Charles D. Covey
Management and Housing of
Migrant Labor in Florida
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
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,
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.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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
Corn Division. ................**....*....................17
Cabbage Division.................. ......................20
Support Employment....................... ................20
Cabbage Division............................ .......... 31
Chapter III: Personnel Management Policies ..........................34
General Management Philosophy....................... ................. 34
Recruitment and Hiring............................. ....35
Scheduling Arrivals of Migrant Workers....................38
Recordkeeping. and Identification.........................39
Job Training ....... ..............................................40
Safety Training.......................e......e.e.... .o ........... 41
Payroll Operations....******** ................. ...42
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
Supervision and 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
Chapter V: South Bay Growers and the Community ......................78
Community Activities .................................o.*******.****** 78
LIST OF TABIES-
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
LIST OF FIGURES
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
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*
Charles D. Covey
CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION
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
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
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
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
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.,
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.
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
SALE, PROCESSING. ETC. AGRICULTURAL OPERATIONS
r....."----- -------- ...-..-i..--.--
r I I I SEASONAL AGRICULTURAL DIVISION
e t HOUSING MANAGER MANAGER
LETTUCE 11 LETTUCE 2 LETTUCE 2 CE 2
FARM HARVEST FARM HARVEST
MANAGER MANAGER MANAGER MANAGER
CELERY CORN & CABBAGE PEPPER
FARM MANAGER FARM MANAGER FARM MANAGER
Figure 2. Organizational Chart, Agricultural Operations, South Bay Growers, Inc., 1981-82 Season.
CHAPTER II: PATTERNS OF EMPLOYMENT AT
SOUTH BAY GROWERS
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
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.
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
Figure 4. Harvest Employment, by weeks, all Divisions, South Bay Growers, Inc., 1981-82
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-
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.
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.
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
75 HARVEST EMPLOYEES
3rd Quartr, 1981
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
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.
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.
200 HARVEST EMPLOYEES
200 NON-HARVEST EMPLOYEES
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.
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 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.
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.
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
00 HARVEST EMPLOYEES
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.
626 HARVEST EMPLOYEES
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
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
- Support Employment,
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.
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.
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.
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.
...... 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
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.,
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
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
I I I I I I I I
10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26
Figure 15. Average Earnings, by wec
' 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 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 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
---- Harvest. Pec
I 1 18 20 22 24 26 2
14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28
34 36 38 40 42 44 46 48 60
- Average Earnings, by weeks, Cabbage Division, South Bay Growers,
Inc., 1981-82 Season.
*........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,
CHAPTER III: PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT POLICIES
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
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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 .
CHAPTER IV: THE- VILLA LAGO HOUSING PROJECT
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
: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
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.
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.
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.)
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
-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
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
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
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
Average Hourly Earnings Average Weekly Earnings
tyroll Villa Lago Non-Villa Villa Lago Non-Villa
Lvision Residents Lago Residents Residents Lago Residents
---- Dollars-- Dollars
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.
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
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
CHAPTER V: SOUTH BAY GROWERS AND THE COMMUNITY
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.
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.
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
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.