Over the years, Latin Americans have been subjected to discriminatory and unfair treatment, especially in the labor sector. In the 19th and 20th centuries, people belonging to the group were considered a source of cheap labor compared to the Anglo Americans. The working environment conditions were also unfavorable and exposed them to various injuries and diseases. They were also discriminated against regarding the allocation of jobs, with white Americans being granted prestigious positions. Therefore, the course materials provide a detailed explanation of the discriminatory and inhumane acts the Latin American workers were subjected to by focusing on the 20th century.
The Latin Americans were considered less educated and skilled; hence they were hired into positions that attracted low wages and other remunerations. According to Soldatenko (1999), Latino women and other immigrant women of color were mainly concentrated at the bottom of the stratified labor market due to the prevailing economic conditions in the United States at that time. For many years, the Latinos constituted the lowest-paid workers, most working as trimmers, machine operators, or homeworkers (Soldatenko, 1999 p.321). The documentary also depicts Latino immigrants subjected to low payments for their job despite devoting a lot of time (Carracedo, 2007). The issue of wages and other financial benefits persisted for the better part of the 20th century, and Latin Americans had to get contented with the payments due to their poor livelihoods.
The working conditions that the workers were accorded also did not meet the relevant requirements subjecting the workers to potential harm. The Latino immigrants who worked in the farms depended on the employers to provide transportation from and to their working sites, decent food, housing, and sanitary requirements. However, the conditions for working, transportation, and housing were of low quality, jeopardizing the Latino immigrants’ wellbeing. Flores (2013) indicates that the way the Latinos working on the farms were transported to and from the work sites was inhumane. The bus that was involved in the accident, a flatbed produce truck, had accommodated fifty-seven men into the back whereby they sat on the floor next to the long harvesting knives and were locked into the compartments (Flores, 2013 p.126). The documentary also indicates that the working conditions were unfavorable since the immigrants were required to work in rat-infested factories. Thus, the workers were also denied better working conditions.
The lack of a workers’ union can be blamed for the discriminatory and inhuman treatment that Latino immigrants were subjected to in the labor sector. More often, the employers violated their rights by refusing to pay them the minimum wage and forcing them to engage in unpaid overtime work. Soldatenko (1999) indicates that in the sweatshops in the apparel industry, the contractors paid less than the required minimum wage, cheated them on their remunerations, and pressured them to work long and odd hours (Soldatenko, 1999 p.321). The employers took advantage of the fact that immigrants did not have a union or similar organization to fight for their employment rights to mistreat and oppress them.
Thus, Latino immigrants were subjected to discrimination and mistreatment in the labor sector in the 20th century. Most of the employment opportunities offered belonged to the unskilled category, hence earning significantly low. The working conditions were also poor, with the workers exposed to various risks such as injuries and diseases. Since the immigrants did not have a union or a similar workers’ organization, the employers took the chance to exploit them by paying them below the minimum wage and offering poor working conditions.
Carracedo, A. (Director). (2007). Made in L.A. [Motion Picture].
Flores, L. A. (2013). A Town Full of Dead Mexicans: The Salinas Valley Bracero Tragedy of 1963, the End of the Bracero Program, and the Evolution of California’s Chicano Movement. Western Historical Quarterly, 44(2), 124-143.
Soldatenko, M. A. (1999). MADE IN THE USA: LATINAS/ OS?, GARMENT WORK AND ETHNIC CONFLICT IN LOS ANGELES’ SWEAT SHOPS. Cultural Studies, 13(2), 319-334.