John Steinbeck Harvest Gypsies Summary

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In the series of articles written by John Steinbeck, Harvest Gypsies, Steinbeck describes the inhumane conditions and abuse enforced upon the new migrants composed of Dust Bowl refugees. Through detailed accounts of the squatter camps and recurring descriptions of the helpless migrants that live in them, Steinbeck conveys a powerful image of the migrants that invokes sympathy from the readers. Along with gaining sympathy for the migrants, he also shines a light on the oppressive Farmers Association and other large farm groups that controlled the labor in California. In doing so, he exposes the people and the government of California for their combined systemic attempt to keep the new migrants subjugated to poverty and unorganized in order to…show more content…
California was riddled with labor strife throughout the 1930s, with the largest labor strike occurring in 1933, which was the San Joaquin Cotton Valley Strike. Steinbeck briefly refers to this strike when he says, “the workers realize that the problem of the small farmer is not unlike their own. We have the example in the San Joaquin Valley two years ago of a small farmer who sided with the workers in the cotton strike.” The strike included thousands of laborers, 80% whom were Mexicans. The reason there were so many Mexicans in the strike was because Mexicans were the labor of choice in California during this time. They were regarded as vulnerable foreigners that could quickly be deported away back to Mexico if any of them ever made any demands such as demanding a higher wage. As Steinbeck stated in Article 6 of his Harvest Gypsies, “The right of free speech, the right of assembly and the right of jury trial are not extended to Mexicans in the Imperial Valley.” Due to these circumstances, the Mexican labor force was easy to manipulate. The strike was a victory for foreign laborers as their wages increased from 60 to 75 cents. However, they also lost because the laborers did not win the ability to form unions and conduct collective bargaining. It showed that organization of labor, even if made up of foreigners, could still find success through
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