The paradox of free market capitalism, contrary to everything we have been taught, is that labor can never be truly “free”, as in a free market commodity. Capitalism thrives only at the cost of driving down the cost of wages, and we can see it ever so clearly when it comes to the cost of care work, child labor, undocumented (im)migrant labor and slavery. In Late Global Capitalism, these represent sectors of invisible labor, whose price has been repressed ever so vehemently by the invisible fists of Capitalism: colonialism, imperialism and development done in the name of class, hetero-patriarchy, Religio-ethno-racial supremacy, ability and age.
My family went from coerced labor on haciendas, to being paid as a family unit by contract, to being paid well below the minimum wage as seasonal migrant workers, to being paid the minimum wage.
My family worked the green fields of California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Oregon, and Washington as coerced family contract labor, upon marriage some graduated to seasonal direct wages, then full time wage labor as proletarians, like so many upwardly mobile Mexican farm workers, my family also moved on to another kind of contract wage, a salary, on call 24/7.
As a toddler, I often accompanied my parents during harvest as they worked with other families picking cherries, with no childcare available, these were my first glimpses of seasonal migrant labor as I waited in the back of a station wagon with another crib mate and occasionally walked down the rows of cherry trees to stand at the base of an aluminum ladder to have a conversation with our parents as they worked. As a pre-teen I worked as a child laborer at a discounted wage, below the state minimum, yet enough to buy school supplies and clothes after the summer. My sisters graduated to the state minimum wage and then into a summer youth program where they worked for a stipend.
In this nation we are driven by myths, and many times straight up lies and misinformation: The Protestant Work Ethic, Meritocracy, Individualism, Boot Straps, Americanization, The American Dream, Blind Patriotism.