Front Cover
 Table of Contents
 List of Tables
 List of Figures
 Patterns of employment at South...
 Personnel management policies
 Villa Lago housing project
 South Bay Growers and the...

Group Title: Management and housing of migrant labor in Florida vegetables: a case study
Title: Management and housing of migrant labor in Florida vegetables
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00026467/00001
 Material Information
Title: Management and housing of migrant labor in Florida vegetables a case study
Series Title: Economic information report
Physical Description: v, 81 p. : ill. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Holt, James S
Burton, Lawrence
Covey, Charles D ( Charles Dean ), 1922-
Publisher: Food and Resource Economics Department, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville Fla
Publication Date: 1985
Subject: Migrant agricultural laborers -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Migrant agricultural laborers -- Housing   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Statement of Responsibility: James S. Holt, Lawrence Burton, Charles D. Covey.
General Note: "July 1985."
General Note: Cover title.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00026467
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 001546379
oclc - 21425708
notis - AHF9909

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Table of Contents
        Page i
        Page ii
    List of Tables
        Page iii
    List of Figures
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
    Patterns of employment at South Bay Growers
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
    Personnel management policies
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
    Villa Lago housing project
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
    South Bay Growers and the community
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
Full Text

James S.


Lawrence Burton

Economic Information
Report 209

Charles D. Covey

Management and Housing of
Migrant Labor in Florida


A Case


a Science

S..-N 0 10388
/ University of Florida

Food and Resource Economics Department
Cooperative Extension Service
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida, Gainesville 32611

July 1985



The employment patterns of a highly seasonal Florida winter vegetable

producing; firm. are: presented. for the 1981-82 season. The personnel

management .policies of the firm are outlined and the development of an

innovative seasonal worker housing project is reviewed. An analysis of the

impact of this housing on seasonal worker performance is attempted.

Key words: benefits, earnings, evaluation, farmworkers,

performance, productivity, reliability, seasonal employment,

housing, supervision.



This study was financed in part by a grant from the Economic
Development Division, Economic Research Service, USDA, and the Farmers Home
Administration, USDA, Washington, D.C.



Chapter I: Introduction*.. ................. ...... ....... ............

Objectives of Study ... *****...... ...*...,**............2
The Area.. ...... C........ ....... ..................... 3.. ,,,,,,,,,, ,3
The Firmn.............. ........................................6

Chapter II: Patterns of Employment at South Bay Growers................9

Aggregate Farm Employment............................... ........ .....10
Employee Lettuce Divisi ons... ........................................14

Celery Division..........................................17
Corn Division. ................**....*....................17
Cabbage Division.................. ......................20
Pepper Division...........................................20
Support Employment....................... ................20

EarnLettuce Divisions.......................................2

Celery Division...........................................25
Corn Division.**...***.....................................25
Cabbage Division............................ .......... 31
Pepper Division...........................................31

Chapter III: Personnel Management Policies ..........................34

General Management Philosophy....................... ................. 34
Recruitment and Hiring............................. ....35
Recalls................................................... 35
Hiring.................................................... 38
Scheduling Arrivals of Migrant Workers....................38
Recordkeeping. and Identification.........................39
Work Contracts....o.......................................40

Job Training ....... ..............................................40
Safety Training.......................e......e.e.... .o ........... 41
Payroll Operations....******** ................. ...42
Rate Setting............................................43
Pay Rate by Division......................................44
Lettuce..... .ge, ad Pee........................ 44
Corn, Cabbage, and Peppers.......................45


Benefits........ ......... .. ..... .... ............. ... .... ..... 46
Bonuses .............. ... ........ ....... ...... .... 4
Insurance. .. .. *....**. *.*. .....** .. ..... ..... ..... .... .47
Vac tiong .... .... .............................. ........48
D.Housing. ............................... .................48
SHousing Assignments-...................................... .49
Equipment .o.f.u.......................................50
Miscellaneous Benefits....................................51

Supervision and Control............ ...... ...................51
Quality Control...........................................51
Production Control........................ ............52
Discipline and Grievances.................................53

Chapter IV: The Villa Lago Housing Project............................ 55

History of the Project..............................................55
The Search for Financing .................................57

The Housing Project.................................................. 59

Administration of Villa Lago................................ ...... 60
Assignment of Housing&....................................60
Rental Rates................................... ....62
Conditions of Occupancy....................................64
Income and Expenses.......................................64

Comparisons of Employee Performance..................................66
Reliability of Work Force.................................68
Earnings and Productivity..........................*..72
Summary of Performance Comparisons........................72

Sampling Procedure....................................................75

Chapter V: South Bay Growers and the Community ......................78

Community Activities .................................o.*******.****** 78
Educational Assistance.....,,.........................***************79
Community Perceptions............................***********..........80


able Page

1. Average Hourly and Weekly Earnings, Average Hours Worked
Per Week, by Divisions, Hourly and Piece Rate Workers,
and Harvest and Non-harvest Employment, South Bay Growers,
Inc., 1981-82 Season.................*... ... ... .. ... 0...0 29

2. Income and Operating Costs, Excluding Insurance, Taxes,
and Capital Costs, Villa Lago Housing Facility, South
Bay Growers, Inc., 1977-78 through 1982-83........ .............65

3. Average Hours of Work Per Week and Average Weeks Worked
Per Season, by Place of Residence, South Bay Growers, Inc.,
1981-82 Season....... ....... ..................................... 69

4. Employee Absentee Rate, Percent of Workdays Absent and
In-Season Turnover Rate, by Place of Residence, South Bay
Growers, Inc., 1981-82 Season........................0............. 71

5. Average Hourly Earnings and Average Weekly Earnings, by
Place of Residence, South Bay Growers, Inc., 1981-82 Season.........73

6. Total Employees, Sample Numbers, and Sample Rates, by
Divisions, Harvest and Nonharvest, Villa Lago Residents
and Non Villa Lago Residents, South Bay Growers, Inc.,
1981-82 Season....................................... .......... 76


Figure Page

1. Location of General Farming Area, South Bay Growers,
Inc., South Bay, Florida.......................................4

2. Organizational Chart, Agricultural Operations, South
Bay Growers, Inc., 1981-82 Season.. ..............................8

3. Pre-Harvest and Support Employment, by Weeks, all Farming
Divisions, South Bay Growers, Inc., 1981-82 Season.................11

4. Harvest Employment, by Weeks, all Divisions, South Bay
Growers, Inc., 1981-82 Season......................................12

5. Harvest and Non-Harvest Employment, by Weeks, Lettuce
Division #1, South Bay Growers, Inc., 1981-82 Season...............15

6. Harvest and Pre-Harvest Employment, by Weeks, Lettuce
Division #2, South Bay Growers, Inc., 1981-82 Season...............16

7. Harvest and Non-Harvest Employment by Weeks, Celery
Division, South Bay Growers, Inc., 1981-82 Season.................. 18

8. Harvest and Non-Harvest Employment, by Weeks, Corn
Division, South Bay Growers, Inc., 1981-82 Season..................19

9. Harvest and Non-Harvest Employment, by Weeks, Cabbage
Division,South.Bay Growers, Inc., 1981-82 Season..................21

10. Harvest and Non-Harvest Employment, by Weeks, Pepper
Division, South Bay Growers, Inc., 1981-82 Season..................22

11. Support employment, by Weeks, all Farming Divisions,
South Bay Growers, Inc., 1981-82 Season............................23

12. Average Earnings, by Weeks, Lettuce Division #1,
South Bay Growers, Inc. 1981-82 Season...........................26

Figure Page

13. Average Earnings, by Weeks, Lettuce Division #2,
South Bay:Growers, Inc., 1981-82 Season............................27

14. Average Earnings, by Weeks, Celery Division,
South Bay Growers:, Inc., 1981-82 Season............ ***.**..******...28

15. Average Earnings, by Weeks, Corn Division,
South Bay Growers, Inc., 1981-82 Season............................30

16. Average Earnings, by Weeks, Cabbage Division,
South Bay Growers, Inc., 1981-82 Season........................... 32

17. Average Earnings, by Weeks, Pepper Division,
South Bay Growers, Inc., 1981-82 Season............................33

Management and Housing of Migrant

Labor in Florida Vegetables: A Case Study


:James S. Holt*
Lawrence Burton
Charles D. Covey


The emergence of large farming and integrated agribusiness corporations

has been a relatively recent, though highly noted, development in U.S. agri-

culture. These businesses, often dependent on a substantial hired workforce

of permanent and seasonal employees, have introduced innovations in business

organizations and personnel management systems which are rare in agriculture

as a whole. Little documentation or study of this important development in

agricultural business management has occurred. This case study of the farm

labor management -and housing practices of South Bay Growers, Inc., of South

Bay, Florida will contribute to what should be a growing literature on the

innovative management patterns of industrial agriculture.

South Bay Growers, Inc., is a. large grower, packer, and wholesaler of

vegetables in south-central Florida. The firm is the' main employer in the

small town of South Bay, on- the southern edge of Lake Okeechobee, and the

company's economic influence is felt throughout the surrounding towns and

counties. The authors and sponsors of this study selected South Bay Growers

*Respectively, Consulting Agricultural Economist, Associate Consulting
Agricultural Economist, Washington, D.C., and Professor and Extension
Economist, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of
Florida, Gainesville.

because of its good reputation as a large employer of seasonal agricultural

workers. The company has attracted particular attention for its decision to

build a large, modern, family housing project for its seasonal workers.

This facility, known as Villa Lago, is an outstanding example of privately-

owned and -financed housing for seasonal agricultural workers in the United



The study has several objectives, the first of which is to document the

seasonal employment patterns of a large agricultural employer in a relative-

ly isolated rural environment in an effort to demonstrate the problems of

housing this seasonal surge of employees and their families.

The second objective of the study is to describe the background and

operation of the Villa Lago housing project and present statistical evidence

suggesting that the firm has benefited from the housing investment in terms

of employee stability, productivity, and other measures of performance.

A third objective of this report is to describe a large farming corpo-

ration's agricultural personnel management practices and philosophy. This

description should help develop understanding of the employment practices of

"progressive" agricultural firms and the nature of agricultural jobs in such


The Area

South Bay Growers' farming operations are spread over a 20-mile radius

of South Bay, Florida, in the heart of the Everglades agricultural area.

This relatively isolated area surrounds the southern end of Lake Okeechobee,

in south-central Florida, Figure I1 The closest major urban centers are on

the east and west coast of peninsular Florida. The land is extremely

fertile muck, flat, and criss-crossed with canals which both drain the land

and provide water for irrigation.

The Everglades agricultural area is a winter vegetable production area

which has favorable growing conditions when most of the remainder of the

nation is experiencing cold weather. During the summer and early fall crops

are grown nearer to major east coast- and midwestern urban centers and agri-

cultural production in the Glades is at a virtual standstill. The agricul-

ture surrounding South Bay is diversified, and most of it is labor

intensive. During the 1981-82 season approximately 461,000 acres were

farmed and produced commodities valued at almost $600 million.

Sugar cane accounts for more than two-thirds of the crop acreage and

value of agricultural production in the Everglades agricultural area. Vege-

tables are the- second most important commodity grown in the* area. In the

1981-82 season vegetables valued at over $108 million were produced on

85,000 acres. Lettuce, celery, radishes, and sweet corn were the

predominant vegetable crops, accounting for over $92 million. The area also

supports a large sod industry as well as some citrus, field corn and rice.

Beef, dairy cattle, and horses are raised on land not developed for

intensive crop production.

Figure 1. Location of General Farming Area, South Bay Growers, Inc.,
South Bay,Florida.


Two large vegetable grower packers and a handful of large sugar cane

rowers dominate the agricultural industry in the Glades. These and several

sugar mills provide the economic base for the area. A number of smaller

owners and ranchers, as well as a substantial winter tourist industry cen-

ered around recreational fishing on Lake Okeechobee,. round out the commer-

ial activity of South Bay and the surrounding communities of Belle Glade,

ahokee and Clewiston.

Although Florida is most commonly perceived as a source of migrant farm

abor for other states, it actually depends on the immigration or return

ach winter of thousands of agricultural workers to harvest the state's

crops. The South Bay area is particularly dependent on these migrants.

ost of the local crops are hand harvested, including all of the crops grown

by South Bay Growers. Some cane harvesting has been mechanized but. most is

still cut by hand, primarily with off-shore labor.

A key problem facing employers and migratory workers as the harvest

season starts each year is seasonal housing. Where are thousands of

seasonal workers to sleep, eat, raise their families and enjoy a bit of

privacy? Solution of the seasonal housing problem is confounded by many

factors: the casualness of many worker employer relationships; the high

cost of housing construction and maintenance; the brief duration of many

seasonal jobs; and the ingrained attitudes and behavior of many workers and

many growers which effectively prevent serious attempts to solve the housing

problem in the area.

Virtually every community official interviewed for this study cited

housing as a critical problem in the South Bay/Belle Glade area. Despite

this shortage, however, workers have been entering the area in sufficient

numbers to meet. the labor: demand, since theA early 1970s. In recent.years an

influx of Haitian refugees has resulted in an over-supply of agricultural

workers. These new immigrants, coupled with a growing number of illegal

immigrants from Mexico and other countries, have further strained the

housing stock in this largely rural area. Even grossly substandard housing

is in demand and can command high rental rates.

The Firm

South Bay Growers, Inc., is a diversified agribusiness firm wholly

owned by the U.S. Sugar Corporation (USSC), which has its headquarters in

Clewiston, Florida, some twenty miles away. South Bay Growers was original-

ly a cooperative of a few large farms. The cooperative gradually bought the

operations of several of its members, and in 1981 USSC purchased the farming

operations of all but one of the cooperative's remaining members.

South Bay Growers operates several farming divisions and a packaging

house. It employs a sales staff which sells directly to food brokers and

large retail chains. The company also produces some of its own packaging

materials and processes chopped lettuce and onions for institutional use and

export. South Bay Growers also packs and sells produce for other area

growers. The firm employs some 1,600 workers in its farming division during

the peak harvesting season, approximately 285 packinghouse workers, and

approximately 96 in management and administration. The firm harvests about

12,000 acres annually which includes some acreage producing two crops a

year. Lettuce of various types is its largest crop.

The President of U.S. Sugar Corporation is also President of South Bay

Growers, Inc. Operational control of South Bay Growers is the responsibil-

ity of. the Vice President and General Manager and the Assistant General

manager. The Agricultural Division Manager and the heads of the other func-

tional divisions report directly to the Assistant General Manager see Figure


In the 1981-82 season the farming operation had five divisions, with

seven- farm and -harvesting managers reporting to the Agricultural Division

Manager. There were two lettuce farms, a celery farm, a corn and cabbage

farm and a pepper farm. Within each of the two lettuce farms, responsibili-

ties were divided between a farm production manager and a harvest manager.

Some units also had a field services supervisor.

Following the 1981-82 season, the management of South Bay Growers im-

plemented some changes in the management structure of the farming

operations. A third, new lettuce division was formed. A personnel function

was also defined both for the seasonal field personnel and for the permanent

and packinghouse personnel. The seasonal farm personnel function was as-

signed to the office of the farm production manager. This office is now

responsible for maintaining employee personnel files and for partially for-

malizing the recruiting and employment practices. However, these changes

were not in effect during the period of this study, the 1981-82 season.

South Bay Growers owns four housing facilities. One of these, Villa

Lago, is a modern, 192-unit family housing: project which is the- focus of

this report. The firm also owns one other small family housing unit and two

camps with barracks-style accommodations which will house up to 500 single







L- --------L
r....."----- -------- ...-..-i..--.--
L.---------.--------.J L.-----------.J--




Figure 2. Organizational Chart, Agricultural Operations, South Bay Growers, Inc., 1981-82 Season.



The employment of large numbers of seasonal workers in a relatively

isolated rural area presents substantial problems to agricultural firms in

anaging.and housing this influx of workers and their families. One objec-

tive of this study was to document the magnitude of the seasonal labor re-

uirements of a large agricultural employer. This analysis of the seasonal

employment patterns of South Bay Growers should provide an environment for

an appreciation of the decision by South Bay Growers to invest $3.2 million

in a housing facility for their seasonal labor.

Seasonal employment is not unique to agriculture. However, in most

other seasonal employment situations such as factories, plants or worksites,

they can be and often are located in areas which draw upon an indigenous

population which is already housed to meet their seasonal labor needs.

Agriculture, because of spatial requirements, must produce perishable crops

where the land and 'climatic resources are located. Hence, in manufacturing

or service facilities the jobs are generally moved to the labor resources,

while in agriculture the labor resource must be moved to the production

site. Until the biological and spatial nature of agriculture is changed or

is fully mechanized, these labor requirements will not change.

As a consequence, seasonality in the agricultural labor market is a

reality which, given the present level of technology, must be recognized and

dealt with.

All of South Bay Growers' five crops: lettuce, celery, sweet corn,

cabbage, and bell peppers are harvested by hand. "Lettuce and celery, the

two major crops, also require significant manual labor in the production

process. Most of the company's agricultural employees are seasonal.

This chapter describes farm employment and labor utilization at South

Bay Growers in terms of numbers of workers, weekly earnings, and the

seasonal patterns in: employment and earnings I in. each: commodity-'/ Farming

operations begin in September, and "peak season" extends from December

through April. In June, July, and August production is based closer to

population centers in the North and Midwest.

Aggregate Farm Employment

The farming operations of South Bay Growers employ about 250 persons

year-around and about 1,600 persons at the seasonal peak. Figures 3 and 4

show the aggregate weekly employment levels for the 1981-82 season. These

figures were constructed from weekly payroll records and show the number of

persons receiving paychecks each week.

The bars in Figures 3 and 4 show the number of persons, by week, re-

ceiving paychecks from the first payroll week in July 1981 through the last

payroll week in June 1982. All personnel up to and including the farm and

harvest supervision levels are included. These are the highest ranking

1-Weekly employment only approximately reflects the firms' actual labor
demand. Absenteeism, turnover rates, and the firm's specific practices for
development of personnel also determine how a specific quantity of work
translates into employment. This chapter presents data showing the total
number of persons on the payroll of each of South Bay Growers' farming
divisions for each week in the 1981-82 season. These totals are somewhat
misleading since the amount of work offered and within-week absenteeism and
turn-over varied greatly both from division to division in a given week, and
from week to week through the season.

00 -

3 1


100 -

0 Y i i...... .. I I. I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I i I
1 2 7 9 11 13 16 17 19 2 23 26 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41 43 46 47 49 61

Figure 3. Pre-Harvest and Support Employment by weeks,
Growers, Inc., 1981-82 Season.

all Farming Divisions South Bay

3rd quarter. 1981

4th Quarter. 1981

1st Quarter, 1982

2nd Quartw. 1982




430 -

216 -


Figure 4. Harvest Employment, by weeks, all Divisions, South Bay Growers, Inc., 1981-82

1290 -

1075 -

860 -1

1 3 6 7 9 11 13 16 17 19 1 23 26 27 29 31 33 36 37 39 41 43 46 47 49 61

employees in each division. The figures do not include employment on the

executive and administrative payrolls.

Figure 3 shows nonharvest and support employment by week. Support

personnel are machine operators who prepare seedbeds and plant, cultivate,

and spray.crops; mechanics;..and other skilled personnel. There are 50 to 60

of these workers. The remaining nonharvest workers do such chores as block-

ing and weeding and transplanting, and they are generally unskilled workers.

Nonharvest employment begins accelerating in September and builds up

gradually through November. From December through March nonharvest employ-

ment remains high. Beginning in April planting and cultural activity de-

clines rapidly and by the beginning of July seasonal nonharvest employment

is virtually over.

Nonharvest employment levels are influenced primarily by the firm's

predetermined planting schedule. Nonharvest employment is relatively

stable: only extreme weather conditions cause significant variation.

Figure 4 shows harvest employment. The first big increase in harvest

employment occures in October with the sweet corn harvest. Lettuce and

celery harvesting quickly accelerate the increase. Full employment in har-

vesting lasts from November through mid-May. From 600 to 850 workers per

week work until March when the spring sweet corn crop increases total

harvest. employment to 1,100 to 1,250 workers- weekly. During May harvest

employment plummets, and by June it is down to basically the permanent work-


Harvest employment exhibits greater variation than nonharvest employ-

ment. Harvesting operations are more labor intensive than nonharvest opera-

tions, and are also more affected by market demand and climate than nonhar-

vest operations.

Employment By Division

The commodities produced by South Bay Growers have different growing

and harvesting seasons and therefore require expansion and contraction of

the work-force at different times.. Labor recruitment and hiring are handled

virtually autonomously by the four farming divisions. Workers are hired

into specific occupations in the nonharvest and harvest operations of spe-

cific divisions and seldom move either within or between divisions, except

at the very beginning and end of the season.

Lettuce Divisions

Nonharvest employment in lettuce starts increasing in late September

and builds gradually through December, remaining high until March when it

gradually declines until May, Figures 5 and 6. Lettuce harvesting employ-

ment increases more abruptly, but some of the abrupt increase represents

workers shifting from nonharvest to harvesting work. Harvesting work also

ends abruptly. When weather prevents further lettuce harvesting, the opera-

tion simply shuts down.

Total lettuce harvesting employment peaks at about 300 harvest workers

and lasts 4 to 5 months. This work is performed by skilled workers, many

with a long tenure with the firm, and weekly employment levels are notably

stable during the season. Variation tends to occur in the length of the

work week rather than in employment levels.

During the peak season nonharvest employment in lettuce varies between

150 and 250 workers and tends to be more variable from week to week than

harvest employment. Most nonharvest work involves blocking and weeding the

young plants, and is basically unskilled work.

225 *


75 -

10 -

225 -

1 3 6 7 9 11 13 16

"~~u ~ ~ u II II-' '~` ~ -~- ~ -

17 19 21 23 26 27 29

II I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I 1
31 33 36 37 39 41 43 46 47 49 51

Figure 5. Harvest and lon-Harvest Employment, by weeks, Lettuce Division #1, South Bay
Growers, Inc., 1981-82 Season.

* s s e

1. Mdol


3rd Quartr, 1981


I.~. i.

4th Quartr. 1981

1st Ouarter. 1982

2nd Qutar. 1982

1 3 5 7 9

I I I I I I a I I I i I I I I I I I I I Il l l l l 1 1 1 I l i i I
11 13 16 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41 43 45 47 49 61

Figure 6. Harvest and Pre-llarvest Employment, by weeks, Lettuce Division
Growers, Inc., 1981-82 Season.

#2, South Bay

" W l

1 i

Celery Division

Nonharvest workers in celery weed the seedbeds, pull the tiny plants

from the seedbeds, transfer them to the fields for transplanting, and ride

the planting machines which set the plants. This work is paid by the

piece. Nonharvest work. employs about 150. to 160~ workers until the harvest

begins, and.about 110 after that, Figure 7.

The celery harvest season lasts from November through early June.

Except for one week in January, during a hard freeze, weekly employment

levels in both harvest and nonharvest work were relatively stable. Many

celery harvest employees worked 26 to 30 weeks at South Bay Growers during

the 1981-82 season. Harvest employment during the major part of the season

was 260 to 270 workers. Celery harvest work also ends abruptly, with the

harvest workforce dropping from 214 to 32 workers in one week.

Corn Division

Sweet corn production-is virtually mechanized. The corn division em-

ploys 6 to 8 employees through the year and these are supplemented with 4 to

12 workers during the growing season.

The south Florida climate permits two sweet corn crops a year, and thus

two harvest seasons, Figure 8. The first falls during approximately eight

weeks from mid-October to mid-December. In 1981-82 the second harvest peri-

od lasted slightly longer than the first, from the first week in April to

early June. The corn division offered employment to an average of 120 har-

vest workers or corn pullerss" per week during the first season and 260

during the second harvest. The number of persons employed each week varied

widely in both seasons: from 99 to 155 in the first, and from 184 to 302 in

the- second. These* variations resulted from- crop- and market conditions, and

from very high employee turnover.



120 -
100 .1

3rd QOuter, 1081 4th Quarter, 1981 it Quarter, 1982 2nd OQuarter. 1982

1 3 6 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41 43 46 47 49 51

Figure 7. Harvest and Non-Harvest Employment, by weeks, Celery Division, South Bay Growers,
Inc., 1981-82 Season.

300 -

200 -

100 -


m 0


100 -



9 -...-~.


3rd Quarter, 1081

4th Quarter. 1981

1st Quarter, 1982

2nd Ouarter, 1982

1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41

-~~~~~~~~~~ ~ I--- U- I S U- U ^ -- - S'

43 45 47 49 51

Figure 8. Harvest and Non-Harvest Employment, by weeks, Corn Division, South Bay Growers,
Inc., 1981-82 Season.

Cabbage Division

Cabbage harvesting begins the last week of September and ends in late

May, though harvesting crews do not reach full strength until December,

Figure 9. During most weeks 30 to 35 people are employed in cabbage har-

vesting. Cabbage employment is fairly stable from week to week. However,

during one week in March the harvest was shut. down and in May a very large

crop was harvested.

Pepper Division

Bell pepper production is virtually mechanized and approximately twenty

persons are employed nearly year-round in pepper nonharvest work, Figure

10. Harvest employment, in contrast, was highly erratic. Although peppers

are harvested nearly all year, the number of employees harvesting peppers

varied from a low of 10 one week to 652 in another. Turnover was also ex-

tremely high in the pepper harvest workforce.

Bell peppers are South Bay Growers' newest crop, and company officials

attribute the erratic employment to their inability to stabilize production

as well as to variable market conditions. The employment pattern in bell

peppers stands in marked contrast to the remarkable stability in seasonal

employment South Bay Growers has achieved in its other operations and stab-

ilizing pepper employment is one of management's highest priorities.

Support Employment

Several payrolls have been grouped into a "support" category, Figure

11. These payrolls include shops for the various divisions and a "field

services" group. The shops employ mechanics, welders, and other technicians


" 25

3rd Quartur. 1981 4th Quarter, 1981 Itt Quarter, 1982 2nd Quarter 1982

1 I s I i I II I I II I I I I I s I I I I ( I I I I I I I I I I |I l
1 3 6 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33. 36 37 39 41 43 45 47 49 51

Figure 9. Harvest and Non-Harvest Employment, by weeks, Cabbage Divsion, South Bay Growers,
Inc., 1981-82 Season.



i 350


175 3rd Quarter, 1981 4th Quarter, 1981 1st Quarter, 1982 2qd Quarter, 1982

I I I I I I I I I" *1 I I I 1 1 I I I I I I I l I l I I I I I I" I I I '"1 I
1 3 6 7 9 11 13 16 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41 43 46 47 49 51

Figure 10. Harvest and Non-Harvest Employment, by weeks, Pepper Division, South Bay Growers,
Inc., 1981-82 Season.

3rd Quarte. 1981

i 1

4th Quartr,. 198)

ist Quarter, 1982







2nd Quarter. 1982

I 37 39 41 43 4 47 9 61
36 37 39 41 43 45 47 49 '51

Figure 11.

- Support Employment,
1981-82 Season.

by weeks, all Farming Divisions, South Bay Growers, Inc.,

1 3 6 7 9 11 13 16 17 19 21 23 26 27 29 31 33

who service the large planting and harvesting equipment in the fields.

Field services personnel perform structural and maintenance work on fields

and roads; clear and level land; construct irrigation systems, and maintain


The support group:employes between 55-65 people and most of these re-

ceive hourly pay. This employee group shows relatively little seasonal or

week-to-week variation. The employment drop in this group during late June

and July is actually vacation time.

Earnings By Division

South Bay Growers uses three methods of pay: hourly, piece and

salary. Very few workers receive salary and most of these are managerial or

administrative personnel. Salaried workers are included in the bar charts

and employment counts in the preceding section, but they are not included in

the following analysis of payroll data.

This section shows the average earnings of all South Bay Growers' farm

employment except salaried personnel. These data were developed from pay-

roll records for the 1981-82 season. Average weekly earnings are shown for

all workers. For workers paid by the hour, average hourly earnings and

average hours per week are also shown. Although not common, if a worker

received both hourly and piece rates in the same week, all earnings were

counted as piece work earnings. Information on hours worked was not summa-

rized in the computer payroll records during the 1981-82 season, and it was

not practical to summarize hours information for all piece rate employment.

Virtually all harvest employment is paid by the piece, except in

peppers. Virtually all nonharvest employment is paid by the hour, except in

one lettuce division and in celery.

Lettuce Divisions

Average weekly gross earnings of lettuce employees ranged from S209 to

$287 in the 1981-82 season, Table 1. Lettuce harvesting earned the highest

weekly incomes among seasonal workers at South Bay Growers. This work, most

of it at piece rates, is performed by highly-skilled, experienced workers.

Weekly earnings in lettuce are highly variable, Figures 12 and 13. The

effects of two hard winter freezes on earnings are clearly visible, but

weekly earnings rebounded rapidly in both cases. In a number of weeks aver-

age earnings exceeded $400. Earnings of hourly and nonharvest piece rate

workers, in contrast, were much less variable from week to week but did not

reach $400 in any week.

Celery Division

Most celery workers were paid by the piece and averaged $165 to $176

weekly, Figure 14. Weekly earnings of harvest and nonharvest piece rate

workers in- celery were-very similar until the last few weeks of the season,

and weekly earnings varied less than for lettuce workers.

Corn Division

Harvest workers average $117 weekly over the full season. Both high

turnover on the corn harvesting crews and relatively short work weeks con-

tributed to these low. earnings. Comparison of Table I with Figure 15 shows

that in weeks with good corn movement both employment and weekly earnings

increased. In slack weeks both the workforce and the work week were

reduced. Virtually all corn harvesting was paid by the piece except during

the last week of the season, when poor picking conditions prevailed. Workers

were paid by the hour during the last week.

400 7

300 -

200 -


...... Non- Harvest, Hourly

S Havest, Piece


l I I I' I I I I ,' I I 1 1 I I I I i I' II Il 1
10 12 14 18 18 20. 22 24 26 28 30 32 34 38 38 40 42 44 46 48 60

Figure 12. Average Earnings, by weeks, Lettuce Division #1, South Bay Growers,
Inc., 1981-82 Season.


......... Non-Huest, Hourly

.- Non- Harvest. Piece

Havest, Place

I I p I I I I I 1 1 1 1 1 11 1 1 i I I I I I I
12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34 36 38 40 42 44 46 48

Figure 13. Average Earnings, by
Inc., 1981-82 Season.

weeks, Lettuce Division #2, South Bay Growers,







00 **...**... Non-Harvest. Houdly

--- Non-Harvest. Piece

-- Harvest, Piece

300 A fi A A
3 \.. 1



4 \' 'r i, -, i i I i i I I \ 'I I ,' I
10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34 36 38 40 42 44 46 48 60 52

Figure 14. Average Earnings, by weeks, Celery Division, South Bay Growers, Inc.,
1981-82 Season.

e 1. Average Hourly and Weekly Earnings, Average Hours Worked Per Week, by Division,
Hourly and Piece Rate Workers and Harvest and Nonharvest Employment, South Bay
Growers, Inc., 1981-82 Season.

: Lettuce Lettuce Celery Corn Cabbage Pepper Suppor
#1 #2

1y Paid Workers
vg. hourly earnings $3.95 1/ $3.55 $3.51 -
vg.. weekly earnings- $149. $115. $85 -
Lg. hours per week 38 32 24 -

e Rate Workers
g. weekly earnings $270. $287. $176. $117. $85. -


ly Paid Workers
tg. hourly earnings $4.17 $4.26 S4.68 $4.35 $4.00 $4.26 $5.29
hrg. weekly earnings $208 $216. $261. $209. $159. $278. $309.
vg. hours per week 50 51 55 48 39 65 56

ze Rate Workers
Lvgn weekly earnings- $209. $165. -- -

blank cells are not applicable.

7ce: Payroll records of South Bay Growers, Inc.

- Harvest, Piece


10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26

Figure 15. Average Earnings, by wec
1981-82 Season.

' I I I I I I I I I I I I
28 30 32 34 36 38 40 42 44 48 48 50

iks, Corn Division, South Bay Growers, Inc.,




Cabbage: Division

Cabbage is harvested only intermittently at South Bay Growers. Work

weeks tend to be short and harvest employees average $85 per week on piece

rates and $115 when paid hourly. Cabbage harvest earnings were also highly

erratic from week to. week, see Figure 16. Depending on harvest conditions

and the necessity to meet minimum wage requirements, cabbage harvesters

receive hourly or piece-rate pay.

Pepper Division

Pepper harvest workers averaged $85 weekly due at least in part to high

turnover and short work weeks. Their earnings were less variable from week

to week, but variation was substantial relative to the average, see Figure


....... Non-Harvest Hourly


100 -

---- Harvest. Pec

. .

I 1 18 20 22 24 26 2
14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28

30 32

34 36 38 40 42 44 46 48 60

Figure 16.

- Average Earnings, by weeks, Cabbage Division, South Bay Growers,
Inc., 1981-82 Season.


200 -

*........Nop Hrvest, Hourly

--*. Harvest, Hourly





28 30 32 34 36 38 40

Figure 17. Average Earnings, by
Inc., 1981-82 Season.

weeks, Pepper Division, South Bay Growers,



General Management Philosophy

South Bay Growers, Inc., .follows. an unstructured, decentralized manage-

ment policy .promulgated by the company's Vice President and General

Manager. His philosophy assumes mutual trust and fair play rather than

rigid rules and division of responsibility. He leaves a wide attitude to

his mid-and lower-level managers and supervisors. Very few standards of

behavior are officially promulgated and managers are expected to perform at

their highest capabilities and produce a quality product for the lowest

possible cost.

The conversion of the firm from- a cooperative to a subsidiary of a

publicly-owned corporation has required some formalization, especially in

bookkeeping functions. At the time this study was conducted the firm did

not have an employees' handbook or other objective sources of personnel

information. In order to obtain the information reported in the following

sections interviews were conducted with personnel throughout the firm, in-

cluding the Vice President and General Manager, the Assistant General

Manager, heads of the farming divisions and other personnel on executive

salary, and field supervisors as well as farm workers. A total of 32

persons employed by South Bay Growers were interviewed to obtain the infor-

mation which follows. In addition to the firm personnel, the researchers

interviewed 15 persons from the South Bay/Belle Glade community. The

results of these interviews are presented in the section on community relat-


Recruitment and Hiring

South Bay Growers' overall personnel policy objective has been to de-

velop a stable, professional workforce capable of sustained production and

rigid quality control. This objective has forced the firm to avoid the

traditional day-hire approach of many of the smaller growers in the area.

Day-hire workers assemble at well-known pick-up points in the various local

towns, of which the "ramp" in Belle Glade is the most notorious. Crew

bosses from various area farms bring trucks and busses to these pick-up

points to bid for workers. South Bay Growers has a policy against such

hiring, and only occasionally resorts to employing day-hire workers in cases

of extreme emergency. In the 1981-82 season the pepper division occasional-

ly did such hiring.


South Bay Growers has no formal seniority or- recall system. However,

it has a well-known and widely-respected policy of rehiring previous

employees whose performance is satisfactory, and seasonal employees know

they have a job in the ensuing season if they choose to work there.

The system is. slightly more formalized for migrant workers living in

family housing. They may reserve housing for the coming season, and may

store their belongings with the company during the summer months for a small

monthly fee.

Most of South Bay Growers' seasonal employment is crew work, and sea-

sonal employees are usually hired by the crew supervisors (foremen), in some

cases subject to approval at higher levels. In lettuce, this policy is a

practical, necessity, since: lettuce, crews migrate and are home-based in Texas

and the Southwest. They arrive in Florida already organized into crews.

Some crews who work in celery at South Bay Growers during the winter and are

homebased in the South Bay area, also migrate up the East Coast or into the

Midwest for the summer harvests.

.Nearly .all foremen have been employees of the company or its

predecessor farms for many years. Their general approach to recruitment is

to contact the crew members from preceding seasons first to obtain commit-

ments to return. Any jobs remaining available or that become available

during the season are filled with new applicants. In interviews with the

foreman researchers found that the notion of "overt" recruitment was foreign

to them. Most stated that their positions with the company were so well

known in the community that they had a continuous list of job seekers from

which to pick and informal networks for contacting potential workers if


South Bay Growers has nurtured a special relationship with its lettuce

harvesting crews. Today, the company is in almost constant contact with the

crews, even when they are harvesting in other states, since the South Bay

marketing staff markets this out-of-state production. South Bay Growers has

also employed over the years a quasi-personnel manager for the lettuce

crews. This employee, who is harvest manager of one of the lettuce

divisions and a registered farm labor contractor, has traditionally handled

most of the communications between the lettuce crews and the company. He

also handles problems when they arise and is on hand to translate if neces-

sary. Most of the lettuce harvesters at South Bay Growers are Mexican or

Philippino and migrate to South Florida for the lettuce season. Lettuce

harvesting is highly-skilled work requiring experienced professional workers

who earn relatively high hourly piece rate wages.

Some workers in the celery division, most of whom are local resident

lack workers, are also organized into crews. Most of them stay in the

south Bay area and report back to work when contacted by their crew supervi-

ors. One crew travels to New York to harvest celery during the summer

months but returns to the Glades area before harvesting begins in the

all. In.celery, as in lettuce, the foreman (and forewomen) actually assem-

le the crews, and there is little turnover on these crews.

Recall of seasonal workers in the corn, pepper, and cabbage division is

uch more informal, and for pepper is almost non-existent. Foremen contact

a many of their previous workers as they can and fill in with new job

seekers, most of whom contact them seeking work. Work in these commodities

s sporadic and turnover- is high. The foremen stated that individuals

frequently wait at the points where the company's busses stop for their

egular- workers. New workers are usually not hired on-the-spot, but this

ften- turns out to be the initial contact that leads to employment.

occasionally, in. the pepper division, on-the-spot hires are made at the

ramp." In the past few years immigration into South Florida has been so

eavy that job seekers outnumber available jobs.

The farm managers hire the non-harvest workers in the different divi-

ions. Recall is virtually unnecessary for these positions, i.e., the

igher-skilled positions of driver, welder, and. mechanic. Most of these

srkers- have up to eleven months of work each year and for all practical

arposes are year around employees of South Bay Growers. When one of these

positions needs filling, farm managers promote from among current employees,

wve a harvest worker from a crew to the permanent workforce, or use their

formal networks to contact potential new employees. Most of these workers

Lye permanently in the- Glades area and remain there during the summer



South Bay Growers relies heavily on its foremen to hire seasonal

harvest and production personnel and, in effect, handle all of the personnel

functions of the firm except payroll. Semi-permanent workers, i.e.,

drivers, technicians, shop workers.,. etc., are hired by the farm managers.

The farm managers usually depend on their informal networks to locate an

employee when one is needed, and often have waiting lists. The Florida

State Job Service is also contacted on occasion when a position is open.

More frequently the Florida State Job Service contacts the farm managers

when it has an applicant who appears to have skills needed by the company.

One farm manager stated that he hires good applicants even when they are not

needed. He claimed that it was always possible to find work for them until

a position requiring their skill becomes available, and that it is better to

employ surplus talent rather than not have it when needed.

South Bay Growers has sharply separated the personnel functions of its

farm and non-farm operations. The latter employs packing-house and other

technical or support personnel not directly involved in farm production.

Scheduling Arrivals of Migratory Workers

Although the company would prefer that migratory workers not arrive at

South Bay Growers until the season starts, it allows workers to move into

housing up to a month in advance, if necessary. Early arrival is not usu-

ally a problem, although poor harvests in Wisconsin and New York sometime

cause workers to show up early in South Bay.

Workers with families who live in Villa Lago or the company's other

family housing units are charged rent for their housing. If early arrivals

are unable to pay their rent, South Bay Growers will defer the rent and

collect it through payroll deductions once work starts. The company will

provide deposits so workers can obtain utility connections. The company

does not charge rent to workers who live in barracks-type housing and they

are permitted to occupy the housing early if necessary. The company

provides no food service directly to employees.

Recordkeeping and Identification

South Bay Growers has a strict policy of requiring employees to show

proof of their legal right to work. Before any worker is hired the worker

must submit two pieces of identification to the foreman or supervisor. One

of these must be a Social Security card, and the other usually a Florida

State identification card with photograph (which the state provides free in

lieu of a driver's license). The division supervisor makes copies of these

identification cards and keeps them on file in the division offices.

Workers must also fill-out a South Bay Growers employee card. This card

contains the basic information the firm keeps on each employee, and a copy

of it goes to the payroll division for use in making up the payroll

programs. The payroll division also maintains W-4 forms for Federal tax

withholding purposes and Social Security deductions.

Faced with the likely prospect of federal immigration control legisla-

tion and increased apprehension activity by the Immigration and Naturaliza-

tion Service, South Bay Growers has intensified its efforts to assure that

all employees possess documentation of legal right to work. This is now one

of the few areas for which the company has strict, company-wide policies.

Newly-hired local workers may not be picked up at pick-up points unless they

have identification in hand. Workers showing up at job sites may not work

more than the first day without showing; documentation. Migatory crew fore-

men are instructed to ensure that all workers arrive with acceptable identi-

fication. The payroll office will not issue paychecks to workers for whom a

social security number and worker identification card are not on file.

Work Contracts.

South Bay Growers does not provide written work agreements or contracts

to employees except to lettuce harvesters, as required by the Farm Labor

Contractor Registration Act (now Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker

Protection Act). The lettuce harvester contract, provided in both English

and Spanish, covers: the work to be performed; conditions of the

employment; provisions of transportation and housing by the company; wage

rates and other benefits to be provided by the employer; and detailed rules

for occupying South Ray Growers' housing. The contract states that the farm

labor contractor may make no charges for providing these services. Separate

contracts are written for dry pack ("naked") and cello-wrap lettuce.

Job Training

South Bay Growers provides skill training for seasonal workers infor-

mally on-the-job under the direction of crew foremen. Most jobs are un-

skilled, entry-level jobs. Workers newly hired into these jobs are usually

assigned to work-with an experienced worker until he or she becomes profi-


Worker training on the lettuce harvesting crews is a lengthy, compli-

cated process and is maintained and enforced completely within the crew

itself. In effect, the crew operates like a craft guild, with a prescribed

series of steps and apprenticeships up through the ranks to the "Master".

This process of peer-imposed skill training was imported to Florida from

California, where the system developed. Workers usually start as

"waterboys," who walk up and down the picking row behind the cutters spray-

ing the exposed buts of lettuce with water after they have been packed. The

.next..three levels. of employment and, supposedly, of skill, are closing (the

boxes), packing (the boxes), and cutting (the lettuce). Other ancillary

tasks, e.g., stitching the boxes, are also required during the harvest oper-

ations but these are not part of the traditional closer-packer-cutter promo-

tion system. Nonharvest operations are also relatively skilled jobs, e.g.,

blocking the mounds of soil in which the lettuce grows, thinning the young

plants to make room for the single, desired lettuce head.

For the more skilled positions, formal training is common. Supervisors

regularly send their foremen, machine operators., etc., to training programs

at the local technical school. Courses include driving and maintenance,

ignition electronics, welding, and similar subjects.

Safety Training

Safety training at South Bay Growers is more formalized than occupa-

tional skill training. The company has a Safety Director who reports di-

rectly to the General Manager on safety issues. As Safety Director he moni-

tors workman's compensation claims, general and auto liability claims, and

acts as adjuster in the firm's self-insurance program. -Another part of his

role as Safety Director is to conceive and organize safety training activi-

ties which include safety consciousness raising and specific safety skills

such as first aid, fork-lift safety, pesticide handling, and shop safety.

However, no safety training. is directed specifically at the field production

and harvesting workforce. The Safety Director is not a full-time function;

he has other responsibilities as well.

The Safety Director has organized a supervisors' "Safety Committee"

which meets monthly to discuss safety problems and solutions. He apppoints

a "safety chairman" from among the committee to plan and direct the commit-

tee's agenda for each meeting.

The Safety Director also analyzes the "Foreman's Report of Injury"'

forms which foremen must submit after any accident on the job. The Safety

Director also receives monthly and annual reports from the agency which

services the firm's workman's compensation claims. These reports display

claims by type of accident, location, severity, etc., and based on this data

the Safety Director makes needed changes or speaks with the responsible


According to the Safety Director, the firm's 50 forklifts result in the

greatest amount of lost time. Another common complaint results from scrapes

and scratches in the celery division. Over-the-road vehicles around South

Bay also cause accidents, especially during sugar season when local truck

traffic is heavy.


Payroll Operations

South Bay Growers pays all farm employees individually by check once a

week. A central payroll office handles all payroll functions for the farm,

packinghouse, and administrative staff. The payroll system is computerized.

Paydays of the different divisions fall on different days to spread out the

work load.


At the start of the weekly pay period divisions receive computer-gener-

ated payroll forms listing the names and social security numbers of all em-

ployees on the "active" payroll (persons hired and not terminated). Foremen

enter payroll information on these forms daily under the division super-

visor's..control. Persons newly-employed during the payroll period are added

to the end of the list. The payroll office is also notified of new hires

and given the required documentation. After documentation is complete the

new-employee receives an employee number and an entry on the payroll master

file. The payroll system will not write paychecks for workers not entered

on the master file, and thus will not issue paychecks to workers who have

not provided proper documentation.

Workers receive paychecks at the job site on paydays. Workers absent

on payday pick up paychecks at the payroll office in South Bay.

Rate Setting

South Bay Growersi when- setting rates, believes- it should "stay ahead

of the competition." The "competition" is other- vegetable employment,

although sugar cane generally pays more for comparable work. South Bay

Growers also strive to provide productive work opportunities and as steady

employment as possible throughout the season.

South- Bay- Gkowers employs workers- at- both hourly and piece- rates, de-

pending upon the task and commodity. The specific piece rate methods used

have evolved over time. Most piece rates are crew piece rates, i.e., based

on the production of the entire crew. Various jobs in the crews receive

proportions of the total crew compensation, depending on the job performed.

Workers usually receiving piece rates may earn hourly. wages at the

beginning of the season until production increases sufficiently to make

piece rate earnings more advantageous. In most divisions, the company pays

hourly rates above the $3.35 per hour minimum wage.

Upper management, including the Vice President and General Manager,

review rates for all divisions and tasks in early fall of each year. The

Review consists .of.. the .solicitation of opinions and information from

supervisors and division managers, and an informal survey of pay scales

offered by other vegetable growers in the area. Evaluation of pay rates

also includes consideration of unit costs of-production.

Rates almost always increase from year to year, but division managers

must present a case for the increases. In the 1981-82 season, the period

covered by this report, workers in some divisions received a larger than

normal increase to compensate for implementation of rental charges on all of

the firm's family housing. Foremen are informed of the rates offered by

South Bay in sufficient time to inform their workers before they start work.

South Bay Growers has no policy for handling rate disputes. The firm

has also never experienced a serious, sustained dispute over wages.

Pay Rates by Division


Lettuce harvesting at South Bay Growers is paid on a crew piece rate

system which originated in California. According to South Bay Growers'

management, Florida rates are slightly below California's rates because

Florida offers longer employment.

The company's payroll records do not identify workers by occupational

classification. Thus it is not possible to determine earnings separately

for classes of workers. However, lettuce harvest workers paid piece rates

earned an average of $270 to $287 weekly for the 1981-82 season of 24 weeks.


The Celery Division at South Bay Growers uses two combined hourly/piece

rate systems, one for planting and one for harvesting, which were developed

by the Assistant General Manager.

The planting piece .rate is a group rate for two tasks: pulling the

small seedlings from the seedbeds and bunching them in cartons for transfer

to the fields, and setting of the plants in the field. "Pullers" and

"setters" together receive-a group piece rate based on the number of rows or

throughh" of celery planted each day. "Throughs" are whole rows. After a

certain minimum number of through each day, both planters and setters earn

a piece rate premium in addition to their regular hourly earnings. If a

through is more than half-completed at the end of the-day, the crew receives

credit for the whole row. R~ws less- than half completed at the end of the

day are completed and credited the-following day.

Celery harvest- workers also receive a combination piece/hourly rate.

These, workers: work in crew.- of 30 or: more. on a large- harvesting machine.

Workers- cut, trim, and pack the celery. The crew receives a group rate

based on a minimum number of cartons per day, plus a bonus for each carton

above the minimum.

All other seasonal field jobs in celery production and harvesting re-

ceive hourly pay.

In the 1981-82 season, celery harvest workers paid piece rates averaged

$176 weekly. Workers paid hourly averaged $4.68 per hour.

Corn, Cabbage and Peppers

Most workers in the corn, cabbage and pepper divisions receive hourly

rates at or near the statutory minimum rate* Corn harvesting and some



cabbage are paid at piece rates. Employment levels, piece rates, and length

of work weeks vary widely in these divisions.

Workers paid piece rates averaged $117 weekly in corn harvesting and

$85 weekly in cabbage harvesting. Harvest workers paid hourly averaged

About $3.50 an hour.


South Bay Growers' seasonal and permanent farmworkers receive benefits

in addition to cash wages and salaries. Benefits vary from division to

division, and some benefit policies have been carried over from previous

owners of parts of the present-day firm. South Bay managers interviewed for

this study noted that over the years company benefits have become increas-

ingly standardized. They expect this trend to continue, and are in the

process of developing an employee handbook to explain and document benefit



South Bay Growers regularly pays production bonuses at the end of the

season to all workers except harvest workers in the corn, pepper, and

cabbage division. The amount of this bonus varies from year to year, de-

pendng on the company's profits, but usually falls within the range of 2.5

to 5 percent of the worker's gross earnings. Workers receive the bonuses at

the end of the harvest.

The Vice President and General Manager approve bonuses to supervisory

personnel relying heavily on the advice of the division managers.


South Bay Growers provides health insurance only to a group of lettuce

workers who were already receiving company-financed insurance when the

lettuce operations were purchased by South Bay Growers. The company pays 75

.percent of life and hospitalization insurance premiums for these workers.

South Bay Growers' farmworkers are covered by workmens compensation

which is required by Florida state law.

In contrast to field workers, packinghouse employees participate in a

company-sponsored health insurance program. South Bay Growers' managers

explain the differences between insurance benefits for packinghouse and farm

workers as resulting from: (1) farmworkers' opportunities to earn

significantly higher wages than packinghouse workers, and (2) the

reluctance of insurance carriers to provide coverage because of the

administrative problems created by high employee turnover.


South Bay Growers provides free transportation in company busses

between employees' company housing or home communities and the work site.

Workers live as far away as Clewiston and Belle Glade, and company busses go

to centralized pick-up points in these- towns each morning and afternoon.

Although the firm discourages workers from driving personal vehicles to the

fields because of lack of parking spaces, workers may do so. Workers seem

to bring their cars only when they know they must leave early or have an

errand after work. Workers who live far from a central pick-up point may

drive to the worksite on .a regular basis. The company will provide bus

transportation to all worksites, if requested.


South Bay Growers provides paid vacations for some employees down to

and including the tractor drivers, mechanics, and foremen. Length of paid

vacation is determined by seniority according to the following schedule:

S year's employment 1 week vacation
2 year's employment = 2 weeks vacation
3 year's employment 3 weeks vacation
5 or more year's employment.- 4 weeks vacation

In addition to paid vacations South Bay Growers also sponsors company

financed division meetings each year in various resort areas, including the

Florida Keys, the Bahamas, the West Coast, etc. The trios, which include

management and supervisory personnel down to the foreman level, are consid-

ered a reward for good performance and also provide an opportunity to review

plans and policies for the coming year in an informal setting.


South Bay Growers maintains 252 units of family housing and 15 housing

units for single workers (with a total capacity of 500 workers) which it

makes available to employees migrating into the South Bay area for seasonal

employment. One of the family housing facilities, Villa Lago, has attracted

nation-wide attention for its high quality.

South Bay Growers employs a full-time housing director and staff who

administer and maintain all the company housing. The housing manager

assigns specific housing units and maintains discipline in the housing


Barracks-style housing for single workers is provided free. Most sin-

gle worker houses have central kitchens, and workers provide and pay for


their own meals on a cooperative, cost-sharing basis, including the wages of

the cooks. South Bay Growers provides utilities, and transports noon meals

to the work site when workers cannot return to the housing for lunch.

Prior to the 1981-82 season different policies on rental charges pre-

vailed for family housing in different divisions of the company. These had

been carried over from the different farms before they came under control of

South Bay Growers. In 1981-82 the company instituted a uniform rental

policy for all employees occupying. family housing, and made corresponding

adjustments in pay policies, i.e., pay rates were raised. The weekly rent

charges for the 1981-82 season are shown in the table below.

1 bedroom $35 per week plus utilities
2 bedrooms $40 per week plus utilities
3 bedrooms-- $45 per week plus utilities

Housing Assignments-

South Bay Growers. assigns, single, housing, or barracks housing, on a

first-come, first-served basis. The company has sufficient single housing

for all eligible employees who request it. Specific housing areas are as-

signed to specific divisions, i.e., lettuce and celery. All of the singles

housing is for male workers. Each eligible worker who requests housing

receives a; housing assignment- from the- supervisor when hired. The worker-

then presents the form to the housing director before moving in.

The firm allocates family housing units to specific divisions. The two

lettuce divisions, with the most out-of-area migrant families, receive most

of the family housing assignments. After the family needs of the lettuce

division are met, most of the remaining units are assigned to the celery


The several divisions allocate housing assignments somewhat

differently. In one lettuce division the foremen make commitments for

family housing to certain workers at the end of the season, before they

travel north to harvest in Wisconsin. The other lettuce division makes

housing assignments on a first-come,'first-served basis. In celery, foremen

refer workers asking about housing to the division manager, who makes the

assignment if housing is available. In all cases, the housing director can

veto the assignments based on a particular worker's record in company

housing. If a worker approaches the housing director about housing availa-

bility, the housing director always refers the worker to the appropriate

foreman or division manager.


Like many employers of seasonal farm labor in the United States, South

Bay Growers is often approached by workers who must borrow money before the

season starts. At South Bay these loans are usually for utility deposits at

South Bay family housing. The company makes such loans up to $200; for

larger amounts the employee must formally apply to the company credit

union. All loans are repaid through payroll deductions.


South Bay Growers provides most equipment needed by its workers:

knives, tools, and aprons. In one division workers bring their own gloves

and in another they buy them from the firm at wholesale prices. If a worker

needs a second knife he or she must buy it from the firm at cost. Workers

bring their own footware for working in the muck. Mechanics traditionally

provide their own tools.

Miscellaneous Benefits

The Palm Beach County school board operates a child day-care center

with financial support of the company. Hourly workers are often credited

with extra time at the beginning and the end of the work day if conditions

are bad or the harvest is particularly good. The firm gives a turkey to

employees with families at Christmas, but more importantly children of em-

ployees may apply for the firm's annual college scholarship. A group of

community leaders select the winner and determine the award amount based on

where the recipient is going to college.

Supervision and Control

South Bay Grower's management depends heavily on division managers and

lower-level supervisory personnel in control functions. Few formal proce-

dures exist, leaving considerable leeway for the personal styles of indivi-

dual managers. The firm's top' management depends on subordinates to solve

problems and is reluctant to overrule a lower-level decision. However, the

firm's top management maintains an "open door" policy and will hear disputes

and help solve problems if needed.

Quality Control

Product quality is the major competitive criterion in the fresh vegeta-

ble market and South Bay Growers is highly sensitive to this fact. Division

managers have direct responsibility for quality control in their divisions.

Quality control, though subjective, is maintained by frequent and quick

communications among supervisors in the field and the packinghouse, sales

officers, and commodity buyers,0 Managers receive- regular quality reports

from the packinghouse fieldmen as the product is received and from the sales

office where the sales staff receive reports on quality problems directly

-from customers. There is no formal statistical quality control information


South Bay. Growers; considers its ability to maintain an experienced,

quality-conscious workforce as critically important to its marketing and

quality assurance programs. In lettuce and celery the product is packaged

in the field and workers must be cognizant of, and have a keen appreciation

for the quality of their work.

Production Control

Piece rate pay systems are the principal means by which South Bay

Growers assures adequate performance by its employees. In most operations,

piece rates are group piece rates, which adds peer pressure to maintaining

high performance levels. Although managers report that they must occasion-

ally slow crews down to maintain acceptable quality, apparently little con-

flict arises between quality needs and the piece rate pay system. Manage-

ment can also slow down the machine-controlled operations in celery and

cello-wrapped lettuce.

The sales office controls the volume of work each day. Division mana-

gers and the sales office are in constant communication about product move-

ment or sales., and when the movement is poor, work days are shortened or a

work day is skipped. The company tries to avoid downtime, but when it

occurs it is compensated on an hourly basis. If work stops and then starts

again, workers receive hourly wages for the waiting time. If workers are

called in for work but do not work, they are paid for two hours of "report-

ing time." Workers are sometimes .put on standby, i.e., they are asked to


stay in or near the barracks for a possible call to start work. They are

not paid for this standby time.

At the end of the day production comes to a halt -for virtually all

workers at the same time, although truck drivers may still be delivering to

the packinghouse and coolers. Crew leaders maintain records on hours worked

and report these data to the division bookkeeper. Thus production is moni-

tored by the crews, the division bookkeeper, and the packinghouse. In the

lettuce and celery crews, one worker, such as the stitcher, maintains a

count of the number of units produced. The harvest foreman or an assistant

also keeps a count of the number of units produced. The harvest foreman or

an assistant also keeps a count of the production leaving the field, and the

packinghouse keeps- a record of receipts at the gate* Small differences in

these counts occasionally occur, and they are- resolved by compromise,

At the end of the season the division managers usually reduce the

number of work days each week in order to keep everyone working as long as

possible. When:workers- must be laid off, crew leaders decide, who to lay off

first. However, workers are usually eager to move northward into the migra-

tory stream, and management is more concerned with keeping sufficient

workers to finish the harvest than with having to lay workers off.

Discipline and Grievances

South Bay Growers has no formal procedure for discipline. Most divi-

sions managers stated that they prefer to give three warnings before firing

the employee. They sometimes terminate workers without warning for serious

offenses such as drinking, smoking marijuana, or fighting on the job.

Apparently, few firings occur; one manager reported firing only one person

in three years. Discipline largely takes care of itself within the long-


standing crews; they travel and live and work together, and tolerate little

deviant behavior which might decrease the crew's earnings.

Should employees have a complaint against a supervisor, he or she can

proceed up the management ladder all the way to the General Manager.
.. ~ .. i .


History of the Project

When South Bay Growers developed the Villa Lago project the firm was

still a cooperative. Most of the co-op's housing at that time was barracks-

type dwellings for single workers, supplemented by some employer-owned mi-

grant family housing.. Most of South Bay's migrant workers were single

males. Workers with families rented housing in the area. According to

company management, this rental housing was not overcrowded but it was com-

parable to other migrant family housing in the area at that time, i.e., poor


In 1968, after several years of experimentation with iceburg lettuce

production, South Bay Growers decided to establish a small-scale, commercial

iceburg lettuce operation. Iceburg lettuce was not. grown commercially in

Florida, at that time. and no local, skilled lettuce harvesters were

available. The company arranged for a small crew of experienced lettuce

harvesters to come to South Bay from Texas. These workers had developed

their skills in the California lettuce industry and in Wisconsin.

The lettuce harvesters were Hispanic, and travelled in family units.

Indeed the crews were extended "families" of relatives and friends and they

were proud, well paid workers. Upon arrival in Florida they were displeased

with the family housing available to them. Although this small crew agreed

to remain through the season, and to return in subsequent seasons, it was

clear to South Bay's management that in order to attract and retain a

sufficient number of skilled lettuce harvesters for a commercial iceburg

lettuce enterprise, the.quantity and quality of migrant family housing must

be upgraded.

:By 1970 the firm was ready to expand its. lettuce production into a

major part of its operation. Planning for this expansion included consider-

ation of the housing problem. Company officials, after consulting with

employees about their housing needs and desires, first began to seriously

consider a major, new, seasonal worker housing development in 1973. A down-

turn in the local construction industry in 1974 provided an opportune time

to begin the project.

South Bay Growers' decision to expand into lettuce production had im-

plications for its hiring patterns. The large scale production of lettuce

involved demanding production technology and marketing standards which, in

turn, required a highly skilled and reliable work force. Since the market

for lettuce is highly competitive, only a top quality product is assured a

strong, steady demand. The economies of production also required that

lettuce be trimmed, washed and packed in, the field and moved quickly to

market. These operations required skilled and experienced crews. Such

workers were not available from the local area. The large-scale production

of lettuce had already developed professional lettuce harvest crews in Cali-

fornia and South Bay Growers needed a similar workforce in order to compete

in the large, urban, East coast markets.

Moreover, South Bay Growers felt that the timing of this move was

right. Significant changes were evident in the food consumption patterns of

American consumers* A new awareness of the nutritional value of low-

calorie, fresh fruits and vegetables, and the rapid growth and popularity of

the salad bar resulted in an expanding market for lettuce and other leaf

crops. Freshness and quality are crucial factors in wholesale and retail

purchasing decisions. Market penetration demanded the upgrading of produc-

tion technology and the workforce in the field.

The decision to implement large-scale lettuce production presented

South Bay Growers with a problem of labor quality rather than Quantity.

South Bay Growers needed skilled lettuce workers who could be relied upon to

return season after season and remain in the fields until the harvest was

completed. Adequate housing seemed to be the key .to this labor need.

The management of South Bay Growers considered it their responsibility

to "develop and retain an adequate labor supply." With what can only be

considered as almost prescient foresight the General Manager at South Bay

Growers pressed on with his plans to build Villa Lago despite considerable

skepticism from his member growers. Given the housing conditions in the

area at that time, the decision to build Villa Lago must have seemed more

extreme than it does today. It represented a radical departure-from exist-

ing employer- practices and even today has few, if any, counterparts anywhere

in the United States-. In building Villa Lago, both humanitarian and practi-

cal goals were achieved at the; same time; it served and facilitated the

needs, and- interests of both the employer- and the- workers. In the- words of

the General Manager: "Housing is a necessity; and we may as well make it

work for us rather than against us."

The Search for Financing

Developing the funds for a $3.2 million project was no easy task.

Several avenues of funding were explored, including public agencies. In

general, the agencies' regulations were either too stringent, or conflicted

so sharply with management's objectives and values that the project was

finally funded privately. The following were the major funding alternatives



1. The Department of Housing and Urban DeveloDment (HUD). HUD had

funds available for low income housing. However, the skilled farm workers

who would be living at Villa Lago earned, on the average, considerably more

than most farm workers and exceeded HUD's income ceiling for residents of

'its housing. projects'. This factor quickly removed 'that agency's low-

interest housing loans from consideration.

2. The firm's contacts with Farmers' Home Administration (FmHA), USDA,

were more extensive. South Bay's General Manager discussed the development

with the FmHA state director in Gainesville. The project and construction

plans won FmHA's approval for nine percent interest financing, the standard

rate for migrant and seasonal farmworker housing. However, negotiations with

FmHA eventually floundered on an FmHA requirement that a proportion of the

housing units be available for and rented to persons not necessarily associ-

ated with or employed by South Bay Growers. After examining this require-

ment closely, South Bay Growers decided to abandon the attempt to obtain

FmHA financing. Because as the General Manager stated: "We had no interest

in getting into the public housing business."

3. The firm next attempted. to obtain mortgage financing from local

financial institutions. However, the size of the loan exceeded the lending

limits in the small rural community.

4. Finally, South Bay's management turned to a life insurance company

which was active in agricultural real estate lending in the area, and from

which South Bay Growers had already borrowed to finance the purchase of

production acreage. By mortgaging the project and some of South Bay's agri-

cultural acreage, a $3.2 million loan was approved. The amount was suffi

cient to build the project and the life insurance company's interest rate

was 8.5 percent, compared with the nine percent originally offered by FmHA.

The Housing Project

The Villa Lago project is a community of 192 duplex units. The two-

unit duplexes feature a unique design in which one moveable panel allows

configurations of two two-bedroom units, -or one three-bedroom and one one-

bedroom unit. Units have also been rented with four-bedrooms.

The project has ample lawn area, is attractively landscaped, and has

paved streets. Each unit has a parking area. South Bay Growers provides

all maintenance of the units, and all services such as lawn care and refuse

collection. The units are furnished and include fully-equipped kitchens.

South Bay Growers even operates its own upholstery shop, where furniture is

repaired and re-upholstered when needed. All units are cleaned and painted

after each season.

The original project also included a laundry building, a chapel, and a

day-care center which also- serves as a community center. In 1976 South Bay

Growers, enlarged the- laundry- and added storage buildings for large items

workers wanted to store when they travel in the summer. Plans call for the

development of outdoor recreational facilities for older youths in the


Although many residents of Villa Lago still maintain what they consider

their permanent residences in the Southwest or Mexico, many live longer each

year at Villa Lago than anywhere else. Workers who remain through the full

lettuce season are in the area as long as 7 to 7 1/2 months.

Administration of Villa Lago

Assignment of Housing

South Bay Growers' original concept for Villa Lago was to provide hous-

ing: for: .seasonal .workers. However,. there was insufficient demand by

seasonal workers to fill all of the units when they were first built, and

some permanent employees were allowed to move in to achieve full

occupancy. Today permanent employees may move into the project only when

other permanent employees move out. Fewer than 50 of the 192 units are

occupied by year-round employees.

Each of the units occupied by seasonal workers is assigned to one of

the lettuce divisions or the celery division. While allocation of the hous-

ing units is formally under the control of the division managers, workers

who need housing tell their foremen, who in most cases make the housing

commitment. Workers who have been allocated housing receive an authoriza-

tion form which is presented to the Housing Director for assignment of a

specific unit.

The housing director will not assign housing without authorization from

the division involved, but has authority to deny housing to an applicant who

has been a poor tenant in the past.

Although the company prefers that workers arrive in the area at the

start of the season, it will, with the approval of the appropriate division

manager, allow workers to move-into company housing early if necessary.

This situation sometimes occurs when there has been less work in the

northern states during the summer than expected. When workers arrive early

and have no earnings, they may delay paying rent until after the season


- ._ .

Villa Lago Housing Project, South Bay Growers Inc., South Bay, Florida.

62 '

Policies for holding housing for returning workers, and for residents

over the summer months, differ for seasonal and permanent employees. Sea-

sonal employees may "reserve" housing if the division manager and the fore-

man agree and if the worker has a good record. Workers reserving housing

pay a $20 monthly fee when not in residence and may leave belongings in

their apartments. Seasonal employees may not occupy company housing over

the summer, even if they do not plan to migrate to other work.

Permanent employees may live in Villa Lago over the summer, though they

may in fact be out of work in July and August. These workers may not work

for any other employer as long as they live in Villa Lago.

Villa Lago occupants must be employed by South Bay Growers. Spouses

may work for governmental agencies or community service jobs, but no resi-

dent of Villa Lago may be employed by a private, profit-making employer

other than South Bay Growers.

Rental Rates

When Villa Lago first opened, a designated number of units was assigned

to certain employer members of the co-op. Co-op members were free to design

compensation and benefit policies as they choose. Some employers required

rent payments and paid higher wage rates, while others provided free housing

and paid lower rates.

When South Bay Growers acquired its members' operations it inherited a

variety of inconsistent policies. The company developed and gradually im-

plemented a uniform rental policy for all employees. However, the 1981-82

season was the first growing season in which the policy was uniformly


Today Villa Lago residents must sign a rental agreement before moving

in, and all residents must pay rent, which is deducted from paychecks. Only

the head of household pays this rent, though in fact several household

members may work at South Bay Growers. Workers pay utilities directly to

the utility companies, although. South Bay Growers indemnifies these


Three rental schedules are in effect at Villa Lago: one for permanent

employees whose wages vary with the season; another for permanent employees

whose wages remain the same through the year; and one for employees who

occupy the housing only during the season. Year-round employees whose earn-

ings increase during the harvesting season pay a higher rent during the

harvest season which covers their rent during the months when their earnings

are low or when they are not working.

In the 1981-82 season the rental rates at Villa Lago were:

Year-Round Employees Wages Constant

1 BR $30.00 weekly
2 BR $35.00 weekly
3 BR $42.50 weekly

Year-Round Employees Higher Wages In-Season

1 BR $50.00 for 30 weeks $0 for 22 weeks
2 BR $60.00 for 30 weeks $0 for 22 weeks
3 BR --$70.00 for 30 weeks -$0 for 22 weeks

Seasonal Employees Leave Area in Summer

1 BR $35.00 weekly during employment period
2 BR $40.00 weekly during employment period
3 BR $50.00 weekly during employment period
4 BR $75.00 weekly during employment period

($20 per month while on hold in the summer.)

^ -J


Conditions of Occupancy

A rental agreement is signed by each Villa Lago renter which specifies

in English and Spanish the community's rules and regulations. These are

enforced by the housing manager, whose office is in the development.

A $1P00 damage deposit is required of each renter. This deposit can be

paid at the .outset of occupancy or by weekly, $10 deductions from

paychecks. The deposit, less any chargeable damage, is returned when the

renter moves out. The company will also lend residents the required

deposits to have utilities turned on, if necessary, and collect these

deposits through payroll deductions.

Each dwelling is inspected once a month by the director of housing, to

determine needed repairs and to assure that houses and furnishings are being

properly cared for. Grounds maintenance is provided by the company. The

company strictly enforces rules on proper disposal of refuse and prohibits

such activities as major car repairs and the parking of non-functional vehi-

cles in the development. Pets are prohibited.

The director of housing handles minor complaints such as disputes be-

tween neighbors or complaints about noise. Major disciplinary problems are

referred to the local police but such problems in the community are rare.

Residents who repeatedly break rules such as speeding or littering may be

evicted; but this is also rare.

Income and Expenses

Table 2 shows income and some operating costs of Villa Lago for the

1978-79 through 1982-83 seasons. Because of changes in accounting

procedures during this period it was not possible to include insurance,

taxes, or capital costs (interest and depreciation) in the expense data.

Le 2. Income and Operating Costs,.Excluding Insurance, Taxes and Capital Cost, Vi
Lago Housing Facility, South Bay Growers, Inc., 1977-78 through 1982-83.

S1978-79 1979-80 1980-81 1981-82 1982-83

-- .... -1,000 dollars---
Rental 277 235 175 247 256
miscellaneous 23 29 26 30 44

Total Income 300 264 201 277 300

eating Costs
-ages and Salaries 108 133 147 165 169
their payroll costs 11 16 18 24 28
supplies & miscellaneous 38 50 40 45 69
tillties 33 32 41 47 54
pairs Maintenance 26 52 76 101 80

total Operating Costs 216 283 322 382 400
Operating Loss or Gain 84 19 -121 -105 -100

Operating Cost Per
tal Unit 1/ (+437.) 99.. 630. 547. 521.
i i1i i

rce: South Bay Growers, Inc.

Operating loss or gain divided

by 192 housing units.


Rentals provide the primary source of income. Miscellaneous income is

largely from the operation of the laundry (whose expenses are included in

the overall operating expenses for the development). Income has comprised

about 75 percent of operating costs (excluding insurance, taxes, and capital

costs) during the most recent two years.

Wages and, salaries are the largest operating expense. These include

the compensation of the Housing Director and office secretary and wages of

the buildings and grounds maintenance personnel.

For the past several years South Bay's net cost per unit has been in

excess of $500 plus insurance, taxes, and capital costs. If the units aver-

aged 2 working occupants employed 100 days during the season at an average

of 7 hours per day, the Villa Lago housing facility cost the company about

39 cents an hour in the 1981-82 season and 37 cents an hour in the 1982-83

season plus the cost of insurance, taxes, and capital costs.

Comparison of Employee Performance

Certain measures of "performance" of Villa Lago resident employees of

South Bay Growers, Inc., were compared with measures of non-Villa Lago resi-

dent employees2/ This comparison was confined to the three divisions in

which the vast majority of Villa Lago residents were employed: the two

lettuce divisions and the celery division. The comparison covered the com-

plete 1981-82 production and harvest season, July 1981 through June 1982.

It included a sample of Villa Lago residents who were employed by South Bay

2/It was not practical to identify which of the non-Villa Lago resident
employees lived in other company housing and which lived in the local com-

Growers during the season, both household heads (rent-payers) and other

employed household members, totalling 359 employees. These divisions also

employed 1145 non-Villa Lago residents during the 1981-82 season and this

group was randomly sampled at approximately 25 percent, see Table 6. All

employees in the sample were included in the comparison without regard to

duration of their employment during the season.

Payroll records for both groups of employees were analyzed and certain

measures of performance compared between the two groups. Most of these

measures related to reliability of labor supply, and included average number

of weeks worked during the season, average hours worked per week, average

days worked per week, absentee rates, and within-season turnover rates.

A direct comparison of hourly productivity although desirable, was not

possible- because of the fact that in. the three divisions where significant

numbers of Villa Lago residents were employed, all piece rate work was done

in groups, No individual worker production data existed. Group or crew

piece rate earnings were determined by the. production of the entire crew,

and crews included both Villa Lago and non-Villa Lago residents.

As a substitute for comparing productivity, a comparison of hourly

earnings of Villa Lago and non-Villa Lago residents was made, differences in

hourly earnings could result from one or more of (a) differences in produc-

tivity of crews in which the two groups of workers worked, (b) differences

in the occupational composition of the two groups, and (c) differences in

the earnings potential of the work assignments of the two groups, i.e., one

group getting "better picking" than the other.

While earnings potential can vary from field to field and day to day,

consistent differences in the earnings potential of workers' work

assignments over an entire season are unlikely and not considered by the

researchers to be a significant factor in explaining differences in hourly

earnings. However, a higher proportion of the Villa Lago workers than non-

Villa Lago workers were probably employed at the more skilled and higher-

paying tasks in the crews, though it was not practical to test this supposi-

tion. Thus differences in earnings between Villa Lago and non-Villa Lago

residents likely represents a combination of higher hourly productivity and

. a.greater. representation of higher paying jobs among the Villa Lago employee


Reliability of Work Force

Expressed in terms of weeks worked, absenteeism and turnover rates, the

performance of Villa Lago residents appeared to be generally superior to

that of other workers in their division. Villa Lago workers consistently

worked longer seasons, and generally had lower absenteeism and turnover than

other workers.

The data on hours worked per week were relatively inconclusive between

Villa Lago residents and non-Villa Lago residents. There was relatively

little difference in the hours worked per week between Villa Lago residents

and non-Villa Lago residents in the Celery Division and Lettuce Division

2. However, Lettuce Division 1 did evidence some difference with Villa Lago

residents worked longer hours, Table 3. On the other hand Villa Lago resi-

dents worked more weeks per season than non-Villa Lago residents in all

three divisions, Table 3. "Staying the season" is one of the most important

performance evaluation criteria for employers of seasonal agricultural

workers. However, differences in average weeks of work for Villa Lago

residents and other employees may result either from a lower within season

turnover rate among Villa Lago residents or a tendency on the part of the

Table 3. Average Hours of Work Per Week and Average Weeks Worked Per Season,
by Place of Residence, South Bay Growers, Inc., 1981-82 Season.

Average Hours Per Week Average Weeks of Work
Payroll Villa Lago Non-Villa Villa Lago Non-Villa
Division Residents Lago Residents Residents Lago Residents

-Number -
Celery Division
Nonharvest 45 46 34.0 29.3
Harvest 46 42 28.6 23.0

Lettuce Division 1
Nonharvest 63 49 19.2 15.1
Harvest 36 33 19.3 17.4

Lettuce Division 2
Nonharvest 48 49 20.8 13.5
Harvest 34 34 22.6 13.3

Sourte: Payroll Records of South Bay Growers, Inc.

company to employ these workers earlier and lay them off later than other

workers. The policy requiring employees to vacate company housing immedi-

ately upon voluntary termination of employment provides a strong incentive

against "job hopping" during the season.

Two measures of absenteeism were developed from payroll data. The

first, called the "Absentee Rate" in Table 4, shows the proportion of work

weeks in which a. worker was absent from work for one or more days. For

example in Table 4, on the Celery, Non-Harvest payroll, in 26 percent of the

work weeks a Villa Lago worker was absent one or more days. Since payroll

records did not differentiate, all absences, excused and unexcused, were

included. In all but one case, the absentee rate of Villa Lago residents

was below that of other employees.

The second measure of absenteeism illustrated in Table 4, is the number

of days absent. This measure is expressed by the ratio of days absent to

the total days worked. This ratio is more influenced by the duration of

absence while the Absentee Rate is more sensitive to the frequency of

absence. In four of the six groups analyzed, the Villa Lago residents had

lower percentages of workdays absent. In one case the ratio favored non-

Villa Lago residents and in one case the ratios were essentially equal for

the two groups.

A measure of in-season turnover was also calculated by expressing the

total number of workers during the season in each group as a ratio of the

peak number working at any one time in the group. If there had been no

turnover during the season, the ratio would be one. The greater the ratio,

the higher the turnover. The turnover ratio among Villa Lago residents was

lower in two out of the three divisions.

e 4. Employee Absentee Rate, Percent of Workdays Absent, and In-Season Turnover Rate
Place of Residence, South Bay Growers, Inc., 1981-82 Seasonl/.

Absentee Rate Percent Days Absent Turnover Rate2/
Villa Non-Villa Villa Non-Villa Villa Non-Vi
o11 Lago Lago Lago Lago Lago Lago
.sion Residents Residents Residents Residents Residents Residei

recent ------Ratio--

try Division
lonharvest 26 33 7.1 11.2 1.101.19
harvest 19 26 5.0 9.7 1.131.24

:uce Division I
lonharvest 25 31 8.8 10.01 1.501.44
harvest 19 25 6.4 6.3 1.321.22

:uce Division 2
ronharvest 15 10 4.5 3.9 1.241.76
harvest 11 15 3.4 4.6 1.071.46

ir definition of terms, see text.
ital workers divided by peak employment.
rce: Payroll Records of South Bay Growers, Inc.

Earnings and Productivity

Comparison of average earnings of Villa Lago and non-Villa Lago workers

reflect both differences in productivity and differences in the skill mix,

i.e., more of the higher earning skilled workers being housed in Villa

'Lago.. It was not possible to separate the. influence of these two factors.

Nevertheless, Table 5 shows that Villa Lago residents had higher average

hourly earnings than non-Villa Lago residents except among the Harvest

workers in Lettuce Division 1. However, since Villa Lago workers generally

worked longer work weeks than non-Villa Lago workers, they had higher

average weekly earnings than non-Villa Lago workers in all cases.

Summary of Performance Comparisons

The comparison of performance of Villa Lago residents and non-Villa

Lago residents was made "after the fact" from data that could be developed

from available payroll records and did not result from a controlled experi-

ment and redesigned data collection techniques. Payroll records are de-

signed to '(1) fairly compensate those individuals who were at work each day,

(2) provide an internal accounting of labor costs by function and division,

and (3) provide sufficient records to substantiate compliance with wage and

hour, and other laws. Since the records were not designed for the study's

purpose, it was necessary to try to obtain the maximum amount of information

out of existing payroll records. These circumstances introduced ambiguities

into interpretation of the data and limited the inferences that could be


The overall picture which emerges is that the reliability and

productivity of the Villa Lago resident work force was superior to the

remaining work force. This is especially noteworthy when considered in the

tble 5. Average Hourly Earnings and Average
Residence, South Bay Growers, -Inc.,

Weekly Earnings, by Place of
1981-82 Season.

Average Hourly Earnings Average Weekly Earnings
tyroll Villa Lago Non-Villa Villa Lago Non-Villa
Lvision Residents Lago Residents Residents Lago Residents

---- Dollars-- Dollars

lery Division
Nonharvest 4.86 4.39 219. 202.
*Harvest 4.39 4.19 202. 176.

attuce Division 1
Nonharvest 4.56 4.37 287. 214.
Harvest 7.05 7.61 255. 251.

attuce Division 2

Nonharvest 4.27 4.06 205. 199.
Harvest 9.74 7.85 331. 258.

:urce: Payroll records of South Bay Growers, Inc.

light of the fact that South Bay Growers' overall work force and labor

practices are considered to be models, and that performance standards of the

non Villa Lago work force at South Bay Growers is probably itself above


The relationship- between .employee ..benefits (such as housing) and

employee performance is complex and causalities are difficult to

establish. A relevant question: is whether more capable workers were

attracted to South Bay Growers because of the exemplory housing as opposed

to workers being more productive because of the housing. Attributing some

validity to this reasoning would suggest that the study dealt with a

different population than the non Villa Lago workers, rather than a single

population which reacted positively to better than average housing benefits.

The implications of this difference is important to other seasonal

agricultural employers considering similar housing investments. Providing

Villa Lago type housing to existing employees may not result in the same

performance differences observed at South Bay Growers. On the other hand,

providing superior housing may attract a more productive work force than the

present one. This is, however, a different strategy than upgrading the

housing of current employees. In examining such a project, the potential

employer should consider alternative fringe benefits in keeping with the

interests of the workers he wants to attract.

Villa Lago was developed to attract and retain a skilled seasonal work

force which the firm perceived could not be attracted in sufficient numbers

without significantly improving the quantity and quality of seasonal migra-

tory housing. Its experience has confirmed that the availability of high

quality housing, together with a stable, skilled work force, have been crit-

ical factors in enabling South Bay Growers to develop and gain widespread

acceptance of Florida-grown iceburg lettuce in a quality-conscious market.

Sampling Procedure

Initially the Housing Director provided a list of heads of households

who were occupying Villa Lago units during the 1981-82 season. This proved

insufficient for study purposes because of difficulty with Spanish surnames

and because in many instances, more than one person per household was em-

ployed by South Bay Growers. In order to further expand and refine the

housing list, each supervisor was asked to identify Villa Lago residents

from the payroll lists for- his particular unit during the 1981-82 season.

Since* virtually all seasonal employees- in Villa Lago were. employed in the

two lettuce divisions and celery division, the analysis was confined to

employees in these three- divisions-. Each worker on the' roster-of-employees

employed by these three divisions during the 1981-82 season was identified

as "Villa Lago" or "non-Villa Lago" residents.

The detailed employment data required for the study analysis cound not

be obtained from the company', computerized payroll records and, as a conse-

quence' manual tabulation of weekly payroll records was required. In order

to make the data analysis more manageable the decision was made to randomly

sample those units which had large numbers of employees and to do a complete

enumeration of those units which had relatively small numbers of employees,

Table 6. A target sampling rate of 25 percent was established for all

groups sampled except the non-Villa Lago residents of the celery harvest

group. Because of the relative size of this group, a target sampling rate

Table 6. Total Employees, Sample Numbers, and Sample Rates by Divisions,
Harvest and Non-harvest, Villa Lago Residents and Non-Villa Lago
Residents, South Bay Growers Inc., 1981-82 Season.

Employee Total Employees Sample
Group Employees Sampled Rate

---- Number--------- Percent
Celery Division
Villa Lago 11 11 100.0
Non-Villa Lago 141 32 22.7

Villa Lago 18 18 100.0
Non-Villa Lago 437 51 11.7

Lettuce Division 1
Villa Lago 18 18 100.0
Non-Villa Lago 226 56 24.8

Villa Lago 172 49 28.5
Non-Villa Lago 107 28 26.2

Lettuce Division 2
Villa Lago 108 31 28.7
Non-Villa Lago 149 37 24.8

Villa Lago 32 32 100.0
Non-Villa Lago 85 19 22.4

of 10 percent was selected. For a number of technical reasons primarily

dealing with the crudeness of the data, actual sample sizes varied slightly

from the target rates. Data estimates for sampled employee groups were

developed by expanding sample data by the inverse of the actual sampling

rates. Population sizes, sample sizes and sample rates for the employee

groups used in the analysis of performance of Villa Lago workers is shown in

Table 6.



South Bay, Florida is a small town and South Bay Growers is a large

company. The policies and activities of South Bay Growers inevitably have a

strong impact. on the.communitye. In some areas, the interests of the commu-

nity and the firm are inseparable.

South Bay Growers' influence extends even beyond the small town of

South Bay into Belle Glade and Clewiston, some 20 miles away. Virtually all

of the firm's management live in the town of Belle Glade, and the area's

public and private schools are located in Belle Glade. Many of South Bay

Growers' workers commute from as far away as Clewiston. The following sec-

tion briefly reviews the firm's community support activities, including the

Villa Lago project.

Community Activities

South Bay Growers' participation in community affairs has a long his-

tory and is still extensive today. Before the present company was founded

the owners of the various farms which now make up South Bay Growers provided

significant community support. For example, the firm has helped build sev-

eral community churches in South Bay.

Some of South Bay Growers' community support activities are intermit-

tant, i.e., they respond to special needs when they arise, while others are.

established programs, Assistance to specific projects have included:

a $2,500 gift to the Belle Glade public high school for band uniforms
grants to the sickle cell anemia program
a YMCA summer camp program

the non-denominational church at Villa Lago, used by both Blacks and
Christmas baskets of food to local senior citizens.

Educational Assistance

Education has been an important focus of South Bay Growers'.employee

and community relations activities. The company sponsors four-year scholar-

ships to the valedictorians of both the public and private high schools in

Belle Glade. The public high school valedictorian receives $3,000 per year

for four years and the private high school valedictorian receives $1,500 per

year. The difference in amounts reflects the company's perception that the

public high school recipient is likely to be more needy.

The company also awards various scholarships for four years to children

of employees. All employees are eligible to apply, and the recipient has no

obligation to South Bay Growers, Inc. The. recipient may pursue any field of

study in an accredited college- or- university. These several scholarships,

each awarded annually for four years, entail an outlay of $48,000 annually

for the company. Along with the valedictorians' scholarships the firm's

total contribution per year for college expenses is $66,000. These

scholarships are awarded by an independent. committee not connected with

South Bay Growers.

The company is also committed to educational development at the Villa

Lago Day School,-which it built. The school operates during the regular

school year from September through June and is open to children from age 3

until they are ready to enter regular elementary school. Children of all

South Bay Growers' employees may attend regardless of whether they are resi-

dents of Villa Lago. The school facilities, which are maintained and oper-

ated by South Bay Growers, are located in Villa Lago, and a large portion of

the children are residents of this community.

The Villa Lago Day School operates under the supervision of the Palm

Beach County School system and the local school district employs the teach-

ers*. Adult-educational aids are present -from 6:30. a.m. to 6 p.m. every week

day. The teaching staff, present from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. daily, offer a

structured preschool program under state instructional guidelines. There is

a prescribed testing and evaluation program, and all test results are re-

ported to the School District and to the State.

The school's instructional program concentrates on language arts.

Approximately 90 percent of the enrollment is Hispanic and there is always a

Spanish-speaking aid in the building. All instruction is in English. The

program also includes breakfast and lunch, small group activities, and indi-

vidual remedial instruction for students requiring it.

The Villa Lago Day School can enroll 70 children and peak enrollment is

always above 60. No students have had to be turned away. In addition to

providing and maintaining the building, South Bay Growers provides all the

teaching and other supplies used by the staff and students. The School

Board provides the personnel, and the county migrant program provides the


Comnmity Perceptions

Community officials interviewed during this study unanimously commended

South Bay Growers and its Villa Lago housing facility. The City Manager

stated: "Villa Lago is the best thing that ever happened to the City of

South Bay." The sheriff reported that the Sheriffs Department had very few

calls to the Villa Lago facility. One community official noted: "Housing

is a very serious problem in the Glades area--and people who live in Villa

Lago are blessed."

Housing is at the core of many of the problems in the Glades agricul-

tural area. The management of South Bay Growers realized that helping to

solve a share of this problem would also help it achieve its own business

goals. The facility has attracted attention throughout the seasonal agri-

cultural labor community in the United States. It is a showpiece and has

resulted in considerable public relations benefits to South Bay Growers. It

has contributed to South Bay's image as an innovative and caring employer.

Ultimately, however, it remains simply a place where people live and rear

their children, a pleasant place for working mothers and fathers to return

after a day in the fields.

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