1501 Kincaid Street, Eugene, OR 97403-1299 | T: (541) 346-3053 | F: (541) 346-3485
Farmworkers who travel hundreds of miles to Oregon to find work in the Willamette Valley often endure the hardships of labor camps.
During summer 1988, I joined members of Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN, or Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworker's United) on visits to camps in the Salem, Mount Angel, Silverton and Woodburn areas. With assistance from union organizers Ramon Ramirez (currently president of the union) and Leoni Bicchierri, we talked with workers and photographed them living in abandoned automobiles and crowded shacks, motels, and trash-filled camps, their sweltering barracks cramped with bunks cushioned with thin rug pads to support backs in need of rest. In old abandoned cars, long overdue for the scrap yard, workers stretched out in the tattered, moldy seats for which they paid rent to the camp "motel" owner.
Nearby in the same camp lot was a house where a man and woman or perhaps even their children could throw down sleeping bags in one of the crowded rooms. At another barracks near Mt. Angel stood men whose beds were a few yards from open garbage pits dug next to drinking water and outdoor cooking grills.
Sadly, despite improvements in worker housing more than two decades later, the same kind of photographs can still be made.
Photographer - John Bauguess
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