David Bacon

David Bacon is a California writer and photojournalist; his latest book is In the Fields of the North / En los Campos del Norte (University of California / El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, 2017).

Recent Articles

Time for a More Radical Immigrant-Rights Movement

Congress's failure to pass immigration reform legislation is being used to crack down on undocumented immigrants in several states.

In Worthington, Iowa, a federal prosecutor gets a grand jury indictment against Braulio Pereyra-Gabino, union vice-president at the local Swift meatpacking plant. He's accused of not turning his undocumented members in to Homeland Security. In Arizona, Gov. Janet Napolitano signs a draconian immigration enforcement bill, criminalizing work for those without papers and ordering state agents to enforce the prohibition with a vengeance. Since Congress wouldn't pass the recent Senate bill with the same sanctions, she says Arizona has no choice. The Senate's failure is used as well in Prince William County, Virginia, to justify a local ordinance ordering all public officials to check immigration papers, even teachers, nurses and librarians. They're forbidden to help anyone lacking them. Meanwhile, immigration agents continue detaining and deporting people by the hundreds in workplace and community raids around the country. Some DC supporters of the recent Senate bill are still floundering...

Iraqi Oil: A Benchmark or a Giveaway?

Why Iraqi oil workers oppose the much- vaunted oil law. PLUS: TAP talks to Iraqi union leaders, and an accompanying photo essay.

A strike by Iraqi oil workers in early June threw into question the conditions that some in the U.S. Congress would place on ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq. At the same time, Iraqi nationalists have grown more vocal in their accusations that the occupation itself has an economic agenda, centered on seizing control of the country's oil. Across the political spectrum in Washington, many now demand that the Maliki government meet certain benchmarks, which presumably would show that it's really in charge in Iraq. But there's a particular problem with the most important benchmark that the Iraqi government is being pressured to meet: the oil law. The problem is, in Iraq, it may be the single most unpopular measure the United States is trying to get the government to enact. In the United States, this law is generally presented as a means to share the oil wealth among different geographic regions of the country. Many Iraqis, however, see it differently. They look the proposed law and see...

Iraqi Union Leaders Call for an End to the Occupation

TAP talks to Faleh Abood Umara, general secretary of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions, and Hashmeya Muhsin Hussein, president of the Electrical Workers Union of Iraq.

David Bacon: Recently the oil workers union went on strike for two days. What was the strike about? Faleh Abood Umara: We have many problems in the oil industry. Some time ago we met with the Prime Minister of Iraq, discussed them, and reached an agreement. We asked the minister of oil to implement that agreement, and he refused. He was supposed to organize a special congress with oil workers in the south, to provide land for building workers' homes, to raise our pay, to implement profit sharing, and to suspend the implementation of the new oil law. Our discussions with the oil minister didn't change the situation, so we announced we would go on strike. Bacon: What objection does the union have to the proposed oil law? Umara: The new law will give the control of all oil royalties and production to foreign oil companies. It will allow them to do whatever they want in our oil fields, and we won't have the ability to intervene, or even to observe. The oil law doesn't envision the...

Trading on Migrant Labor

Why we won't be able to enact true immigration reforms until we re-examine our trade policies.

Raul Dominguez, a Mixtec immigrant from San Miguel Cuevas, Oaxaca, picks grapes in Madera, California. (Photo by David Bacon)
The comprehensive immigration bill may have stalled in the Senate last week, but the debate over immigration policy will undoubtedly continue -- especially over the status of the millions of undocumented workers presently in the United States, as well as those who will come in the next few years. In fact, that continued flow of workers is inevitable, since Congress is also considering new trade legislation that is guaranteed to increase the number of undocumented workers in the United States. Our nation's trade and immigration policies have never been as closely connected as they are today. Four new agreements are currently being considered, while President Bush is pushing for "fast track" authority to negotiate even more of them. All will exacerbate our current immigration issues by displacing thousands of workers and farmers, most of whom will join the cross-border flow of migrant labor that already tops 200 million people worldwide. Over the last two years, all of the immigration...

Feds Crack Down on Immigrant Labor Organizers

Recent immigration raids in North Carolina weren't just about deporting undocumented workers.

Julio Vargas was fired after leading the walkout among contracted workers for higher wages and safer working conditions at the Smithfield pork-processing plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina. (Photo by David Bacon)
RED SPRINGS, North Carolina -- To organizer Eduardo Peña, "the raid was like a nuclear bomb" -- more precisely, a neutron bomb, that ingenious weapon of the Cold War whose radiation was meant to kill a city's residents but leave its buildings standing. After the immigration raid of January 24 at the Smithfield pork slaughtering plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina, the factory was still intact, the machinery of the production lines ready to clank and clatter into its normal motion. But many workers were gone, and much of the plant lay still. That day the migra (agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, part of the Homeland Security Department) picked up 21 people, while trying not to alert the rest of the plant's laborers. One by one, supervisors went to Mexicans on the line. You're needed in the front office, they'd say. The workers would put down their knives, take off their gloves, and walk through the cavernous building to the human resources department. There ICE agents...