Elmer Carter, “Plain Talk: What About U.S. Workers?” Evansville Argus, April 2, 1943, 4, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles.
NoteL The Evansville Argus served a primarily African American readership.
The Florida fruit and vegetable growers want to import 18,000 Negroes from the Bahama Islands to work on their plantations. There are a hundred thousand unemployed disinherited black and white share croppers in the South anxious to work, in Florida or anywhere else.
One would think that the Florida’ growers would use the Southern sharecroppers to plant and harvest their crops. The Southern Tenant Farmers Union with a membership of 20,000 sharecroppers of both races can supply the Florida growers with native born Americans, who lived all of their lives in the South. They offered to send these men to Florida, but the Florida growers did not want them because the Tenant Farmers Union insisted that they would have to take both colored and white together. The Florida growers wanted only colored men to work on their plantations and refused to accept mixed groups. They didn’t want white men. Why? Is, it because white men are not good workers? No. Is it because they would have, to pay colored and white sharecroppers the same wages and offer them the same working conditions? White men are not so ‘easy to shove around as colored men and when they work together, the same standards of treatment must be applied to both.
And so the Florida growers do not want the American share croppers. They want Bahamans, half hungry, underpaid, underfed, docile workers. They want cheap labor which was the reason for the establishment of the slave system in America and is responsible for the perpetuation of widespread poverty and untold misery in the South.
The growers In the Southwest wanted to import Mexican labor and they hoped to get the labor of the Mexican cheap with little or no regard for the conditions under which they lived and worked, conditions’ which have been revealed as shocking in their violation of all standards of decency. But the Mexican government stepped in, and demanded certain guarantees for its citizens who were to be imported to work in America. The Mexican government demanded a minimum wage and certain standards of housing and decent working conditions.
Will the British government do as much for the Bahamans? Will the British government inform the American government that it will consent to the importation of British subjects only on condition that they receive a minimum wage for a fixed number of hours, decent housing and sanitary living conditions.
Surely the British government should be willing to do as much for their subjects of the Bahama Islands as the Mexican government has done for its citizens.
But even before this aspect of the situation reached the discussion stage, it is imperative that the Secretary of Agriculture and the Congress of the United States examine the motives which have prompted the Florida growers to spurn the offer of unemployed and available American workers willing and able to work on their plantations.
What have the Bahamans got that Americans haven’t got? Are the Florida growers attempting to sabotage the labor standards as to wages and hours and conditions of work that have been established by the Farm Security Administration? These things Americans have a right to know. E. A. C.