Original Document
Original Document
Excerpts of Interviews with Migrant Workers, 1975


Submitted to the Interdepartmental Council on Seasonal Farmworkers and the Pennsylvania Department of Community Affairs, pursuant to contract M.E.#74-541 of June 25, 1975.


Pennsylvania Farm Labor Project National Community Relations Division
American Friends Service Committee
1501 Cherry Street
Philadelphia, Pa. 19102


Some Personal Histories

1n September of this year, several migrant workers left – perhaps |escaped is a more accurate term – the camps where they were working. The following reports are from sworn affldavits taken by Susquehanna Legal Services staff. Our project staff found many similar situations.

Q. When did you arrive in Pennsylvania?

A. We arrived at the Mainville, Pennsylvania camp on Sunday, August 10 and began work on Monday, August 11. I worked at least g hours every day I could, including all weekdays and one Saturday. I did this because I was trying to get out of debt to Leroy (the crew leader). In the three weeks I made about $56.00, $g7.00 and $81.00 after they took out social security.

Q. So you actually made some good money?

A. Not really. When payday came, Leroy and his book keeper would call you in to pay you. You can look at the book to see if the amount of money you earned is right. Then you have to sign the book. But when you owe, you don't get paid, except for what they want to give you. One week in Virginia they paid me two pennies for my week's work. That's right: two pennies. My first week at Mainville, I recelved $10.00 cash, the second week, $5.0Q cash, and this week I paid myself out of debt and received about $45.00 cash which they owed me

Q. Why did you keep borrowing from Leroy Thomas?

A. I had access to a cooking facility, but I had no money to start with, so I was pretty dependent upon the crew leader for food. At Mainville, I paid $5.00 a week for rent, $2.00 for breakfast, $1 00 for a sandwich, $5.00 for a quart of Tiger Rose wine, $3 50 for a half pint of ¢heap liquor, $.75 for clgarettes, $2 25 for supper,...

* * * *

Leroy Thomas never gave me a written statement of how much I made and what he was withholding, although he would let us look at his book.

I never saw how much was paid to him on account of my work.

I never had a contract

When he recruited me on June 7, 1975, in Ruskin, Florida, he didn't give me a written statement about where I'd work, the pay, housing, or length of employment.

He posted a statement at the recreation room about our wages there.

He posted a Department of Labor form inside the vans, but did not give me one. In #4, Leroy just put checkmarks. In #6, Leroy put "none", but we were paying rent and I don't see why.

I never got one to keep. Leroy's son said to pass it around.

* * * *

Q. What do you hope to do now?

A. I want employment now.

Q. What type Or employment?

A. I'll do agricultural work, but I won't live in a camp.

Q. Would you like other employment?

A. I'd like that. .I'll do anything ~ can. I don't want to loaf.

Q. What condition was the camp in?

A. The camp was filthy. It had an outside filthy, stinky toilet. The shower stinks. You gotta stand on a 2x4 to keep out of the dirty water. That water has spit and piss in it. The mattresses were soggy and stinky. No bed linen was supplied. Leroy Thomas said they'd be bed linen; he said he'd take care of it, but he didn't give us anything.

Q. Did Leroy Thomas give you a written statement about where you were going to work, the crops you'd pick, the housing conditions, length of employment, or means of transportation?

A. No, not a written statement.

Outsiders are kept away by refusing access or trying to frighten them off, thus limiting workers ' outside contacts.

My encounter with T. (grower) and D. (crew leader) at the T. packlng shed was, I'm sure, calculated to keep me from visiting their camp as I'd said I wanted to do. They were both loud and hostile, made it clear I was an intruder and not welcome. "I don't need people like you here questioning me!"

These are F 's "lines of defense." First, F. verbalizes the intention to keep outsiders from bothering the crew, then, until he got used to the Legal Services staff's cars passing by, the neighbor with the shotgun keeping watch on the "private road" leading to the camp, then, at the camp, the crew leader or his representative to challenge the presence of any outsider. All together, that's a lot of hostility to face, enough to turn most people around and off in another direction.

Crew leaders make a large profit from the crew's labor that the workers don't share.

After working til1 the end of August, G. had only one small cardboard box full of possessions and no money, except what he got at the United Services Agency to travel on, to take back to Mississippi.

When 30 some members of N.'s crew came into the clothes closet at Bloomsburg to get clothing, the workers did not have the cash to pay $.75 or $1.50 or whatever their selections cost, so the crew leader took down the amount owed beside each name and paid the total of $31.00 to be charged against what people would get on their next pay day. This happened in September after the crew had been in the area working for at least a month and so should have had some money in hand.

The crew leader and a few other people in the Mainville Camp appeared well dressed. The other people were wearing obviously cast-off and very worn clothes. Some people's shoes, like M.'s, were flopping open in the front.

D. pointed out the inequity between his trying to struggle to pick enough to break even on paying for what he buys from the crew leader and the crew leader's owning a big black car, three vans and three trucks. (At that time two of the trucks, two new looking vans and the car were parked at the camp tight near where we were talking.)

A crew leader can afford to live in the Hotel Magee in Bloomsburg for periods of time when he chooses to.

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