Home / General / LGM Film Club, Part 227: Poverty in the Valley of Plenty

LGM Film Club, Part 227: Poverty in the Valley of Plenty

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Tonight’s film is this 1948 documentary made by the National Farm Labor Union about the terrible labor practices of DiGiorgio Farms in the San Joaquin Valley, one of the worst of all the farm employers in the region and one that would be a target of organized labor for a long time. DiGiorgio himself was an Italian immigrant who Fortune magazine wrote about in 1946 as the largest grower of grapes, pears, and plums in the world. The strike of his workers that year got the attention of Hollywood. This was just before McCarthyism kicked into high gear and was just about the last moment you could do something like this without getting blacklisted. The biggest issue here was that when the workers struck, the farm brought in Braceros, the infamous Mexican guestworker program. This was an open and blatant violation of the Bracero Program, which banned the use of these workers as strikebreakers. But of course employers found all sorts of loopholes to do so. This film was used to build up a consumer boycott of DiGiorgio products, which was an important precedent for the United Farm Workers grape boycott 17 years later. DiGiorgio responded with a flood of lawsuits, intimidating the NFLU into giving up and destroying all copies of the film for supposedly being “defamatory,” as if showing the actual living conditions of farmworkers is defamatory. In fact, this completely destroyed the NFLU, which disappeared in 1950. So we are lucky this film survives at all, even though this print is pretty bad.

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