54 Years Later, “Harvest Of Shame” More Like “Warehouse Of Shame”

Most of our readers are probably too young to have even heard of “Harvest of Shame,” a 1960 hourlong CBS documentary special hosted by news legend Edward R. Murrow. It exposed the terrible physical and employment conditions of migrant workers on American farms. Today, there’s a different kind of mistreated invisible workforce all around us: the armies of temporary workers who power our warehouses and factories. Turns out that picking strawberries in 1960 has a lot in common with unpacking stuffed animals in 2013.

ProPublica has been running a variety of stories on our temp-based economy for some time now. It’s not a bad thing to run warehouses and factories on temporary labor, though, is it? Not on its face, but remember that warehouse and factory jobs can be very dangerous, and are even more dangerous when a worker gets only rudimentary training. Even if you don’t care about your fellow human beings, that doesn’t mean that under-trained temps can’t affect you personally. After all, these are the factories that package your booze and make your frozen pizzas.

You might remember the contaminated over-the-counter drugs recalled in 2010: an investigation showed that many of the defective drugs came from a factory staffed by under-trained temps.

Here’s the original “Harvest of Shame” documentary, if historic TV interests you.

A Modern Day ‘Harvest of Shame’ [ProPublica]
Temp Land [ProPublica Investigations]
Permanently Temporary: The Truth About Temp Labor (Part 1 of 5) [Vice]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.