The Bracero Program, which began in 1942 and ended in 1964, allowed Mexican nationals to take temporary agricultural work in the United States. Over the program's 22-year life, more than 4.5 million contracts were issued to Mexican nationals for work in the United States (some individuals returned several times on different contracts). The result was that close to 2 million Mexicans served as temporary guestworkers in the U.S. mostly in the Southwest and West. The initial agreement between the Mexican Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the American Embassy in Mexico City protected Mexican workers by providing for transportation from the border to the work site and back, paying prevailing wages, and providing decent living conditions. Despite these protections, Braceros generally wound up with low wages and poor working and living conditions. The existence of the large supply of bracero workers that resulted from this agreement made it difficult for unions to organize non-bracero farm laborers.
For the Temporary Migration of Mexican Agricultural Workers to the United States as Revised on April 26, 1943, by an Exchange of Notes Between the American Embassy at Mexico City and the Mexican Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
1) It is understood that Mexicans contracting to work in the United States shall not be engaged in any military service.
2) Mexicans entering the United States as result of this understanding shall not suffer discriminatory acts of any kind in accordance with the Executive Order No. 8802 issued at the White House June 25, 1941.
3) Mexicans entering the United States under this understanding shall enjoy the guarantees of transportation, living expenses and repatriation ....
4) Mexicans entering the United States under this understanding shall not be employed to displace other workers, or for the purpose of reducing rates of pay previously established.
In order to implement the application of the general Principles mentioned above the following specific clauses are established:
Wages and Employment
a. (1) Wages to be paid the worker shall be the same as those paid for similar work to other agricultural laborers under the same conditions within the same area, in the respective regions of destination. Piece rates shall be so set as to enable the worker of average ability to earn the prevailing wage. In any case wages for piece work or hourly work will not be less than 30 cents per hour.
b. (2) On the basis of prior authorization from the Mexican Government salaries lower than those established in the previous clause may be paid those emigrants admitted into the United States as members of the family of the worker under contract and who, when they are in the field, are able also to become agricultural laborers but who, by their condition of age or sex, cannot carry out the average amount of ordinary work.
c. The worker shall be exclusively employed as an agricultural laborer for which he has been engaged; any change from such type of employment or any change of locality shall be made with the express approval of the worker and with the authority of the Mexican Government.
d. There shall be considered illegal any collection by reason of commission or for any other concept demanded of the worker.
e. Work of minors under 14 years shall be strictly prohibit, and they shall have the same schooling opportunities as those enjoyed by children of other agricultural laborers.
f. Workers domiciled in the migratory labor camps or at any other place of employment under this understanding shall be free to obtain articles for their personal consumption, or that of their families, wherever it is most convenient for them.
g. The Mexican workers will be furnished without cost to them with hygienic lodgings, adequate to the physical conditions of the region of a type used by a common laborer of the region and the medical and sanitary services enjoyed also without cost to them will be identical with those furnished to the other agricultural workers in the regions where they may lend their services.
h. Workers admitted under this understanding shall enjoy as regards occupational diseases and accidents the same guarantees enjoyed by other agricultural workers under United States legislation.
i. Groups of workers admitted under this understanding shall elect their own representatives to deal with the Employer, but it is understood that all such representatives shall be working members of the group.
The Mexican Consuls, assisted the Mexican Labor Inspectors, recognized as such by the Employer will take all possible measures of protection in the interest of the Mexican workers in all questions affecting them, within their corresponding jurisdiction, and will have free access to the places of work of the Mexican workers, The Employer will observe that the sub-employer grants all facilities to the Mexican Government for the compliance of all the clauses in this contract.