In the post-World War II era, the peak period of Puerto Rican migration, many men and women – displaced from rural economies – went to continental US in search for work. Many of them did it via a seasonal agricultural labor contract. The state promoted farm labor programs enabling poor rural people to migrate directly to the States without even saving money for the trip. Needless to say that these programs met the State’s immediate need for cheap seasonal agricultural laborers.
People signed labor contacts with employers and then the contacts were approved by Puerto Rico’s Commissioner of Labor: “Farmers requested Puerto Rican workers through the local offices of the U.S. Employment Service. The requests were forwarded to the regional office of the Bureau of Employment Security which certified the need for laborers and contacted Puerto Rico’s Employment Service for recruitment.” (Cf. Carmen Teresa Whalen, From Puerto Rico to Philadelphia, 2001, p. 49)
The three largest Puerto Rican communities in the US were New York, Chicago and Philadelphia
Born in Aibonito, Puerto Rico in 1925, used labor contracts for two years before settling in Philadelphia in 1953. Don Julio: “Well, you see, I’ve always worked. Well, then I wen to work to earn money, and the work that there was, was sugar cane. Work in sugar cane is really though. Sugar cane, it irritates [your skin] badly, ooh. I worked for about a year. Then I heard the news that they were going to bring people to work in the United States. Then, I went and filled out a paper. I came.” (Whalen, 2001, p. 71)
Full text in PDF file here : FarmPlacementHandbookPT2 Virginia State
Farm Labor Bulletin
North Dakota State Employment Service
April 20, 1950
Bulletin No. 2 ??
Agreement Governing Employment of Puerto Rican Labor
a. The United States Employment service, bureau of Employment Security, will consider Puerto Rico as a supply source of domestic labor and will extend clearance orders to the Puerto Rican Department of Labor, after clearance has been madder in the Stat and region of demand, and thereafter in the interregional clearance if labor demands of the employer have not been satisfy. If an employer states a preference for Puerto Rican labor and the State agency determines that labor is not available within the State or adjoining States, the order may be extended by the headquarters office of the Bureau to the Puerto Rican Department of Labor, through its New York Office.