogh-Andersen, who ran the...

A New Farm Worker Union Is Born

Indigenous Oaxacan farm workers win themselves a union in the Pacific Northwest.

David Bacon
Bob's Burgers and Brew, a hamburger joint at the Cook Road freeway exit on Interstate 5, about two hours north of Seattle, doesn’t look like a place where Pacific Northwest farm workers can change their lives, much less make some history. But on June 16, a half-dozen men in work clothes pulled tables together in Bob's outdoor seating area. Danny Weeden, general manager of Sakuma Brothers Farms, then joined them. After exchanging polite greetings, Weeden opened four folders and handed around copies of a labor contract that had taken 16 sessions of negotiations to hammer out. As the signature pages were passed down the tables, each person signed. Weeden collected his copy and drove off; the workers remained long enough to cheer and take pictures with their fists in the air. Then they too left. It was a quiet end to four years of strikes and boycotts, in which these workers had organized the first new farm-worker union in the United States in a quarter-century—Familias Unidas...

Fire and ICE: The Return of Workplace Immigration Raids

Undocumented workers face a new level of insecurity under the Trump administration.

Erik McGregor/Sipa via AP Images
Capital & Main is an award-winning publication that reports from California on economic, political, and social issues. The American Prospect is co-publishing this piece. At the end of February immigration agents descended on a handful of Japanese and Chinese restaurants in the suburbs of Jackson, Mississippi, and in nearby Meridian. Fifty-five immigrant cooks, dishwashers, servers and bussers were loaded into vans and taken to a detention center about 160 miles away in Jena, Louisiana. Their arrests and subsequent treatment did more than provoke outrage among Jackson's immigrant rights activists. Labor advocates in California also took note of the incident, fearing that it marked the beginning of a new wave of immigrant raids and enforcement actions in workplaces. In response, California legislators have written a bill providing legal protections for workers, to keep the Mississippi experience from being duplicated in the Golden State. Once the Mississippi restaurant workers had...

Immigrant Communities Brace for Trump

Donald Trump promised to deport two million “criminal illegal immigrants” in his first 100 days in office. Immigrants and their allies are already organizing, protesting, and defending “sanctuary cities.” 

(Photo: David Bacon)
The state of Nebraska went red on Election Day, voting for Donald Trump and the Republican ticket, but working-class Omaha, Nebraska's largest city, went blue , voting for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. Clinton won urban Omaha—Douglas County—by 3,000 votes, but lost the city’s electoral vote. In 2010, redistricting had joined Omaha to the wealthier suburbs of Sarpy County, delivering Trump a 12,000-vote advantage this year. Incumbent Democratic House member Brad Ashford lost his seat to Republican Don Bacon on November 8 for the same reason. Nevertheless, all 18 precincts of Ward 4 voted against Trump by a two-to-one margin, thanks to years of patient organizing by the immigrant Mexican community of South Omaha. African American North Omaha voted solidly against Trump as well. The Omaha results highlight both the achievements of years of organizing in U.S. immigrant communities, as well as the vulnerability of those same communities under a Trump administration...

Latino Immigrants Are Changing the Politics of … Nebraska!

Organizing in Omaha and small towns with meatpacking plants is altering politics in this reddest of states.

(Photo: David Bacon)
If the winds of political change are starting to blow in Nebraska, the center of the storm is a third-floor office on 24th Street in South Omaha. There, huge maps of eight targeted precincts in Ward 4 line the walls of the Heartland Workers Center (HWC), covered in red dots for all the people organizers have spoken with over the past six months. Little stickers highlight the key issues in each neighborhood. Every afternoon on weekdays, and all day on weekends, a row of reconditioned iPhones sits on a table next to clipboards holding signup lists and Spanish-language voter-education brochures. Rain or shine, young Latino organizers climb the stairs to pick up their packets and then fan out into the streets. This is not an old-fashioned paper-based effort, though. Derek Ramirez, HWC’s data cruncher, has loaded voter information derived from the Voter Activation Network database onto the iPhones. This allows precinct walkers to know house by house whom they’re talking to, and...

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