The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000 Page: 428
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
and lumber, both of which relied largely upon unskilled Mexican
American and African American labor, the wartime mobility of workers
challenged employers' authority over local workforces and hence
regional labor customs. Paradoxically, even as rural employers and the
state sought to restrict the movement of unskilled workers, federal man-
power recruitment networks and illicit labor piracy enabled farm and
lumber workers to achieve greater social and economic independence
during the war.
Worker mobility concerned rural employers in Texas, who feared the
social and economic costs of an exodus to farming and industry jobs out-
side of the state. During the late 193o0s, migrant farm workers moved in
and out of Texas annually on migrant trails to the Southeast, the Great
Lakes, the Plains, and especially to the West Coast. After 1935, these
farm workers gradually became the focus of administrators in the Texas
State Employment Service (TSES) and the federal Farm Security
Administration (FSA), who sought to reform the chaotic and exploita-
tive labor market in rural Texas. Together, the two agencies assumed
responsibility for housing, transportation, and job placement for
migrant farm workers. They also protected Texas's farm interests by
controlling "disorderly" recruiting, or the "pirating" of farm workers, by
unlicensed labor contractors for out-of-state industries. Yet, whereas
many rural employers desired to prevent the pirating of local workers,
they, nevertheless, viewed state and federal farm placement programs as
a direct threat to their own local control over workers, and hence to
their political and economic status quo.
As national war production expanded during 1942, federal manpower
administrators in the newly created War Manpower Commission (WMC)
and the U.S. Employment Service (USES) dramatically stepped up the
regulating of all labor recruitment in important labor markets through-
out the states.5 By 1943, the War Manpower Commission implemented
3 For discussion of rural labor mobility in the American South and Southwest during the
193os and 1940s, see Nan Woodruff, "Pick or Fight: The Emergency Farm Labor Program in the
Arkansas and Mississippi Deltas During World War II," Agricultural Hzstory, 64 (Spring, 1990),
74-85; Pete Daniel, "Going Among Strangers, Southern Reactions to World War II," Journal of
American Hstory, 76 (Dec., 199o), 888-891; Cindy Hahamovitch, The Fruits of Their Labor: Atlantzc
Coast Farm Workers and the Making of Migrant Poverty, 1870-z945 (Chapel Hill University of North
Carolina Press, 1997); Devra Weber, Dark Sweat, White Gold- Calzfornza Farm Workers, Cotton, and
the New Deal (Berkeley. University of California Press, 1994); and James Gregory, American
Exodus: The Dust Bowl Migratzon and Okie Subculture in Californza (Oxford. University of Oxford
* Texas State Employment Service, "Origins and Problems of Texas Migratory Farm Labor,"
31-32 (Archives Division, Texas State Library, Austin, Texas). For development of farm place-
ment system in Texas after 1934, see 22, 44, 71, 85 and Texas State Employment Service,
"Supplement to Origins and Problems of Texas Migratory Farm Labor," 1-3, 30 (Archives
Division, Texas State Library, Austin, Texas).
Roosevelt created the War Manpower Commission in April 1942, after which the agency
assumed authority over the existing Bureau of Employment Security infrastructure (which had
formerly been under the U.S. Department of Labor) and hence, all state and local U.S.
Employment Service offices, which were federalized in December 1941
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000, periodical, 2000; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101220/m1/484/: accessed September 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.