New York Farmworker Protection Bill

Racisim vs. Reality



Kennedy and the groups she is acting as a mouthpiece for, like RMM, frequently make reference to “Jim Crow Laws” and cry racism. Was racism a factor in the crafting of these laws during the New Deal? Yes, but it wasn’t the only factor. Back in 2010 Larry DeWitt of the Social Security Administration wrote a piece for the Social Security Bulletin entitled "The Decision to Exclude Agricultural and Domestic Workers from the 1935 Social Security Act.” In the piece he states:

“The Social Security Act of 1935 excluded from coverage about half the workers in the American economy. Among the excluded groups were agricultural and domestic workers—a large percentage of whom were African Americans. This has led some scholars to conclude that policymakers in 1935 deliberately excluded African Americans from the Social Security system because of prevailing racial biases during that period. This article examines both the logic of this thesis and the available empirical evidence on the origins of the coverage exclusions. The author concludes that the racial-bias thesis is both conceptually flawed and unsupported by the existing empirical evidence. The exclusion of agricultural and domestic workers from the early program was due to considerations of administrative feasibility involving tax-collection procedures. The author finds no evidence of any other policy motive involving racial bias.” http://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v70n4/v70n4p49.html

Similarly, the agricultural exemptions to the Fair Labor Standards Act and the National Labor Relations Act during the same time period was due in part to the production and marketing realities associated with farming and applying factory rules to agriculture made little sense, especially when most farms at the time employed only one or two workers, who were typically seasonal as well (
https://archive.org/stream/agriculturalwork02witn/agriculturalwork02witn_djvu.txt). Further at the time the United States was dealing with widespread hunger and bread lines. At the same time there was significant unrest in the farming community and many farmers across the country were threatening to engage in some sort of strike activity. A primary concern of the government at the time was to maintain an adequate domestic food supply. Hence, the exemptions to the FLSA and the NLRA. It wasn’t simply about racism, it was about protecting and maintaining the food supply.