Arts & Events

Daily Planet Forum Features Author David Bacon

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Wednesday March 04, 2009 - 07:01:00 PM

David Bacon, Berkeley-based labor journalist, photographer, KPFA radio commentator and Daily Planet contributor, will speak on his book, Illegal People—How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon, 2008), followed by a discussion and book signing, at the first Berkeley Daily Planet Book Forum, at 7 p.m. Sunday, March 8 at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Admission is free. The event is co-sponsored by the Hillside Club and Black Oak Books, along with the Planet.  

Bacon’s talk will be preceded at 6 p.m. by a pizza hour, jointly sponsored by the Planet and Berkeley Cybersalon (RSVP at 841-5600 x 117). The Cybersalon will present the iPhone Lovefest from 4-6 p.m., an open demonstration of new apps, with Steven Levy from Wired Magazine: $15; $10 for club members, students and the unintentionally unemployed. 

In a starred review last July 1, Publisher’s Weekly characterized Bacon’s book as “incisive reporting ... analysis as cool and competent as his labor advocacy is unapologetic. In mapping the political economy of migration, with an unwavering eye on the rights and dignity of working people, Bacon offers an invaluable corrective to America’s hobbled discourse on immigration and a spur to genuine, creative action.”  

Author Mike Davis called Bacon “the conscience of American journalism,” in the “rugged humanist tradition” of Dorothea Lange, Carey McWilliams and Ernesto Galarza. 

Bacon’s activism began while he was attending Berkeley High School; he was, at 16, one of the youngest protestors for the Free Speech Movement to be arrested. Working later as an organizer for the United Farm Workers, United Electrical Workers, Molders Union and Ladies Garment Workers Union, he said he has been fired for organizing—and arrested more times than he can remember. 

His documentary photographs led to his work being published in The Nation, L.A. Weekly and San Francisco Chronicle—and led to a career in journalistic writing and photography, with books like Communities Without Borders: Images and Voices from the World of Migration (Cornell U. Press, 2006), The Children of NAFTA (UC Press, 2004), Hijos del Libre Comercio (El Viejo Topo, Barcelona, 2005) and exhibitions of photographs and oral histories from Galleria de la Raza in San Francisco and the Oakland Museum, to the AFL-CIO Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico.  

He began photographing activists for unions in the 1980s, originally to document their struggle for future generations.  

In Illegal People, Bacon demonstrates, through interviews and on-the-spot reportage, how US trade and economic policy—NAFTA, in particular—have created a situation in which communities are displaced, initiating migration. He also shows how criminalizing immigrant laborers benefits employers, and he traces the development of illegal labor status back to the time of slavery. 

Dolores Huerta, co-founder of United Farm Workers, has said, “David also demonstrates that there is hope, and we can win something better today, not just for immigrants, but for all working people.”