Publish date:
Year
1942
Month Day
August 04

U.S. and Mexico sign the Mexican Farm Labor Agreement

On August 4, 1942, the United States and Mexico sign the Mexican Farm Labor Agreement, creating what is known as the "Bracero Program." The program, which lasted until 1964, was the largest guest-worker program in U.S. history. Throughout its existence, the Bracero Program benefited both farmers and laborers but also gave rise to numerous labor disputes, abuses of workers and other problems that have long characterized the history of farm labor in the Southwestern United States.

The program was born from necessity, as the federal government worried that American entry into World War II would sap the Southwest of much of its farm labor. Manual laborers (braceros in Spanish) from Mexico became an important part of the region's economy, and the program outlasted the war. The program guaranteed workers a number of basic protections, including a minimum wage, insurance and safe, free housing; however, farm owners frequently failed to live up to these requirements. Housing and food routinely proved to be well below standards, and wages were not only low but also frequently paid late or not at all. Years after the program ended, many braceros were still fighting to receive the money that had been deducted from their salaries and allegedly put into savings accounts. Due to these broken promises, strikes were a common occurrence throughout this period.

Over 4.6 million contracts were issued over the 22 years of the Bracero Program. Though Congress let the program expire in 1964, it set the stage for decades of labor disputes and a dynamic of migrant labor that still exists today. The 60s and 70s saw the rise of the United Farm Workers, a union composed largely of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, which continued fighting many of the same inequalities that faced the braceros. To this day, migrant labor from Mexico continues to be a vital part of the Southwestern economy as well as a source of political and racial tension.

READ MORE: When Millions of Americans Stopped Eating Grapes in Support of Farm Workers

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Slain civil rights workers found

The remains of three civil rights workers whose disappearance on June 21 garnered national attention are found buried in an earthen dam near Philadelphia, Mississippi. Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, both white New Yorkers, had traveled to heavily segregated Mississippi in ...read more

Lizzie Borden's parents found dead

On this day in 1892, Andrew and Abby Borden are found hacked to death in their Fall River, Massachusetts, home. Andrew was discovered in a pool of blood on the living room couch, his face nearly split in two. Abby was upstairs, her head smashed to pieces; it was later determined ...read more

Anne Frank captured

Acting on tip from a Dutch informer, the Nazi Gestapo captures 15-year-old Jewish diarist Anne Frank and her family in a sealed-off area of an Amsterdam warehouse. The Franks had taken shelter there in 1942 out of fear of deportation to a Nazi concentration camp. They occupied ...read more

Lizzie Borden took an axe…

Andrew and Abby Borden, elderly residents of Fall River, Massachusetts, are found bludgeoned to death in their home. Lying in a pool of blood on the living room couch, Andrew’s face had been nearly split in two. Abby, Lizzie’s stepmother, was found upstairs with her head smashed ...read more

U.S. proclaims neutrality in World War I

As World War I erupts in Europe, President Woodrow Wilson formally proclaims the neutrality of the United States, a position that a vast majority of Americans favored, on August 4, 1914. Wilson’s initial hope that America could be “impartial in thought as well as in action” was ...read more