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Barbadian Workers Deportation Order

Descriptive

OriginInfo
DateCreated (encoding = w3cdtf); (qualifier = exact); (keyDate = yes)
1945-08-17
Extension
DescriptiveEvent
Type
Exhibition
Label
Invisible Restraints: Life and Labor at Seabrook Farms
DateTime (encoding = w3cdtf)
2016
AssociatedObject
Type
Exhibition section
Name
Divisions of Labor at Seabrook
Detail
Seabrook Farms’ practiced a form of capitalism that relied on the division of labor by race, gender, and legal status. Women workers, for instance, were almost always relegated to vegetable sorting lines at Seabrook, and kept from higher paying jobs in the plant. The reception of Issei and Nisei parolees revealed the complicated dynamics of American race relations, and how a hierarchy of racial desirability informed white attitudes. When Seabrook Farms was first embarking on his recruitment of internee labor and raised its plans with local officials, Bridgeton City Council President A. Lewis Turner commented that while “he personally did not welcome the American-Japanese,” he still thought them preferable to “the undesirable Southern Negro labor” because they would be “law-abiding.” H. Leon Yager, the WRA official in charge of the agency’s Philadelphia office, also promoted Japanese Americans as an alternative to black laborers. Yager echoed Seabrook’s view that released Nisei and Issei internees were “more efficient, intelligent and industrious workers” than black Southerners, and were less likely to provoke racist hostility from local whites. While Seabrook marketed his company as a haven free from racial discrimination, he simultaneously perpetuated the idea that Japanese Americans represented a “model minority” group whose docility and willingness to follow orders made them ideal workers. For Yager, the project of reassimilating internees into society and increasing the size of Seabrook’s workforce trumped concerns about the intimate associations that would take place between white “hill-billy girls” and Nisei boys living and working together at Seabrook Farms. Seabrook, wanting to replace his “unruly” southern black laborers, had few qualms either. As he told the Washington Post: “It's good business and fair play to give the Japanese Americans a chance here. That's what democracy’s for, isn't it?”

Because guestworkers from islands such as Barbados and Jamaica were not U.S. citizens, they were frequently paid less and their contracts limited them to employment at Seabrook Farms. Guestworkers who left contracts with Seabrook’s processing subsidiary, the Deerfield Packing Company, faced deportation. The bonded status of guestworkers led critics in organized labor to allege that the recruitment of foreign workers was nothing more than a new form of slavery. Nonetheless, guestworkers exercised their agency through the means available to them. A November 1944 War Manpower Commission memo indicated that when 97 Barbadians who had been working at the Deerfield Packing Company were given the option to renew their contracts with Seabrook Farms, only 14 did. Although two workers wished to return to Barbados, the remaining 81 requested employment elsewhere.

Seabrook Farms’ insatiable appetite for labor also led the company to appeal to the federal government for prison labor. During the war, Seabrook Farms acquired 150 German prisoners of war (POWs) as laborers. The federal government saw to the care, transport, and housing of these prisoners, meaning that Seabrook only had to pay the prisoners military wages as mandated by the Geneva Convention, from which union dues were subtracted. Seabrook Farms offered strict guidelines to its employees about dealing with POWs, including directives to avoid fraternizing with German POWs and not to block them from the line of sight of their guards. According to a company memo, POWs were supposed to be under constant surveillance and kept in isolation from the main labor force at Seabrook Farms. Laborers were not allowed to speak to prisoners unless it was work related. In reality, however, German POWs were not necessarily as isolated as the corporate memo suggests. When agricultural interests convinced the state of New Jersey to amend and temporarily suspend child labor and compulsory education laws, citing labor shortages, Seabrook took advantage of this too. In 1943, Seabrook Farms created a “Victory Program” that involved the employment of 200 Boys Scouts who were paid the piece rate of 25 cents for every five-eighths of basket of snap beans that they picked during five-hour workdays, with the Scouts’ paying for the laborers’ food and lodging. When yields proved insufficient, however, Seabrook discontinued the program after only two days.

Migrant workers from the U.S. South and guestworkers from the Caribbean were required to pay union dues, although they were not entitled to the protections afforded to members by union-negotiated contracts. Local 56, fearful that it was losing the ability to effectively organize the workforce, and that Seabrook Farms might stop recognizing it altogether, did attempt to reassert control over the situation by entering into a unique arrangement with the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union (STFU). With thousands of sharecroppers and tenant farmers of cotton unemployed for large stretches of the year in the South, Local 56 arranged to have the STFU workers’ membership made transferable and their transportation costs paid for by hiring employers. This was crucial in allowing black cotton workers to leave the South, since from 1944 on, local white officials were authorized by Congress to block employers in other states from contracting and paying for the transportation of workers. During the summers of 1945 and 1946, Seabrook received approximately 500 black women through this “underground railroad,” who were members of the STFU and on break from colleges such as Morehouse and Hampton. Jack Seabrook played an influential role in this program, and during its second year even agreed to pay extra so that the women could fly and avoid the “dirty, dusty, trash-ridden Jim Crow coaches” they had traveled on a year earlier. An article in the Chicago Defender noted approvingly that the women were able to earn 62 and a half cents an hour (five dollars for an eight hour day), more than triple what they might make doing agricultural work in the South.

The recruitment and positive reception of the STFU college students notwithstanding, Seabrook’s wage rates for black workers employed by the company in 1943 and 1944 did not show a pattern of equal treatment. WMC contracts reveal that guestworkers were paid only fifty cents an hour. Black migrant laborers from the South not affiliated with the STFU also received fifty cents an hour as employees of the processing plant and the WRA reported that many were incensed to learn that newly-arrived Japanese American internees were automatically being paid five cents more an hour to do the same work. Many Nisei workers, even before their permanent relocation was established, were also welcomed into the union. This is consistent with the more general discrimination and abuse that black workers arriving at Seabrook received from the white population of Bridgeton and its surrounding areas. David Burgess, a labor organizer and radical preacher, described Bridgeton as “the seat of the Confederacy in New Jersey.” During the four months he spent there in the summer of 1943, he observed “white policemen delighted in arresting blacks downtown on Saturday and Sunday nights, beating them with billy clubs, and handcuffing them around light posts before taking them to police headquarters and charging them with disorderly and drunken behavior.” When Burgess spoke before the local Kiwanis Club about the plight of migrant laborers, its members attacked Seabrook for bringing blacks to the area. Another member accosted him in the street a day later with the greeting: “You are that damned minister who wants to free them God-damned niggers rather than keeping them in their place.” Given their own experiences with bigotry, it is perhaps unsurprising that black students at Bridgeton High School were the first to cross the cafeteria color line to welcome newly arrived Nisei students, as the WRA reported.
Relationship
Forms part of
AssociatedObject
Type
Exhibition caption
Relationship
Forms part of
Name
Barbadian Workers Deportation Order
Detail
A letter from the WMC to the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization instructs officers with the agency to arrest and send the Barbadians who left their contracts to Florida for deportation.

Records of the War Manpower Commission, Record Group 211, Region III, National Archives at Philadelphia
AssociatedObject
Type
Placement in digital exhibition
Relationship
Forms part of
Name
48
Subject
HierarchicalGeographic
Country
UNITED STATES
State
New Jersey
County
Cumberland County
City
Seabrook Farms (Seabrook, N.J.)
Genre (authority = AAT)
documents
PhysicalDescription
InternetMediaType
application/pdf
Extent
1 p.
TypeOfResource
Text
Subject (authority = NJCCS)
Temporal
Postwar Years (1945-1970)
TitleInfo
Title
Barbadian Workers Deportation Order
Language
LanguageTerm (authority = ISO 639-3:2007); (type = text)
English
Subject (authority = LCSH)
Topic
Foreign workers--New Jersey
Subject (authority = LCSH)
Topic
West Indian Americans
Subject (authority = LCSH)
Topic
Deportation
Abstract (type = description)
A letter from the WMC to the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization instructs officers with the agency to arrest and send the Barbadians who left their contracts to Florida for deportation.
Name (type = personal)
NamePart (type = family)
Lewis
NamePart (type = given)
Paul C.
Affiliation
War Manpower Commission
Role
RoleTerm (type = text); (authority = marcrelator)
Correspondent
Name (type = personal)
NamePart (type = family)
Horowitz
NamePart (type = given)
Samuel
Affiliation
Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization
Role
RoleTerm (type = text); (authority = marcrelator)
Correspondent
RelatedItem (type = host)
TitleInfo
Title
Seabrook Farms
Identifier (type = local)
SBFarms
Location
PhysicalLocation (authority = marcorg); (displayLabel = Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center)
NjSaECC
Location
PhysicalLocation (authority = marcorg); (displayLabel = Rutgers University. Libraries)
NjR
Identifier (type = doi)
doi:10.7282/T33T9K9S
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Rights

RightsDeclaration (AUTHORITY = NJDH); (ID = rulibRdec0001)
This resource may be copyright protected. You may make use of this resource, with proper attribution, for educational and other non-commercial uses only. Contact the contributing organization to obtain permission for reproduction, publication, and commercial use.
Copyright
Status
Public domain
Availability
Status
Open
Reason
US federal document
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Technical

RULTechMD (ID = TECHNICAL1)
ContentModel
Document
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