The maintenance of the racist Southern plantation system was the driving force behind the “compromise” struck by President Roosevelt and the Southern Democrats to exclude agricultural laborers from labor protections. In congressional debates this was clearly articulated. Representative Wilcox of Florida extolled, “You cannot put the Negro and the white man on the same basis and get away with it…” and Representative Cox of Georgia agreed, saying that it would be “dangerous beyond conception” to eliminate racial and social distinctions. Bargaining away racial equality, President Roosevelt and his coalition excluded agriculture from the FLSA.
There have been legal challenges to the agricultural exemption in the past but the exclusion has never been attacked squarely as unconstitutional because it was racially motivated. The Martinez-Cuevas case will be the first to squarely present this question before a court.Continue reading