Men at Work: How Unfree Labor Mitigated the Labor Shortage in California During World War II Open Access

Alcheck, Shaina (Spring 2019)

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During World War II, 16.1 million Americans served in the military. Of this total, approximately 800,000, or roughly 5%, came from California. Additionally, during World War II 90,000 Japanese-Americans residing in California were evicted from their homes and placed into internment camps. The absence of such a large quantity of working-age people from regular economic activities created a significant labor shortage in the State of California. This shortage led to an expansion in the pool of free laborers, most famously in the increased employment of women. However, this paper will examine the less-studied phenomenon of how California employed unfree laborers to mitigate this deficiency, and how said laborers were treated by their governing bodies. It will establish that there were two groups of unfree laborers used to alleviate this labor shortage: Prisoners of War (POWs) and imprisoned convicts. It will also explain the circumstances and reasons why Japanese-American internees were not utilized to mitigate the labor shortage in California, despite their status as unfree. Finally, from its examination of the treatment and practices surrounding the utilization of both groups, this paper will prove that the labor conditions and regulations for the treatment of POWs were more favorable than those for convict labor in the State of California.

Table of Contents

Introduction, pg. 1

Chapter 1: Governing Unfree Labor: Administrations and Motivations, pg. 9

Chapter 2: How Unfree Labor Practices and How Unfree Labor Tempered the Labor Shortage in California during World War II, pg. 33

Chapter 3: Programming for Unfree Laborers, pg. 55

Conclusion, pg. 63

Bibliography, pg. 69

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