811.504 Mexico/218

The Ambassador in Mexico (Messersmith) to the Secretary of State

No. 14359

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the Department’s instruction no. 4739 of November 11, 1943, transmitting a copy of a letter dated November 181 from Governor Paul V. McNutt, Chairman of the War Manpower Commission, in which he requests that the Mexican Government be approached with a view to securing its permission to the transfer of approximately 10,000 agricultural workers who may not be needed during the winter months to employment under the non-agricultural agreement. The Department directed [Page 579] me to discuss this proposal with the Mexican Foreign Office with a view to securing the desired permission.

In this same connection I desire to refer to the Department’s instruction no. 4789 of November 1782 respecting the desire of the War Food Administration to transfer from 1000 to 2000 surplus agricultural workers to certain meat packing houses in the Pacific Northwest. The Department will recall that when this question was discussed with officials of the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Labor, they made it a sine qua non, before even considering the proposal, that the packing plants guarantee to provide lodging and feeding facilities equivalent to those which the agricultural workers enjoy under the existing agricultural workers agreement.

Governor McNutt states that the War Manpower Commission is interested in obtaining agricultural workers for employment in war essential industries, in which there is a shortage of workers, and “which can provide suitable working conditions”. He indicated that in his opinion the approach to the Mexican Government should be on the basis of the transfer of agricultural workers “to all war essential industries, rather than to specific industries”.

I have not discussed this matter with the Mexican Government officials in view of the fact that even should they prove agreeable to the transfer of such agricultural workers to war essential industries, there could be no guarantees given that lodgings and feeding facilities would be exactly the same as those which they now have in agricultural employment. It would seem to me that from the very nature of the employment to which it is proposed to transfer these workers, it would be impossible to provide them with the facilities which can be afforded them on the farms where they are now employed.

I am likewise disturbed over the project of transferring agricultural workers to non-agricultural employment, especially in war essential industries. If I am not mistaken, the average wage rate of employees in essential war industries is considerably higher than that paid to agricultural workers. It would appear to be only reasonable to conclude that when the need for agricultural workers again becomes apparent, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to re-transfer workers from essential war industries to agricultural employment. If I am correct in my opinion that the need for agricultural workers is of the first importance to us, then I think we should explore every possiblity to locate existing surplus agricultural workers in other areas where agricultural employment may be possible during the winter months.

With respect to the instruction under reference, I do not propose to take any steps vis-à-vis the Mexican authorities unless otherwise directed by the Department, and then only if guarantees can be given [Page 580] with respect to food and lodging for such Mexican workers as may be transferred to war essential industries.

Respectfully yours,

G. S. Messersmith
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