Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Karen Miller

Committee Members

David Humphries

Subject Categories

Agribusiness | Agricultural and Resource Economics | International and Comparative Labor Relations | Labor History | Oral History | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Unions


Agricultural labor, Bracero, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Exploitation, Activism


This thesis is a comparative study that examines the Bracero Program and the work of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). The Bracero Program brought Mexican workers into the United States on temporary work visas from 1942-1964. The CIW is an organization of Mexican workers that was founded in 1992 as a response to the horrible working conditions that Mexican tomato pickers faced in Immokalee, Florida. In this thesis, I show that by putting these programs side by side, we can see the exploitation of Mexican farmworkers has relied on changing government tools—different forms of visas, different immigration regimes, different modes of regulating labor and capital. However, examining these two moments in history reveals that while these tools shift over time, there is a long history of Mexican farm-worker exploitation in the United States. We can also see that the CIW is a continuation of the kinds of activism that braceros engaged in. Scholars of the CIW attribute contemporary working conditions and forms of exploitation to the current globalized and neoliberal economies that we live with. But the Bracero Program shows that these formations are far longer than this presentist sensibility would have us believe.