Position of Farm Workers in Federal and State Legislation


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Position of Farm Workers in Federal and State Legislation


This pamphlet, written by Robin Myers and published by the National Advisory Committee on Farm Labor, describes the rights of migrant farm workers in the late 1950s. This excerpt describes the conditions and the rights of child workers at both the state and national legislative levels.

The National Advisory Committee on Farm Labor (NACFL) grew out of the work of the National Sharecroppers Fund.

The NACFL was organized in 1958 as a fact-finding, reporting agency whose goal was to build public awareness of the substandard living and working conditions of farm laborers. (Reuther Library, n.d.) Leaders included Eleanor Roosevelt, Socialist party presidental candidate Norman Thomas, Catholic Archbishop Robert Emmet Lucey, Rabbi Eugene Lipman of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Presbyterian theologian Dr. John A. Mackay, and Tuskegee Institute president, Dr. L. H. Foster (Hazelton, 2017).

In 1958 and 1964, the NACFL held public hearings on farm labor and rural poverty. The agency dissolved in 1968.


p. 34 "Children of migrant agricultural workers suffer from all the disadvantages and disabilities that handicap the whole migrant community -- unusual health hazards, inadequate food and housing due to low income level, lack of stable family life, and rejection by the community. In addition, two aspects of the migrant situation particularly affect the children and their future. The first is the common use of child workers, both legally and illegally. The second is their deprivation of such educational opportunities as would enable them to make their own lives an improvement over those of their parents." 

p. 35 "'Many of the Nation's farms do not come under the provisions of these Federal Acts. Only 6 States, 3 Territories, and the District of Columbia expressly provide a minimum age for agricultural work outside school hours, and only 13 States, 2 Territories, and the District of Columbia expressly provide a minimum age during school hours.'" (quoted from Child Workers in Agriculture, Leaflet No. 4, U. S. Dept. of Labor, 1959)

p. 37 "The most common reason for the employment of child workers in agriculture, to an extent no longer acceptable in other industries, is that the low wage of the bread-winner of the family is not sufficient (averaging under $900 a year) to pay minimum family expenses, and so everyone works who can. This in turn creates the vicxious cycle of child labor lowering wage standards and contributing to the perpetuation of subnormal wages."

p. 38 "In most places, the local schools cannot handle and do not want migrant children."


Myers, Robin


Box 248, O. C. Fisher Congressional Collection, The W. R. Poage Legislative Library Political Collections, Baylor University Libraries


1959 August


Baylor University Libraries


Learn more:

Hazelton, A. J. (2017). Farmworker Advocacy through Guestworker Policy: Secretary of Labor James P. Mitchell and the Bracero Program. Journal of Policy History 29 (July), p. 431-461. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0898030617000185

National Sharecropper Fund Records, Walter P. Reuther Library (finding aid).

Cosgrove, B. (2013) Bitter Harvest: LIFE With America's Migrant Workers, 1959. LIFE magazine Mar 10, 2013. (Previously unpublished photographs by Michael Rougier). 

Furman, M. (1959). Some Facts for Young Workers about Work and Labor Laws. Washington : U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Standards.


Myers, Robin, “Position of Farm Workers in Federal and State Legislation,” Social Welfare History Image Portal, accessed June 16, 2024, https://images.socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/items/show/315.