5 January 1940
The FARMERS CORNER
by RALPH H TAYLOR – Sec. Agricultural Legislative Committee of California
California’s battle to escape being known the world over as the promised land of the migrant worker is still far from won.
Wheezing relics of the nation’s second-hand car lots—the drab “covered wagons” of the victims of drought and depression still roll into California by the hundreds at every border station.
But California’s attempt to stem the tide, although it has not yet brought the vigorous, constructive cooperation of the national government that is badly needed, at least has secured active and exceedingly helpful assistance in repeated instances from the farm placement service of the social security board.
In the most recent instance, the farm placement service, through the aggressive action of W. V. Allen, its California supervisor, aided materially in forestalling a new rush of migrants from Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas, which had started as a result of nationally published reports of the Madera county cotton strike.
The first tip that a new stampede to California was under way came from a Madera supervisor who was in west Texas at the time and observed caravans of cars moving westward. On inquiry he learned that the travelers were headed for Madera county to take the places of cotton pickers then on strike. This news was relayed to Supervisor Allen of the farm placement service, who, in turn, telegraphed O. D. Hollenbeck, director of the service, in Washington, D. C., asking that immediate steps be taken to discourage further migration. Hollenbeck promptly communicated with farm placement supervisors in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas, asking that publicity be given to the fact that California had far more workers than jobs and that migrants, hoping for work in the cotton harvest, were doomed to disappointment.
Typical of the helpful cooperation that resulted from these appeals was the following bulletin, sent by the Oklahoma state employment service to all of its managers :
“We are in receipt of information from Mr. O. D. Hollenbeck of the farm placement service that there seems to be an influx of people from Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas into California, for the purpose of securing cotton picking jobs, as a result of recent press reports concerning a strike in progress in that state.
“Information from California is that there is a surplus of labor now in California, and it is requested that information be disseminated to this effect, and persons desiring to go to California for this work be discouraged from doing so, as their chances of getting jobs would be at a minimum.”
Texas newspapers carried announcements strongly emphasizing the fact that no cotton pickers were desired in California.
Arkansas officials used both the newspapers and the radio to warn their people not to go to California in hope of getting work in the cotton fields.
And California, as a consequence of this splendid cooperation, probably avoided a new rush of thousands of penniless migrants who would have eventually become a burden on California taxpayers.
The federal government, if the present problem is to be solved before it brings ruin to California taxpayers, must go much further, however, and take steps to assume the cost of supporting the hundreds of thousands of itinerants who have already migrated to this state. Or it must see that they are returned to their home states to be supported or placed in employment there.
And California’s public officials should start doing their part in coping with the problem by putting an end to loose talk of bountiful relief and $60 pensions for everyone over 60. The recent assertions of several administration officials that migrants do not come to California as a result of publicity concerning Utopian pension schemes and easygoing relief standards—but rather because this state has a sunny, balmy climate—would be laughable if the problem were not so serious. California officials need to come down to earth and start thinking about the welfare of Californians.