REPORT OF MEETING HELD AT CAMP OSCEOLA, BELLE GLADE, FLORT
10:00 A. M., FRIDAY, MAY 15, 1942.
FOR THE PURPOSE OF DISCUSSING THE LABOR SITUATION AS j
AFFECTS THE EVERGLADES AREA
The meeting was called to order by Luther Jones. Thoso;
wore the following:
Luther Jones, Chairman Belle Glade Defense Council,
Belle Glade, Florida
P. Paul DeMoya, Chairman Pahokee Defense Council,
R. Y. Crooch, Chairman of Labor Division,
Bello Glade Defense Council,
c/o Pioneer Growers
Belle Glado, Florida 5,000
L. L. Stuckoy, Richlands, Inc.,
Pelican Lake Farms
Pahokoe, Florida 5,000
Sam J. Fleming, Okeechoboo Growers Ass'n.
Okeechobee, Florida 480
R. L. Chastain, Canal Point-Pahokee, Florida 4,200
Joseph T. Elvove, Department of Agriculture
Washington, D. C.
D. L. Friends, Brandon Brokerage Company
Canal Point, Florida 1,600
0. B. McClure, Unity Farms 2,400
Fritz Stein, Belle Glade, Florida 1,300
W. R. Hooker, Chairman of Agriculture Division
Belle Glade Defense Council
Bello Glade, Florida
(personal and associates) 2,000
J. E. Boardsley, Clewiston, Florida 600
E. L. Pope, Pahokee, Florida 3,000
J. R. Cherry, Chosen, Florida 240
Horace B. Jones, U.S. Employment Service
West Palm Beach, Florida
A. T. French, U. S. Employment Service
West Palm Beach, Florida
C. A. Thomas, Lake Harbor, Florida 1,500
F. A. LeFils, Chosen, Florida 350
Mrs. Ruth S. Wedgworth 2,500
Jas. A. Ball, Jr., Keeseo Packing Company
Belle Glade, Florida 4,000
H. C. Van Landingham, Okeochobee Growers Ass'n.
E. M. Van Landingham, Okeechobee Growers Ass'n.
Okeochobee, Florida 480
H, L. Haney, Haney, Inc.
Belle Glade, Florida 400
John Tiedtke, Shawnee Farms
Clewiston, Florida 2,000
Inman W. Weeks, Chairman of Agriculture Division
Pahokee-Canal Point Defense Council
Kenneth MacGowan, Ass't. to Executive Director,
State Defense Council of Florida,
Lisle Smith, Chairman'of the Labor Division,
State Defense Council of Florida
Haines City, Florida
Approximate Acreage Present 37,050
The above shows the amount of acreage represented to be approximately
37,050 acres. The meeting requested L. H. Kramer to preside. The purpose of
the presiding officer was to open tho meeting for free discussion on the
existing labor problems.
Mr. Luther Jones, Chairman of the Belle Glade Defense Council and member
of the Selective Service Board No. 4, Palm Beach County, road the following
Resolution, which was passed unanimously at a regular mooting of the Selective
Service Board No. 4, Palm Beach County on May 12, 1942:
WHEREAS this Board is continuously faced with the necessity of
classifying farm labor, because a great majority of the energy of the
territory of the Board is toward the production of foodstuffs which
are either sold direct to the armed forces as green vegotablos or to
canning plants for filling direct orders from said armed forces.
AND WHEREAS a groat number of these registrants are normally
subject to classification as 3-A due to dependents.
AiD WHEREAS we are informed by large farmer employers, and believe
it to be so, that from 30 to 50% of the man hours of farm labor in our
territory are lost through refusal to work, or in effect "sit-down"
action, and we have reported to us, the names of persons participating
in such low down activities.
AND WHEREAS a careful canvass of packing houses, brokers and farmers
discloses that not more than 40% of the remaining 7,000 acres of beans,
celery and tomatoes already grown and to be harvested within the next
30 days will be harvested due to labor shortage and the above mentioned
AND WHEREAS that students of such activities anticipate a greatly
magnified state of confusion for the coming season and that definite
and effective action is imperative to forestall a hopeless disaster
for farmers through indifference and complete lack of patriotism which
amounts to most effective sabotage to the war effort.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by Selective Service Board #4, Palm
Beach County, that it is urgently necessary that police powers be
delegated to the proper authorities to insure that this stoppage of the
"food for victory" program may cease at once; and that in our opinion
there is as much justification for induction of farm labor into com-
pulsory service as farm labor, as there is for inducting producing
individuals into the armed service.
The question of the occupancy of the U.S.D.A. Migrant Labor Camp in the
Everglades Section was then brought up for discussion, and Mr. Paul DeMoya,
Chairman of Pahokee-Canal Point Defense Council, submitted the following figures
which cover the total units and the percentage of occupancy during the past
season and the number of workers in each camp. These figures were prepared
by camp officials, and the following report covers the two white camps and the
three colored camps:
Camp Osceola In north edge of Belle Glade; 321 units to house 1,284
people (Note that part of this camp has only recently
been completed and were not included in figures for
past season). Occupancy from October to May, 1942
about 98% or 780 people.
Camp Pahokee 188 units, or 750 people. During this season just
ending, about 80% occupied.
Camp Okeechobee 521 units, will house from 2,200 to 2,500, depending
on number of small children. (Note: Up to February,
1942, only 350 units were ready and occupancy was only
70%) At present, May, 1942, occupancy is 40% of 521
units or 880 persons
Camp Everglades 313 units which will hold 1,300 people. The maximum
occupancy during this season was 240 families and during
present month 208 families, representing 716 people.
(During the last 3 weeks lost not, 35 families.)
Camp Sand Out 300 units more or less, or about 1,200 people can be
accommodated when finished. Not yet ready.
TOTALS: White Camps 2,034 total accommodations, or 1,220 workers.
Colored Camps 4,300 total accommodations, or 2,820 workers.
IWOAL NUMBER OF WORKERS (White and Colored) 4,040
(Note: The number of workers shown is only 60% of the total people
who can be accommodated. This is based on experienced figures
compiled this season.)
You will notice by the above that the number of workers shown is only
60e of the total people who can be accommodated. It was brought out that all
camps were being operated very satisfactorily, but it was felt that those
occupying the Negro Camps were not working as much as they should and that
some arrangement should be made to keep in closer touch with them to see that
they are working every day, unless affected by sickness or weather. A daily
report should be kept of each person able to work; and if he does not do his
part, refuse the use of the unit which he is occupying and get some other
family in his place.
The Federal Employment Bureau is trying to do.everything it can to
assist the labor situation but does not have enough control over local
policies. The Federal Employment Bureau should be permitted to make deci-
sions as to the needs of the area before being called upon to shift any of
this labor outside of the area, as it should be in a better position to know
the requirements. It should also have the authority to shift labor from one
grower to another as the demand is created.
The five camps are not used as much as they should be. A great percent-
age of the laborers in the area prefer to live in the Negro Quarters of the var-
ious cities whoro-thoy-pre notunder such strict control and have amusements
more to their liking and where they are permitted to have free range of their
actions, attending "jook joints," illegal gambling parties, etc.
The labor seems to be very well satisfied in privately owned labor camps,
and it seemed to be the impression of those present at the meeting that rather
than build more camps under the U.S.D.A. Migrant Labor Camp Program, that the
government help finance growers to build homes for labor on their farms thus
bringing a closer tie between the grower and the laborer.
There has been quite a great deal of illegal recruiting of labor by
parties out of the State, and there has not been made a sufficient check on
this activity to stop it; however, those present stated that at certain periods
of the yoar, they were required to go out of the State of Florida to get labor.
I am wondering whether or not all of this could be done under government super-
vision to a better advantage, than by having it done illegally, for all states
concerned. There must be some way of supervising migratory labor under the
After a great deal of discussion, the following three motions were
presented and unanimously adopted with the feeling that these are the basic
troubles of the labor situation in the Everglades area:
MOVED BY JAMES BALL That this group go on record as favoring the
closing of all "jooks" in the Everglades Area and other competing
farming areas, 100%; that this is meant to include illegal gambling,
illegal dancing, and all other illegal activities. (This motion was
seconded by L. Pope, R. Y. Croech, R. L. Chastain. After discussion,
this motion was unanimously carried.)
MOVED BY L. L. STUCKEY That the Governor be asked to immediately
authorize Local Defense Councils in the Everglades Area to call on
its Division of Civil Protection, the Mayors of the several communities,
the Chiefs of Police, the Constables and the Sheriffs, to rigidly en-
force the existing vagrancy laws, so that crops can.be harvested with
labor that is now available but is refusing to work through their
vagrancy and indifference to War needs. (This motion was seconded by
0. B. McClure, and after discussion was unanimously passed.)
MOVED BY R. Y. CREECH That the sense of this meeting is that there
should be established a fair maximum wage scale for ordinary agricul-
tural labor in this and other competing areas, and that the wages paid
for piece work be comparable with wages set for day laborers, and
enforcement machinery be set up. (This motion was seconded by Sam
Fleming; and after discussion was unanimously carried.)
Referring to Motion #1, those present seemed to feel that the "jook
joints" in the Everglades area and other competing farming areas were per-
mitted to operate illegally, causing a very unhealthy labor situation both
morally and otherwise and that this condition should be controlled by the
law enforcing officers, who seem to be very indifferent towards these con-
ditions. While Palm Beach County permits the sale of liquor, it does not
permit illegal activities and closing hours should be better regulated. The
unfortunate thing in the whole situation, in my estimation, is the paying off
of labor each night, which makos funds available to them each day to be used
in spending, not for the necessities of living, but for unnecessary amuso-
monts and illegal indulgence causing disruption in economic conditions of the
area and causing a great doal of unnecessary shifting of labor. This activity
supports the claim made above of non-use of camps in preference to Negro
Quarters which are in a crowded condition and which is objectionable from the
health standpoint as well as thp moral effect upon the community; as well as
vagrancy, laziness, and indifference to their responsibility as laborers to
the War Effort.
With reference to Motion #2, those present felt that you, as Governor
of the State of Florida, should have rigid enforcement of the existing
vagrancy laws which will have a great tendency to do away with the labor
leeches living off of the Negro who at this time is making high wages and
through his ignorance will lead to the spending of his wages to his dis-
advantage and detriment. Some kind of a program should be worked out whereby
a certain portion of each Negro' s salary could be used to buy War Bonds and
Stamps or encourage him to purchase a little piece of ground to build a
home on in order to take up the excess earnings; this, in the future, would
bring about a more healthy situation and a moro permanent stability.
With reference to Motion #3, it is very unfortunate that there is not
a better understanding between growers. I understand that there has been an
effort made on numerous occasions to form an organization of growers for their
own protection, but they wore not able to hold it together in order to serve
its purpose. Now under the present Emergency, the grower is thinking along
these lines and it would be most fortunate if an organization of growers could
be formed in the Everglades Area. This would go a great ways towards solving
the labor situation. As it is now, the Negro labor sits on the corner in
the various communities to receive bids from the growers for their labor.
One grower will start off bidding for this labor at 250 a hamper for picking
beans; "rd owing to the demand and perishablenoss of the product, the growers
get panicky and will bid on up until the bid reaches as high as 40 to 50
a hamper. By the time this procedure is finished, it is ten o'clock in the
morning before the pickers are in the fields, growers become mad at each
other causing dissention, misunderstanding a-nd a serious condition. The
pickers will then rush through their work under those high prices, picking
from ten to twenty hampers during the balance of the day; then, thoy will
draw their cash pay and start the procedure over the next day. After two
or three days of such earnings, a majority of these laborers lay off the
balance of the week. Frop what I understand, all of the growers are willing
to pay fair prices for labor and they fool the necessity of getting together
to try to regulate prices, but unfortunately they have not been able to do so.
Owing to the highness of the piece work, it effects day labor and makes it
very difficult for the celery producers and those requiring day labor to
compete. It is impossible for agriculture, under the present sale prices
of their vegetables to pay day labor more than they normally have been
obliged to do; and high priced piece labor throws the labor situation
out of balance and effects production.
I understand that children under sixteen years of age are not
permitted to work on the farms, and I am wondering whether or not this
situation could not be changed, so as to make this permissible during the
peak labor period which, I understand, is from the last of November through
December and through April and May.
In the final analysis, I realize that there is sufficient labor
available in this area providing the labor that is available is better
controlled and that steps be taken towards more efficiency which is very
lacking at this time. I do not believe that at this time there is more
than a 60% efficiency which is brought about by the various difficulties
being experienced and mentioned in the above report.
I feel that by bettor coordination and supervision by all agencies
that a well organized labor program could be worked out which would be of
material benefit to the growers in their effort to neot the Energency -
under the U.S.D.A. War Production Program and could be used as an example
in other sections of the State. I an afraid that if something isn't done
about this labor situation, that there will be considerable falling off of
vegetable planting this coming season, which would be very objectionable
in view of the demand for increase production under the U.S.D.A. War
I trust that I have mnde clear to you the situation as it exists,
together with its problems and possible solutions.
L. H. Kramer, Co-Chairman
Division of Agriculture
State Defense Council of Florida