David Bacon

David Bacon is a California writer and photojournalist; his latest book is The Right to Stay Home (Beacon Press, 2014).

Recent Articles

Beyond Deportation: Fixing a Broken Immigration System

David Bacon
David Bacon Immigrant youth groups protest the detention and deportation of young migrants and their families in front of a federal building in Oakland, Calif. W hen President Obama appointed Dollie Gee to the U.S. District Court in 2010, he undoubtedly didn't expect her to mount a frontal challenge to his administration's detention and deportation policies. But five years after her elevation as the first Chinese American woman on the federal bench, Gee ruled last summer that holding Central American women and children in private detention lockups was illegal. Gee didn’t mince words. She called the detentions "deplorable." And she denounced as "fear-mongering" the claim by Homeland Security lawyers that the detentions would discourage more people from leaving Central America. Her angry tone shouldn't have come as a surprise. Gee's father was an immigrant engineer and her mother a garment worker in a Los Angeles sweatshop. After law school, as a young lawyer, Gee sued employers for...

Unions Come to Smithfield

On Dec. 11, Smithfield workers were not just celebrating a vote count. They'd just defeated one of the longest, most bitter anti-union campaigns in modern U.S. labor history.

This article has been corrected . When immigration agents raided Smithfield Food's huge North Carolina slaughterhouse two years ago, union organizer Eduardo Peña compared the impact to a "nuclear bomb." The day after, people were so scared that most of the plant's 5,000 employees didn't show up for work. The lines where they kill and cut apart 32,000 hogs every day were motionless. "Workers think it's happening because people were getting organized," said Vargas at the time. Yet on Dec. 11, 2008, when the votes were counted in the same packing plant, 2,041 workers had voted to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), while just 1,879 had voted against it. That stunning reversal set off celebrations in house trailers and ramshackle homes in Tarheel, Red Springs, St. Pauls, and all the tiny working-class towns spread from Fayetteville down to the South Carolina border. Relief and happiness are understandable in North Carolina, where union membership is the lowest in the...

Black and Brown Together

In Mississippi, African American leaders are the foremost champions of the state's growing Latino immigrant population. Some day soon, they hope, the new alliance will transform the state's reactionary politics.

In 1991, seeking to boost its never robust economy, the state of Mississippi passed a law permitting casino gambling. In short order, immigrant construction workers arrived from Florida to build the casinos, and the casinos themselves began using contractors to supply immigrants to meet their growing labor needs. Guest workers, eventually numbering in the thousands, were brought under the H-2B program to fill many of the jobs the developments created. Throughout the 1990s more immigrants arrived looking for work. Some guest workers overstayed their visas, while husbands brought wives, cousins, and friends from home. Mexicans and Central Americans joined South and Southeast Asians and began traveling north through the state, finding jobs in rural poultry plants. There they met African Americans, many of whom had fought hard campaigns to organize unions for chicken and catfish workers over the preceding decade. It was not easy for newcomers to fit in. Their union representatives didn't...

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