What Were the Living Conditions for Migrant Workers in the 1930s?
Living conditions for migrant workers in the 1930s were extremely harsh due to low pay and poor living conditions. Many migrant workers struggled to feed themselves despite working long hours at physically demanding jobs.
Although pay for migrant workers had already been low prior to the 1930s, the Great Depression caused struggling farmers to cut wages further. Migrant workers were usually dependent on their employers for temporary housing, and that housing was often substandard. Farmers would often repurpose chicken coops or other outbuildings that were unfit for humans. Sometimes the only living area provided was space in an open field. Migrant workers were usually ostracized by the local communities, making it difficult for them to find better living conditions.
All farm laborers suffered from a lack of legal protections compared to those given to industrial workers, but migrant laborers struggled even more. The transitory nature of their job made it hard for labor organizers to bring them together. When strikes were organized, farmers could often find non-unionized migrants to take the place of the striking workers. If that did not work, strikes were sometimes broken up by violence. Despite this difficulty, conditions were bad enough that the labor movement gained a strong foothold among migrant farm workers. This was evidenced by a string of strikes across the United States during the 1930s.