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Harvest Time — Not So Easy Work


Harvesting crops is hard back-breaking work. Every time I pass by a field of workers, I'm very grateful to them. How can anyone not want to give them a living wage?

It wasn't until 1978 that farmworkers on large farms were finally included under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which required their employers to pay them minimum wage. Still, in some states today, farmers can choose to give their workers a piece-rate wage rather than a minimum hourly rate. It's not a high piece rate either.  For instance, if a worker receives 50 cents for every bucket of tomatoes she picks, she would need to pick about 2.5 tons of tomatoes to earn an equivalent minimum hourly wage for a 10-hour day. I think all states ought to mandate hourly wages for farmworkers.

I've got a Mama story for you. She always laughed when she told me about her first year working in the fields of America. It was either the first or second year that she was living here, so that was 1950 or 1951. She decided to pick tomatoes to help bring in money for the family. She was paid something like 25 cents a box. When she picked a bucket of tomatoes, she carried it to the end of the row and put it in the box.

"That was so hard,' the Mama said. "I didn't know what I was doing. It took hours to fill a box."

By the time she had two boxes, the farmer had come around. "He was a nice man," the Mama said. "He felt sorry for me. He started picking tomatoes and putting them in my boxes."

He was the same man that later taught the Mama how to drive an old Model T. But, that's another story.


I'm hooking up with Jeanette's Seasons, a weekly meme that closes tomorrow. Click here to check out her blog and other Seasons' participants.

Tomorrow is now today. That means it's time for ABC Wednesday, which is a meme in which I like to participate. It's the letter N this week. I figure with a little addition to this post's title and the fact that the Mama's boss was a nice guy, this post fills the bill. Click here to check out other ABCW participants.



Comments

  1. Am glad the farmer felt sorry for your Mama. There are things in life that are so unfair, that I wished I was God and strike with lightening on the people who take advantage of other human beings (and that's why I'm not God:):) )
    Many thanks blog friend for sharing this with SEASONS! A little suggestion, if you link up on Sunday, more people will read your story:) I think you probably have so many great stories to tell (because you're a daughter of your Mama!

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    1. lol, Jeannette, I'd be heavy handed with the lightening, too.

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  2. Hi Susie, I started writing something about my Mama, working hard just like your Mama, and ;lo and behold; it just disappeared..... into cyberspace so i;ve had to start my ramblings again,,,One thing my Mama used to say, particularly if any one dared to complain about working hard,"Hard work never killed anybody" and so true!
    God bless the Mamas'.
    Hugs to you'all and tickles for Molly the Cat.xx
    Di.
    ABCW team.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I get all foul-mouthed when my stuff gets lots in cyberspace. I am better at saving more often, except lately. Been out of practice with writing long stuff. Molly loves your tickles. :-)

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  3. First, that's a stunning picture . . . Second, I'm humbled by your sharing . . . and, blessed by your Mama Story.

    love & love,
    -g-

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  4. I remember picking cucumbers one dastardly hot season when I was in my early 20's. Backbreaking work. Seasonal farmworkers area little better off here, but not by much.

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    1. I think it wss in the 1970s when California finally imposed a regulation disallowing the use of the short hoe. Many of the farmers got mad about that one.

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  5. Wonderful post, loved what you did with the photo.

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  6. Yes! Your story is so nice and sounds like your mama was a nice lady who taught you well about fairness.

    Leslie
    abcw team

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    1. I was fortunate with having the parents that I had. :-)

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  7. I agree, farm workers need to be paid a decent, hourly wage. People shouldn't be allowed to pay them just a piece-rate wage. Very informative post, I enjoyed reading it.

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    1. Thanks, Victoria. I was surprised to learn that the piece-rate wage is still out there.

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  8. Great tribute to farm-workers, Susie..!

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  9. Thank you for the link to Seasons:) Posted there too:)

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  10. good choice but indeed very hard .... I am so gratefull that I don't have to do work like that

    Have a wonderful ABC-day / – week
    ♫ M e l ☺ d y ♫ (abc-w-team)
    http://melodymusic.nl/abc-wednesday-19n/

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    1. Me, too. I did some when I was a teenager. I'm fortunate that my parents made sure I didn't have to do it my whole life.

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  11. it is terribly hard work -- I've written letters to the Florida supermarket chain -- Publix -- that refuses to increase what they pay for tomatoes by 1 or 2 cents. They won't do anything (at least as far as I know, since we're now in Oregon). But when we're in Florida, I have let them know that I refuse to buy produce there until they do. (However, to be honest, I don't buy supermarket tomatoes at all ever and always try to buy as much produce as possible from local farms and stands, so my protest is kind of toothless).

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    1. Sallie, I don't think it was toothless at all. It's like voting. It all adds up.

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  12. I have friends who are farmers. She is allergic to some part of the tomato plant, probably leaves, and gets rashes and blisters when she picks them. That adds another dimension to the hard work of farming.

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    1. Definitely. Also the allergies and illnesses some workers develop from exposure to pesticides and fertilizers.

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  13. I can't believe that it has taken this long for the farm workers to be paid a basic minimum wage for back breaking work. In my area, I see healthy young people who sit at home or healthy people on assistance having their booze home delivered( we have a young couple with kids who are on assistance so just that last week) and say that can't find work or simply athey would not think of taking this type of job. We have people come from other countries to pick fruit, they struggle and send a huge amount home to their families while people here would rather buy liquor and sit all day. I may be generalizing and I mean no disrespect to the people who struggle on assistance but there are many who just would never think of taking such a hard job like a farm hand.

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    1. One of the problems farmers are having trouble hiring sufficient temporary workers, mostly because fewer people, legally or not, are coming across the border. Farmers also have to compete with construction, restaurants, hotels, and other places that want to hire people willing to work hard for low pay. Would more Americans take farm working jobs if the wages went up to $10-$15 hour? Be interesting to see.

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  14. I'm SURE it's NOT easy work!

    ROG, ABCW

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  15. I totally agree with you. Too often these hard working people are taken advantage of and all are entitled to a decent hourly wage...with benefits! I would be willing to pay more at the grocery store. It's a moral thing for me.

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Thanks for the good cheer. :-)

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