Illustration of the back a man in a hat and overalls looking towards the farmland

The Grapes of Wrath

by John Steinbeck

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What is the difference in the current conditions of migrant farm workers in California with those of the migrants in The Grapes of Wrath?

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While migrant workers still do not live a life of luxury, the do have certain advantages 30s migrants did not have, chiefly a minimum wage for legal workers. As the Joads and thousands of other Okies discover, jobs in the orchards and fields often went to the lowest bidder. Handbills, like the one that got the Joads moving westward in the first place, frequently advertised an attractive wage. But when 10,000 people showed up for 100 jobs, for example, whoever was willing to take the lowest wage got the work.

In addition to wages, things have changed for legal migrant children. No longer are children of school age permitted to work the hours an adult might be expected to put in.

Another area where things have improved is in regard to safety. Machines and equipment are much more closely monitored for hazards and the accidental death and dismemberment numbers have improved considerably.

On the more negative side, migrants still toil in less-than-ideal conditions for low wage jobs. Illegal workers are still employed, and some of these workers do not benefit as much from improvements as do their legal counterparts.

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