The Law: Sweetening the Harvest

Many of those who harvest the sugar crop in Louisiana live in shacks that were once used by slaves. The walls are so worn that sunlight filters through. With an annual wage of about $2,750, the average sugar-cane worker has five children, and their diet is so poor that by the age of twelve their bodies are like those of people 50 years old.

The Department of Agriculture, in annual hearings, checks on the condition of sugar-cane laborers because it is authorized by law to regulate their wages. In 1970 that wage was $1.65 an hour for top workers, and before the...

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