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UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
FRANCES PERKINS, Secretary

WOMEN’S BUREAU
MARY ANDERSON, Director

EMPLOYMENT AND HOUSING PROBLEMS OF
MIGRATORY WORKERS IN NEW YORK AND
NEW JERSEY CANNING INDUSTRIES, 1943

Bulletin of the Women's Bureau, No. 198
/

UNITED STATES
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
WASHINGTON : 1M4

For sals by tile Superintendent of Documents. Washington 25, D. C.




Price 10 gents

LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL

United States Department of Labor,
Women’s Bureau,

Washington, December 15, 1943.
Madam: I have the honor to transmit a report on problems
arising from the wartime necessity of employing migratory work­
ers in New York and New Jersey canneries.

The report is not statistical; instead, the chief emphasis in the
survey was on the problems of the firms in the employment and
housing of migrant labor. Workers had been brought from several
southern States, and even the West Indies, in numbers greater
than ever before; in addition, the use of school children, college
students, and teachers was general, as was the employment of
holiday workers.
Practically all the canneries visited were processing food for
some branch of the armed forces or for Lend-Lease.
The survey was conducted and most of the report was written
by Helen Bryan Sater. The sections on employment, hours, and
wages were written by Caroline Manning.
Respectfully submitted.
Mary Anderson, Director.
Hon. Frances Perkins,

Secretary of Labor.




.

CONTENTS

Page

Introduction and scope

1
2
Source of labor supply and its recruitment- 2
Employment________
6
Seasonality of product_______________________________ 5
Length of season ___
5
Occupations new to women _________________________
7
Hours of work 7
Cannery wages, 10
Working conditions_____________________________________________ ___ 12
General plant conditions__________________ 13
Seating 14
Sanitary and service facilities :____________________________________ 14
Washing facilities ______
15
Toilets -----------------------------------------------------15
Cloak rooms ___________________
16
Rest rooms and lunch rooms 16
Uniforms_____________________ -___ _____ _ 16
Medical facilities . 17
Problems of migratory labor_ ____
_
17
Housing and living conditions for migratory workers _ - 19
New Jersey___ __ _ _ _____ 1_____ ____ ___ ______ 19
_ _
New York 25
Company charges for lodging_______________________
29
Transportation 29
Standards for housing of migratory workers_________________ 29
Type of construction 30
Location and lay-out 31
Water supply_______________________________________ 31
Sleeping quarters - 31
Cooking and eating quarters_____________________________________ 31
Garbage and refuse disposal 32
Toilets ~ 32
Bathing facilities 32
Laundry________________________________________~ 32
Sanitation and health_______________________ 32
Child care1_______________ ______________ 33
Recreation
33
Registration33
Supervision-~~ 33
Summary of migrant problems____________~ 34
Products____




Employment and Housing Problems of Migratory
Workers in New York and New Jersey Canning
Industries, 1943
INTRODUCTION AND SCOPE
Because of the large numbers of women involved, facts surround­
ing the employment of women in canning and food-processing in­
dustries have been of continuing interest to the Women’s Bureau
of the United States Department of Labor. Its studies of these
industries, or its State surveys that have given considerable at­
tention to these industries, range from one on fruit-growing, can­
ning, and preserving in the State of Washington in 1923 to the
most thorough survey ever made of the canning and preserving
of fruits and vegetables, which extended to 16 States and was
made public in 1940.
After the entry of the United States into the present war it was
considered important by the Women’s Bureau to know what
changes were taking place in an industry employing so large a
percentage of women and one that is so vital to the war effort.
Since women have been and probably will continue to be the largest
source of labor supply for canneries, it would be especially un­
fortunate to accept for an emergency period an unnecessary lower­
ing of standards, particularly inasmuch as canneries, as a whole,
are regarded as having standards lower than those obtaining
in many other industries. The war should not be used as a pretext
for lowering standards when the situation does not warrant it.
Canners are in a better position financially than ever before to
improve working conditions within the plant and living conditions
for migratory workers. The Office of Price Administration has
made generous allowance for the increase in labor costs to can­
neries, and in spite of ceiling prices canners’ incomes are greatly
augmented by large Government orders.
As a preliminary, studies were made during the summer and fall
of 1943 of canneries in New Jersey and New York. Data were
gathered covering kinds of foods processed; number of weeks of
cannery operation; wages, hours, and working conditions. Em­
phasis was put on obtaining information with regard to the extent
and percentage of woman employment; sources of labor supply
and methods of its recruitment; and the problems surrounding the
use of migratory labor.
The information was secured through visits to plants and to
migrant-housing locations, and from interviews with representa­
tives of plant management and of canners’ associations, officials
of Federal and State agencies, representatives of private agencies,
union officials, and individual workers. The facts gathered were
not intended for a statistical report. Some plant records were
studied but no pay rolls were copied. A total of 57 canneries were
visited. Twenty-one of these were in New Jersey and thirty-six
were in New York.




1

2

MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

PRODUCTS
The products of the canneries visited in New Jersey included
seasonal, nonseasonal, dehydrated, and frozen foods; New York
canneries included, in addition to these, two apple-drying plants.
New Jersey.
At first glance the canning industry in New Jersey appears to
be a tomato-canning industry. No other product approaches the
tomato in number of canneries reporting; the vegetables ranking
second and third, asparagus and green beans, were reported by
5 and 4 plants, respectively, while 19 of the 21 plants canned
tomatoes or tomato products. Eight products—peas, lima beans,
corn, squash, spinach, turnips, sweet potatoes, and peppers—were
canned in 1 plant each.
Other products of the plants surveyed cover a wide variety,
ranging from soups, chowders, and the ubiquitous baked bean,
through such things as hash, stews, army rations (meat and vege­
tables combined), condiments of every description, to wines, olives
and olive oil, honey. Two plants dehydrated potatoes; one froze
vegetables. Few fruits appeared among the products reported.
Practically all plants processed more than one product; one
listed 12 products, and another 19.
New York.
The 36 plants visited in New York also had a great variety of
products. Tomatoes or tomato products, though outranking all
others (being reported by almost two-thirds of the plants), were
followed by green beans, canned by half the companies, and peas,
canned by more than two-fifths of them. Beets as well as potatoes
were dehydrated; fruits as well as vegetables were frozen. The
range was from soup to coffee, from baby food to army rations.
Only two plants restricted their output to one product. Most
of them reported from 4 to 8 products, but four listed 10 or more,
the highest turning out 16.
Government Orders.
Practically all the canneries visited were processing food for
some branch of the armed services or Lend-Lease. It was not
possible for all the companies to estimate the exact percentages
of their products going to the Government. Some of them had
not yet received their contracts. For those that had, the percent­
age frequently was based on the output of the year before and was
contingent on the weather and the crop yield as well as the de­
mands made by the Government, which might change from day
to day.
SOURCES OF LABOR SUPPLY AND ITS RECRUITMENT
The large contracts for food for men in the armed services and
for Lend-Lease made the need for workers in the canning industry
greater this past season than in normal times. That there should
be a shortage in the usual labor supply of cannery workers was
inevitable. That it has become important to induce greater num­
bers of women to step into this breach is a matter that the Women’s



MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

3

Bureau recognizes. Women have been taken on in New Jersey and
New York canneries to replace men, casual as well as regular
workers, who have been drawn into military service, and to
replace men and women who have left for better-paying jobs in
industries offering continuous employment.
The greatest need for additional workers was not realized, how­
ever, this summer. The drought in New Jersey that lasted from
June all through the summer greatly reduced the crop yield, while
continuous rains in New York State prevented early planting of
peas, and frost practically ruined the New York peach crop.
It had been anticipated that more peelers, especially, would be
needed in plants canning whole tomatoes, since Government con­
tracts for this commodity were enormous, and because several
products, such as pork and beans and others using large quantities
of tomato pulp, puree, and paste, for which unskinned tomatoes
are used, had been eliminated by the War Production Board.
Visits to plants disclosed, however, that some of the plants were
not canning whole tomatoes as they had done heretofore, but, be­
cause of the shortage of labor, were doing those processes that do
not take so large a force.
Efforts to fill the labor requirements were met in part by the
greater use of housewives from the surrounding farms and com­
munities, many of whom had never worked in canneries before.
The use of school children1, college students, and teachers was
general. In New York State in particular, use was made of holiday
workers, recruited both locally and from New York City. At­
tendants at a church youth conference worked two weeks at a time
to harvest crops and some of these same people helped in nearby
canneries. Workers in other industries and.office employees were
used for “Victory” or part-time shifts. In one community where
the canners were unwilling to operate short evening shifts, women
and men who worked on night shifts in defense plants were taken
for a minimum 6-hour day shift in canneries. It occurred to the
Women’s Bureau agent that two manufacturers producing non­
essential goods, who were having a difficult time getting enough
material to run full capacity since there was not a normal demand
for their products, might be willing to loan their employees to a
canner in the peak canning season. The two manufacturers were
delighted to make such an arrangement; they had held on to their
help because of the fear that if they let it go for short periods
they would not get it back.
In the course of the study, a number of methods that had proved
successful elsewhere in the recruitment of labor were suggested.
For example, soldiers, sailors, and coast guardsmen had been
called in to aid the New Jersey canners in saving the tomato crop;
and in northwestern New York State soldiers and sailors had
answered a call for help and worked in canneries at the peak
season. A greater use of migratory workers had helped to meet
the labor needs. Workers were brought from Florida, Kentucky,
Tennessee, West Virginia, and other southern States in numbers
1 The New Jersey State law covering the employment of children has been modified to allow
minors as young as 16 to be employed in commercial food canneries to the full maximum of
10 hours a day and 48 hours a week and up to 11 p. m.f between May 1 and October 1, without
any dispensation from the Commissioner of Labor.




4

MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

far exceeding those of earlier years. They included white and
colored unattached men and women and family groups of men,
women, and children. Hundreds of Jamaicans and workers from
the Bahaman Islands were brought in as farm labor, and some
worked in canneries where there was need.
Recruitment methods included efforts on the part of cannery
employees to bring in their relatives and friends. Private em­
ployers had their own scouts on the lookout for both local and
migrant labor. In some instances representatives of cannery work­
ers’ unions assisted the recruitment program. In Fredonia, N. Y.,
where there was no United States Employment Service, through
the coordinated efforts of the local agencies concerned a voluntary
office operated for the recruitment of farm and cannery labor.
The salary of the' man in charge was paid by one of the canners
but the office was largely staffed by volunteers. Practically all the
canneries visited made use of the United States Employment
Service. The Service found it difficult at times to fill these orders,
not only because of labor shortage but because in some cases the
canners did not order labor early enough for the demands to be met.
Recruitment by Government agencies was handled somewhat
differently in New Jersey and New York. In New Jersey the
Extension Service of the Department of Agriculture recruited
farm labor and the Employment Service of the War Manpower
Commission recruited cannery labor. In New York State there
was a closer cooperation between these two agencies, the Employ­
ment Service recruiting farm as well as cannery labor and the
Extension Service depositing money for the use of the Employment
Service in defraying expenses entailed in the recruitment of farm
labor. One handicap in this practice is that since all States do
not have this arrangement, there may be delay by the Employment
Service of clearance orders in the States where recruiting for farm
labor is being done, as the Employment Service there may be
recruiting cannery labor only.
Advertising for workers was done through newspapers and over
the radio. House-to-house canvassing was undertaken. Talks by
workers, employers’ representatives, and employees of the United
States Employment Service were made to various groups. Those
most frequently contacted in the effort to get women workers were
settlement houses, Y. W. C. A. mothers’ clubs, church groups,
unions, American Legion women’s auxiliaries, American and
British selectees mothers’ clubs, and societies of colored people.
Many of the migrant workers talked with were dissatisfied be­
cause the promises made to them when they were recruited, with
regard to work, earnings, housing facilities, and so forth, had not
been kept. The result was that many of these workers moved to
other places or went home. The expense of such turn-over to the
industry is an important item and the dissatisfaction of the work­
ers may affect their availability another year.
There was said to be a practice in one locality to give women
enough employment to entitle them to unemployment insurance
and then discourage them from taking other regular jobs so that
they would be available to canners in peak season. In this same
locality, one canner was said to make a practice of hiring and



5

MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

firing women in quick succession in the slack period just prior to
the peak season, giving them the impression that they were
“frozen” in cannery jobs and thus making them available for the
peak season.
EMPLOYMENT
Seasonality of Product.
Because canning is a seasonal industry, the number of weeks of
plant operation during the year varies from plant to plant, and the
number of employees in any one plant varies from week to week
according to the kind and the amount of food to be processed.
Altogether 19 canneries in New Jersey and 35 in New York re­
ported on employment and on the seasonal nature of the crops
processed. Though more canneries were visited in New York
than in New Jersey, employment at the peak season totaled a few
thousand more in New Jersey than in New York. In each State
approximately one-half of the canneries worked solely on seasonal
products, but only one-fifth to one-fourth of all employees were
found in these canneries.
The proportion of women among total employees at the peak,
slightly more than one-half, was practically the same in both
States. However, the proportion of women in the canneries en­
gaged solely in seasonal operations was decidedly different. That
it was 20 points lower in New York is due in part to the greater
importance of the pea and bean crops in that State, crops the
processing of which uses few women. In 6 canneries in New York
the proportion of women employed at the peak of the pea or bean
season ranged from 10 to 38.3 percent. At the other extreme
there were several individual plants in which three-fourths or more
of the employees were women.
The detailed figures follow:

Type of product

Number
of
canneries
reporting

Number of employees at peak
season
Total

Women

Number 1 Percent
New Jersey
Total................................................................................
Seasonal only.......................................................... .
Seasonal and nonseasonal.....................................................

19

16,628

8,268

52.8

10
9

8,289
12,389

2,064
6,194

62.8
60.2

New York
Total................................................................................
Seasonal and nonseasonal.....................................................

35

12,014

6,293

52.4

16
19

3,076
8,938

1,307
4,986

42.5
65.8

Length of Season.
Canning operations were limited to periods of not over 13 weeks
(3 months) in almost one-third of the canneries in New Jersey
and in New York. Few crops were processed in these short-term
operations; for example, one plant operating about 4 weeks canned
567320*—44------2




6

MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

only cherries, another operating about 6 weeks canned only tomato
products, another operating 10 weeks canned two crops, peas and
beans, and another operating 11 weeks canned three crops, beans,
tomatoes, and raspberries.
In another significant group of canneries in each State, opera­
tions continued for 14 to 26 weeks (3 to 6 months). Most of the
canneries that operated longer than 17 or 18 weeks also processed
nonseasonal products, thereby prolonging the canning period to
5 or 6 months. However, operations of some of the New Jersey
canneries that began the season with strawberries and asparagus
and continued through the various succeeding crops, ending with
pumpkin and cranberries, covered from 5 to 6 months processing
only seasonal vegetables or fruits.
Eight canneries in each State operated throughout the year,
though at times with only a skeleton force. In New Jersey this
number represents almost half of the canneries that reported; in
New York less than one-fourth. Needless to say, in order to
operate throughout the year they process not only the usual sea­
sonal vegetables and fruits but other nonseasonal products such
as jellies, jams, pickles, baked beans, and soups.
In New York State the canneries that operated over short periods
employed for the most part few workers, rarely over 200 and
occasionally less than 100 persons at the peak season. On the other
hand, all but one of the year-round plants employed 200 or more
persons, three-fourths of them at least 500, and more than a third
of them as many as 1,000.
Number of weeks in operation

Number
of
canneries
reporting

Number of canneries reporting employment at peak
season as—
Under
100
persons

100 to
199
persons

200 to
399
persons

500 to
999
persons

1,000
persons
and over

New Jersey
18
14 to 26..........................................
27 to 39..........................................
62......................................................

4

4

4

3

6
4
1
8

1
1

1
2
1

2

1

2

2

2

4

2

3
i

New York
85
14 to 26..........................................
27 to 39..........................................
62.....................................................

6

10

12

4

11
13
3
8

2
2

7
3

1
7
3
1

1

1

3

1
3

The distribution in New Jersey is not so clearly defined. As
many of the year-round plants had less than 400 employees as
had more than this number; and among those on short-time
operations of only a few weeks or months, numbers employed were
scattered from less than 100 to 1,000 or more.
Summary.
Of 21 canneries surveyed in New Jersey, 19 reported their em­
ployment. The figures aggregated 15,628, of whom 8,258 (53 per­



MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

7

cent) were women. All but 1 of the 36 New York canneries re­
ported employment; these had 12,014 workers, of whom 6,293 (52
percent) were women.
Of the 18 New Jersey canneries reporting on length of season,
8 operated throughout the year; 5 operated for 3 months or less,
4 from over 3 to 6 months, and 1 from over 6 to 9 months. Of
the 35 New York canneries that reported, 8 operated the year
round; 11 operated 3 months or less, 13 from over 3 to 6 months,
and 3 from over 6 to 9 months.
OCCUPATIONS NEW TO WOMEN
The jobs customarily done by women in canneries are in the
preparation of fruits and vegetables, such as sorting, peeling,
trimming, feeding machines, and working on the can line. In
many canneries women were employed on jobs previously done in
those plants by men and boys; though these same occupations
were customarily done by women in other plants, they were new
for women here.
Outstanding among these occupations new for women were
processing jobs involving the control of retorts and of pulping,
extracting, evaporating, and scalding equipment, as well as the
more usual jobs of operating the filling and closing machines.
Some women were doing heavy labor such as unloading cars,
handling cases weighing from 15 to 42 pounds, handling bushel
baskets filled with produce. Others were employed as general
laborers feeding cans, salvaging cans; shaking sacks, and as con­
veyor and bell attendants. A new job for women in one plant
was putting glass jars in retorts.
In the manufacture of containers women were employed for the
first time in one or two plants as box-machine operators and in
making cases, as well as operating shears, various presses, and
coating equipment.
In some canneries women were used in place of men in packing
cases, hand and machine labeling, stenciling, and strapping.
As maintenance and miscellaneous workers they were employed
as janitors, elevator operators, truckers, directors of shed and
yard traffic, and to clean and grease machines.
A few women had been taken on as laboratory assistants. Even
as clerical workers, the employment of women in factory depart­
ments as timekeepers, production workers, and weight checkers
was an innovation.
HOURS OF WORK
As previously stated, this study is concerned chiefly with work­
ing and living conditions, and not with statistics such as wages
and hours. However, during the interviews with management,
wage policies and hourly rates of pay were discussed, as well as
the irregularity in hour schedules in canneries.
Hours of work and wages paid in the canneries are controlled to
some extent by Federal laws, and in New York the State hour law
for women also regulates employment. The New Jersey statutes
provide no such regulation.



8

MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

Though the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act does not directly
limit the hours of work, in providing for overtime pay for work
performed beyond a certain point it does indirectly set a control
of work hours. In the case of the canning industry, however,
exemptions practically nullify the usual standards of the Act.
In the first place, since the overtime-pay provision may be set
aside for an aggregate of 14 weeks in this industry, the law pro­
vides no check to unlimited hours during this period. In the
second place, for another 14 weeks overtime pay is required only
after work continuing beyond 12-56 hours. Since peak seasonal
operations rarely extend beyond 28 weeks, the total for which
special exemptions are allowed, it is apparent that the law has
little effect in restraining the all too prevalent tendency to long
hour schedules in canneries.
The Federal Act is the controlling factor in New Jersey, but in
the case of New York provisions of the State hour law complicate
the situation, as the Federal Act in no way excuses noncompliance
with State standards.
In contrast to the Federal Act with its allowance for exemptions
for 28 weeks for men and women, the State law for women em­
ployees makes special provision for canneries from June 15 to
October 15, a period of approximately 17 weeks. During this
period the maximum hours are set at 10-60 but during the 6 weeks
from June 25 to August 5, 12-66 hours are permitted in emergency,
a striking departure from the 8-48-hour standard for the re­
mainder of the year. The 6-day week restriction remains in effect
in emergencies.
Practically half of the New York canners stated that they had
taken advantage of the 60 and 66 hours provisions of the State
act, though others had not exceeded the 56 hours allowed by the
Federal Act for the second period. Moreover, the situation was
confused by action taken according to the provisions of the New
York War Emergency Act, which give the Industrial Commissioner
authority to relax the labor laws in the interests of maximum war
production. Several dispensations were made to individual can­
ners, some permitting employment for 10 hours a day after Oc­
tober 15.
Though irregular hours and hours longer than the accepted
standard may be unavoidable in canneries, due to weather condi­
tions, crop yield, and the seasonal character of the industry, they
should not be so long as to affect the health or the efficiency of
the worker. Where an emergency makes overtime work neces­
sary, some compensating time off should be given the worker
directly before or following the long hours worked.
Hour recommendations of the Women’s Bureau are that women’s
hours do not exceed 8 a day and 48 a week, with a week of 40 hours
in normal times; that women should not work longer than a 5-hour
stretch without a lunch period; that 10-minute rest periods should
be given half-way through each work spell, which improves the
workers’ efficiency and increases production; and that one day’s
rest in seven should be the rule for each individual even in times
of emergency.



MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

9

New Jersey.
Statements on the length of the workday were made by 19 of
the New Jersey canners interviewed. Maximum hours at the peak
of the season were admittedly high in a number of instances.
Though in 7 canneries the workday was kept at 8 or 9 hours even
at the peak, in the other canneries it was said to be 10, 11, 12, 13,
and even 16 hours long. As one canner commented, “In tomato
season we sometimes work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week,’’ and
another said, “Sometimes the women work 15 and 16 hours a day
for 6 days a week.”
Five of the canneries made use of a second shift of workers,
which should have eliminated the excessively long hours resorted
to when only one shift is employed. As a matter of fact, however,
in 2 of these the day’s schedule was 10 or more hours for each shift.
Four of these two-shift plants operated throughout the year on
seasonal or nonseasonal products, though sometimes with only a
skeleton force. In most cases the second shift was necessary only
during the peak harvest time of perishable crops.
While the hours of work varied and often were extremely long
in the busy season, the usual hours at other times of the year
were 8 or 9 a day. One canner, who operated the year round, did
report that the usual schedule for his plant was 10 hours a day.
A few canners reported that when women work overtime until
9 and sometimes 11 o’clock at night or even later, an effort is made
to give them compensating time off during the week, and pref­
erably the following day unless an abnormal amount of produce
is delivered to the cannery on that day.
The long hours must have been particularly difficult for house­
wives, who were employed in large numbers in every cannery and
many of whom were not young.
New York.
In about two-thirds of the 34 New York canneries reporting on
hours, including those operating short seasons and the year-round
plants, the usual workday was 8 hours; 6 reported a 10-hour day
and 1 seasonal plant stated that a 12-hour day was usual. In the
rush of the harvest peak, however, work hours were another
matter. In the peak season only 3 canneries adhered regularly to
their 8-hour schedule, while in 20 women worked frequently in
excess of 10 hours; in fact, 19 canneries, including one-half of the
year-round group, reported maximum daily hours as long as 12,
and in 6 seasonal establishments women worked as many as 13, 14,
and 15 hours a day. In these plants at such times, following the
usual 9- or 10-hour day work dragged on for 4 to 6 hours after
supper. One canner said that work continued from 7 a. m. to
whatever hour was necessary to take care of the produce on hand;
on one occasion it was 2 a. m. when they quit. Another said,
“When peas come in heavy we work from 9 or 10 a. m. to midnight,
and on peak days for beans and corn from 8 a. m. to 10 p. m.”
Such situations undoubtedly are typical of the irregularity and
long hours in this industry. In a few instances plants operated a
second shift during the busiest season in lieu of long overtime
hours.



10

MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

Summary.
Hours of work in canneries, uncontrolled by State law in New
Jersey and liberally exempted from the State law in New York,
run to extremes at peak season. In New Jersey the usual hours
at other times of the year are 8 or 9 a day, but emergency hours
were reported variously as reaching from 10 to 13, and even 16
hours, for 6 days a week. In New York the most usual daily hours
over the year are 8, but peak-season hours were reported as from
12 to 16, only 3 plants adhering to their 8-hour schedule.
CANNERY WAGES
In the canning industry so many employees work on piece rates
based on quantity production that hourly wage standards cannot
be used as a criterion of actual earnings of the majority of the
women employed during the short seasons in many of the canneries.
A cannery survey by the Women’s Bureau that included the
1939 earnings of employees showed that from one-third to more
than one-half of the women working on various products in New
York canneries in 1939 were earning not more than 25 cents an
hour. At that time 25 cents was the minimum set by the Fair
Labor Standards Act, but in October 1939 the rate was raised to
30 cents, the minimum still in effect throughout the season of
1943. Though as early as March 1943 the Industry Committee for
Canned Fruits and Vegetables and Related Products, acting under
the Fair Labor Standards Act, recommended a 40-cent minimum
rate for canneries, this rate was not made effective until October.
The summer of 1943, however, was one of unusual confusion
and agitation for higher wages. To meet the competition of earn­
ings, especially in war industries, many canners were forced to
raise their wage scales, and in June 1943 the Director of Economic
Stabilization authorized an increase for cannery workers provided
it did not exceed 10 cents.
In the New York and New Jersey survey by the Women’s
Bureau in 1943, no canner reported hourly rates below 40 cents.
Further adjustment of the wages of cannery workers may be
needed to meet the increase in the cost of living and to enable
canners to secure an adequate labor supply. Some way must be
found to insure against a return to the substandard wages paid
women cannery workers before wartime needs compelled improve­
ment in this situation.
That wages should be paid on the basis of occupation and not
on the basis of sex is a Women’s Bureau principle as old as the
Bureau itself. Further, the matter of seasonal or nonseasonal em­
ployment should make no difference to the rate. The recom­
mendation that where women are employed on jobs still done or
formerly done by men and are turning out substantially the same
work, women’s wage rates should be the same as men’s, has been
enunciated by Federal Government agencies for the past 40 years.
Women in New Jersey.
For the most part women were classified as laborers in the New
Jersey canneries, and 17 canners reported hourly rates of pay for



MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

11

such seasonal workers. Five were paying 40 cents an hour, but
the most usual rate for seasonal labor was 45 cents, and only three
canners paid more than 45. Fifty cents an hour was the maximum
hourly rate paid to seasonal women laborers.
Higher rates usually were paid to the more regular force of
year-round laborers, though frequently the seasonal workers, who
in many cases return year after year, were doing the same kind
of work as that done by the more regular workers in the yearround canneries. Of 7 canneries that operated throughout the
year and reported rates only 2 quoted a rate above 45 cents for
their seasonal workers, and none quoted a rate below 45 cents for
their more regular workers. The highest rate for women regular
workers was reported as 521/2 cents.
Aside from hourly rates for labor, a few managers quoted rates
for specific occupations such as machine operators and foreladies.
Though two of the very few foreladies reported were rated at 45
cents, other foreladies and the machine operators referred to were
rated at from 55 to 67 cents' an hour, the highest hourly rates
reported as paid to women in the New Jersey canneries.
In one cannery that operates 52 weeks of the year, employees
were paid on a definite production-bonus basis, and in many can­
neries certain types of work were paid on a piece-work basis. Pay
for output instead of hours was especially common in tomato
peeling.
One New Jersey canner, whose plant operated throughout the
year, reported a system of automatic wage progression based on
length of service.
In some of the organized plants in New Jersey the union has
no responsibility for the seasonal workers. In a union agreement
in effect at the time of the survey, a seasonal employee is defined
as one who is hired between July 15 and October 15 of any year,
and the contract specifically states that seasonal workers are
excluded from the coverage of the agreement.
Women in New York.
Women laborers were paid at the rate of 40 cents an hour in
only 3 of the New York canneries covered in this survey, and
these were in nonindustrial communities remote from the influence
of the higher wage scale paid in war-industry plants. Further­
more, 2 of them were dependent to some extent on migrant work­
ers, and all operated over comparatively short periods. In an
outstanding majority of the canneries, 29 of the 36 reporting, the
labor rate of the women was 50 cents; in only 1 cannery was it
higher and there it was 55 cents. The 50-cent rate predominated
in canneries operating on a seasonal as well as on a 52-week basis,
but no cannery operating throughout the year reported a labor
rate of less than 47 cents.
Customarily, rates for machine operators and foreladies were
higher than the rates for labor, though these better-paid jobs
were in a decided minority and less than one-third of the canners
reported rates for specific jobs. In only 2 cases were rates reported
for such occupations as low as 50 cents; 55 cents was the most
common rate and a few were reported to be as high as 60 cents.



12

MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

Additions in the way of a bonus or incentive payments were
rare. One cannery reported the payment of overtime above 40
hours. Two plants operating throughout the year had definite
automatic wage-progression systems; another paid a bonus for
work on the second shift, and others raised the usual hourly rate
for work during the apple season.
Rates for Men.
Rates of pay for men in the labor classification were invariably
higher than those for women. Only one canner in New Jersey
reported a labor rate for men as low as 40 cents an hour. This
was a small rural plant, remote from the competition of higher­
paying industries, and all the women employed here were paid
on a piece-work basis. The prevailing hourly rate paid men was
the same in New Jersey and New York. Six of the 9 canners re­
porting men’s rates in New Jersey, and 23 of the 29 reporting them
in New York, paid 60 cents an hour. In only 2 canneries was the
men’s labor rate more than 60 cents, the maximum being 68 cents
paid in a cannery operating 52 weeks in New York State.
Summary.
For the most part women’s seasonal work in canneries is classed
as labor. In many plants it is paid on a piece-rate basis, and no
data were obtained as to earnings. Production bonuses are rare,
as are systems of wage progression.
In the case of hourly workers, no canner in either State reported
a rate below 40 cents. In New Jersey the most usual rate was 45
cents; 3 canners paid more than this with 50 cents the maximum.
In 29 of the 36 New York canneries women laborers’ rate was 50
cents; in 1 it was 55 cents.
Men’s rates were higher than women’s, their prevailing rate
in both States being 60 cents.
WORKING CONDITIONS
As regards working conditions in the canneries of New Jersey
and New York, each presents its own individual problems, the
remedies for which cover a wide range. Some few companies would
need entirely new plants or buildings before conditions could be
made satisfactory. For others it would mean new equipment or
machinery or the realignment of production lines. Still other
situations could be remedied by the use of paint, better lighting,
more seats for women, and so forth. It is true, nevertheless, that
plant outlay and working conditions in the canneries of these two
States have been decidedly improved in recent years. There are
fewer “fly-by-night” canneries, the kind that would spring up in
some old barn or abandoned cannery, operate a year or two, and
then move elsewhere or go out of business. Several small plants
and chains of canneries have been bought by large food corpora­
tions that are better able financially to improve and maintain them.
Canners are approaching the problems of production and of
working conditions more scientifically. They point with pride to
new machines and to new production methods. One small cannery
visited had unusually good mechanized equipment and a minimum



MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

13

of hand labor for the amount of food processed. As a consequence
the owner was having little difficulty in securing the small number
of workers needed. In a community where there were several
canneries it was interesting to note that two canneries having
good working conditions were having no trouble getting labor,
while one with a long-time reputation for bad working conditions
was finding it almost impossible to get help.
Much credit is due the Association of New York Canners for this
more progressive attitude. This organization has recognized cer­
tain standards for working conditions and has urged the canners
of the State to maintain them. In cooperation with the offices of
the War Manpower Commission in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse,
and other cities of northwestern New York, as well as the local
United States Employment Service offices in cannery areas, the
association has done a splendid job of recruiting cannery workers
and has observed fair practices in so doing. During the less busy
winter season, the Canners Association plans to assemble material
on good housing for migratory workers and make this available in
usable form to canners who may desire or need it.
The practical studies made by the Division of Women in Industry
in the New York State Department of Labor in 1930-31 un­
doubtedly have had much to do with the changed attitude and
practices of many New York canneries, several of which mentioned
these studies in the present survey. The studies were made in
cooperation with the Canners Association and were concerned
especially with the kinds of jobs for women in canneries and with
better production methods. The studies resulted in a new cannery
code for the State, which is administered by the Inspection Division
of the Department of Labor.
General Plant Conditions.
Canneries vary as to type of construction from large brick and
concrete buildings of several stories, usually in cities or towns, to
the less pretentious frame buildings, barnlike in appearance or of
pavilion-type construction.
With some notable exceptions, the canneries visited, though in
few cases housed in new buildings, are kept in good repair and
generally appear freshly painted on the inside.
Lack of ventilation is not a problem for the most part, but for
the buildings of platform or pavilion type too much ventilation and
too little protection from cold or wet weather is the case. A bad
feature of several plants is the use of basement workrooms that
are dark and damp. In a few canneries steam condenses on the
ceiling and drops on the workers.
Daylight is plentiful in most canneries on bright days but in
many of them the artificial lighting for dark days is not adequate.
The usual method of such lighting is by bulbs suspended on cords
over the production lines or machines. These frequently are spaced
too far apart, of insufficient voltage, and so dirty that much light
is lost. Skylights are used in some canneries as a means of light­
ing and ventilation.
Though recently more thought has been given to the placement
of machinery, work tables, conveyors, and so on, further improve­
ments in this direction would make for more efficient production,
567320°—44------3




14

MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

a greater degree of cleanliness, and would add appreciably to the
comfort of the workers. One New York cannery had supplied a
sufficient number of metal stools for bean snippers but the aisles
between the lines were so narrow that the workers had to place
their stools sideways and could not face their work. Narrow aisles
and crowded conditions are not infrequent, but there were only two
or three canneries in either State where the agent actually had to
duck under conveyor belts, stairways, and apparatus to get about
the plant.
It is almost inevitable that the floors in canneries where certain
processing is done should be wet. This condition can be overcome
to a large extent by the use of cement floors built to drain readily
and by the provision of platforms on which the workers can stand.
Many canneries visited still have flat wooden floors. Several have
long perforated metal platforms the length of the “line”; others
seen, each long enough for several workers to stand on, are of
wooden slats. Some are small wooden platforms for individual
workers; in the use of these smaller platforms there is often an
insufficient number and they are poorly placed. In some cases
more than one worker will stand on a platform so small that there
is scarcely room to balance.
Seating.
Certain work in canneries in connection with operating or feed­
ing machines necessitates continuous standing; other jobs can be
done sitting. With the exception of one cannery in New Jersey,
all those visited in New Jersey and New York provide seats for
the women workers whose jobs permit of their use. It probably
is true that very few of them have enough seats for all workers
employed on such jobs in peak season. These seats comprise metal
stools with backs and in some cases with foot rests, stools without
backs, wooden kitchen-type chairs, crudely constructed wooden
chairs, and packing boxes of all kinds and shapes, some upholstered
in burlap bags. Of a New Jersey cannery the plant report reads:
“Two women sorting at a tomato-washing machine sit on stools,
which to make them high enough are placed most dangerously on
wooden boxes.” The report on a New York cannery states that
“one tomato line is operating at a sorting table on the receiving
platform. The sloping table is placed on a narrow platform V/2
to 2 feet higher than the receiving platform. For seats, the elderly
women working here are using two wooden boxes, one on top of
the other, on which they perch precariously near the edge of the
platform.”
Sanitary and Service Facilities.
One canning company in New Jersey devotes the entire space
of a 4-story building to personnel work and service facilities. This
building houses the personnel, pay-roll, time, and medical depart­
ments, two cafeterias (one for men and one for women), locker
rooms, toilet and wash rooms, kitchen, and laundry (for plant
uniforms). These facilities are duplicated in the second plant of
this companyOne company in New York has equally adequate
service facilities, but these two are exceptional.



MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

15

The housekeeping conditions of the service facilities obviously
are better in canneries where matrons are on duty and where
definite arrangements have been made to have the facilities cleaned
regularly. The expense of such provision probably is repaid in
less loss of time by workers loitering in service rooms and in fewer
repairs and less upkeep due to untidiness or carelessness.
Washing facilities.—Washing facilities are provided in all
the canneries visited in New Jersey and New York, but it is ques­
tionable whether these are sufficient to meet the peak-season needs
of most of the plants. In other than peak season, probably six of
the New Jersey canneries visited would not meet the standard set
by the Women’s Bureau of one washbowl to every 10 employees
up to 100 persons,2 and this would be true of perhaps two or three
canneries in New York. The washing facilities in six of the New
Jersey canneries consist of sinks in the workrooms, each supplied
with from one to three spigots. These sinks are used for many
other purposes than hand-washing. In but one New York cannery
visited are such sinks in the workrooms the only washing facilities
provided. Other canneries in both States supply washbowls that
usually are in more or less pretentious washrooms, often combined
with toilet rooms.
Two canneries in New York have round, fountain-type washing
arrangements that accommodate 6 or 8 workers at a time. Of the
21 canneries visited in New Jersey, 9, including those with only
sinks in the workrooms, supply only cold water for washing pur­
poses. In New York, of the 36 canneries visited 15 supply both
hot and cold -water for this purpose. At the time of visit, soap
and towels were not provided in one New York and five New Jersey
canneries.
Toilets.—Toilets separate for men and women are provided in
all the canneries visited in New Jersey and New York. In many of
the canneries the number of toilets would not meet, in peak season,
the standard set by the Women’s Bureau of 1 seat to every 15
women employed. Of the 21 canneries visited in New Jersey, 8
have outdoor privies and 1 has a small separate service building.
Of the 36 visited in New York; 6 have outdoor privies and 1 has
a small separate service building.
The condition of the outdoor toilets varies. At one New Jersey
cannery that has outdoor toilets with the pit method of disposal,
these toilets are freshly painted and kept very clean, and lye and
disinfectants are used generously. In another cannery with similar
equipment, the toilets are filthy; no one is responsible for keeping
them clean. One plant with indoor toilet facilities has three flush
toilets crowded into a tiny room, the openings to the three com­
partments being covered only by curtains and with a partition not
reaching to the ceiling separating the compartments from the
washing facilities. At least one plant visited in New York that pro­
vides indoor toilets has arrangements that are questionable from
the point of view of sanitation. At the time the canneries were
visited a number of the toilets were not supplied with paper.
s The Women’s Bureau has prepared a pamphlet (Special Bulletin No. 4) supplying au­
thoritative recommendations for the construction of suitable washroom and toilet facilities
for industrial plants, with suggested standards that conform to those of the American Standards
Association sponsored by the U. S. Public Health Service.




16

MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

Cloak rooms.—Sixteen of the 21 canneries visited in New Jersey
and 21 of the 36 in New York have no cloak rooms or other special
arrangements for women to hang their wraps. This is due in some
cases to the short season of the canneries’ work at which time
workers would not wear wraps; but season would not excuse the
failure to meet this need by the 3 canneries in New Jersey that
operate 24 to 28 weeks and the 8 that operate 52 weeks, nor the 11
canneries in New York operating 15 to 25 weeks and the 8 operat­
ing 52 weeks. In the canneries where no provision is made, wraps
are hung on backs of chairs or are thrown down on boxes or tables
about the workroom.
Two of the five New Jersey canneries that furnish lockers for
wraps have not nearly enough for all workers. In one New York
plant only women workers members of the union are supplied with
lockers in a locker room; nonunion or seasonal men and women
workers hang their wraps on racks in the linen room. Several of
the New York canneries do not supply enough lockers for all
workers, one combines the locker room with the rest room, another
with the toilet room, and one has hooks around the walls of a
small cloak room.
One of the best cloak-room arrangements is a large room enclosed
by heavy wire netting where racks are provided on which to hang
coats, with shelves above them for hats and packages. Such an
arrangement is much more sanitary and less hard on clothing than
that afforded by the use of lockers, but to be entirely satisfactory
should be in the care of matrons.
Rest rooms and lunch rooms.—Six of the 21 canneries in New
Jersey are equipped with rest rooms; two others combine rest and
lunch rooms. Eight canneries have lunch rooms or cafeterias.
In all of them food is available. Six of them are canneries that
operate 52 weeks. At two plants the migratory workers eat their
lunches in the dining rooms connected with the housing units,
adjacent to the plants. In one plant lunch rooms are separate for
colored and white.
Seven of the 36 canneries covered in New York have rest rooms.
Only 5 provide cafeterias or lunch rooms; all these operate 52
weeks in the year.
Uniforms.—Uniforms are required and worn in but one of the
canneries visited in New Jersey. Uniforms, caps, aprons, and
gloves are furnished free by the company. The company launders
free the men’s uniforms and the women’s aprons and caps, but the
women prefer to launder their own uniforms as these are made to
individual order and they do not want to risk having them ex­
changed for others.
Six canneries visited in New York require uniforms, one other
furnishes uniforms, caps, aprons, and rubber gloves in some in­
stances, still another urges the workers to purchase the uniforms
and caps kept in stock at a local store. Three of the six plants
requiring uniforms furnish them free, together with caps, rubber
aprons, and rubber gloves, and launder the uniforms and caps
without charge. At one plant a $2 deposit for the season is re­
quired on uniforms, SI of which is returnable when the uniform
is turned in. Caps and aprons are not returnable and cost 25 cents



MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

17

and 35 cents, respectively. Another cannery requiring uniforms
rents them with caps and aprons for a nominal sum.
Medical facilities.—A very fine medical department is main­
tained in one cannery in New Jersey and in one in New York. The
medical department in the New Jersey plant has fine facilities and
equipment; it has a certificate from the American College of Sur­
geons. A doctor is regularly in charge and is on duty from 8 a. m.
till 12:15 every workday. A head nurse is on duty from 3 p. m. to
12 midnight so as to cover time on both shifts. Two or three
registered nurses divide the time on the two shifts and an extra
nurse, also registered, is engaged for the peak season. The facili­
ties consist of a surgical dressing room with instrument cabinets,
dressings, sterilizers, and so forth; an eye, ear, nose, and throat
room; two bedrooms, each with two beds supplied with first-quality
mattresses and each room with a lavatory; and a laboratory where
blood tests, urinalysis, Wassermanns and vaccinations are given.
There is also equipment for baking and diathermy. An examina­
tion is made of each new worker and all workers are examined
once a year thereafter. A wheelchair and two stretchers are
provided in the department and other stretchers are placed
throughout the plant.
Another New Jersey plant maintains a large and well-equipped
first-aid room with a registered nurse in charge. One cannery
has a clinic equipped to take care of minor burns, cuts, headaches,
and so forth; three registered nurses are employed here, two for
the day shift and one for the night shift. No comfortable place
is provided to lie down and it was reported that on the day before
the plant was visited a girl who was ill had sat all day in the ladies’
room waiting to get a ride home at 6 o’clock. The facilities in
another cannery comprise a dispensary wTith inadequate space in
part of a tiny building housing a canteen or lunch room. There
is no privacy here. The “cot” consists of a mattress, with no
springs, placed on a wooden table. There is a trained nurse in
charge, who renders the best service she can under the circum­
stances and manages to keep the place immaculately clean. All
the other New Jersey canneries provide only first-aid kits or
cabinets and some of these seem to have minimum supplies.
Besides the one New York cannery with a complete medical
department that corresponds to the one in New Jersey described
above, five New York plants provide very well-equipped first-aid
rooms with trained nurses in charge, and require medical exami­
nations of new workers and periodic examinations thereafter.
Another plant has a small first-aid room and the nurse here acts
also as matron. As in New Jersey, the remaining canneries visited
in New York have first-aid kits or cabinets variously stocked
with supplies.
PROBLEMS OF MIGRATORY LABOR
The presence of migratory labor in New Jersey and New York
has presented a continuous problem over a long period. Migrant
workers have been attracted to these States by the promise of
seasonal work and by the relatively higher wages paid. That
some of these people stay and become a permanent part of the



18

MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

labor supply presents the separate problem of how they are to
be absorbed into the economic and social life of the communities
of their adoption so that they may be independent and self re­
specting and will not become a burden requiring relief from private
and public agencies.
In spite of the fact that in recent years the attention of the
general public as well as that of official agencies—Federal, State,
and local—has to an increasing degree been directed toward migra­
tory-labor problems, particularly as regards living conditions, there
still remains much to be done. Greater cooperation between the
official agencies at all levels is essential in determining the extent
of the need for such workers and in effecting an integrated plan
for adequately providing for and controlling the conditions under
which migrants work and live. The war program has greatly
stimulated the use of migrant workers and has increased the
urgency of the matter of control.
The migrant worker, it would seem, has been nobody’s respon­
sibility. Federal agencies have been slow to step in, due in part
to lack of funds to do an adequate job and perhaps due partly to a
hesitancy in encroaching on what might seem a State or local
problem. Causes of States’ failing to meet their responsibilities
include lack of funds, absence of a well-defined authority to in­
vestigate and enforce their recommendations, and a feeling that
the migratory worker does not “belong”, that these people are not
a permanent part of the population. With the exception of a few
individuals, the attitude of the communities in which migratory
workers are found seems to be one of indifference if not resent­
ment. Such expressions as, “We didn’t bring them here”; “We
don’t want them”; “The employer brought them here, let him take
care of them” are commonly heard. The fact is, however, that if
migrant labor is essential to the producing of crops and the pro­
cessing of food, either annually in normal times or for the duration
of war, the raising of standards for its employment is of vital
importance, since its very presence is bound to affect the lives of
the people in the community and may, if not properly dealt with,
cause unnecessary problems and even constitute real hazards.
It is altogether true that certain aspects of the migratory-labor
problem will never be satisfactorily worked out until the com­
munities in which migrants work and live are willing to assume
some interest in and responsibility for them.
The welfare of the migrant worker is a primary responsibility
of the individual employer. This may be less true in wartime when,
because of its large contracts for food, the Government becomes
practically a co-employer and when it is more difficult to obtain
materials for the housing and other arrangements that must be
provided. This does not alter the fact that, on the whole, employers
have not in the past met their responsibilities in this direction.
The war should not be used by them as an excuse for doing less
than is possible. Migratory workers themselves have little control
over the living conditions with which they are confronted on
the job.



MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

19

HOUSING AND LIVING CONDITIONS FOR MIGRATORY
WORKERS
It may be accepted as a fact, in a war emergency as in peace­
time, that only when a thorough survey shows the local labor
supply to be inadequate, should the employment of migrant work­
ers be considered. If workers can be secured in the vicinity of
the industry, the problems of housing, transportation, feeding,
child care, and so forth, are greatly reduced.
Of these problems, that of housing seems the most important
and the most difficult. One difficulty lies in the fact that the most
careful estimates of the probable number of workers needed and
expected in a given area must be available if adequate programing
is to be at all possible. The difficulty of persuading canners to
order their labor early is a factor in making it hard to anticipate
housing needs.
Delay in the completion of Government housing projects re­
sulted in a serious condition in at least one important canning and
farming area in New Jersey. This was due not only to a shortage
of labor in the building trades, and a difficulty in securing building
materials, but to a lack of programing housing needs. The result
here was that American migrant workers were expelled summarily
from their homes and in some instances put into quarters without
the bare necessities of decent living, in order to make room for
hundreds of Jamaican workers whose contracts called for certain
minimum guarantees in living standards.
New Jersey.
Realizing that a consideration of the housing situation for
migratory workers in New Jersey involved an overlapping of the
interests of several agencies, and in the interest of cooperative
effort, the agent of the Women’s Bureau, together with represen­
tatives of the U. S. Children’s Bureau, the Regional Office of War
Manpower Commission, and the Regional Office of Community War
Services made a joint survey of some of the housing provisions in
that State. The survey included visits to nine centers, housing
the employees of four different canneries. In addition to the
projects visited jointly, the Women’s Bureau agent surveyed two
other housing centers in New Jersey. Both good and bad condi­
tions were found. A description of the several centers follows:
1. Occupied by southern white families. A group of 36 pre­
fabricated houses, each about 16 by 16 feet, in four rows of 9
houses each. The houses are well spaced and there are fairly wide
spaces between the rows. Screened windows on three sides of
each house and a screened door on the fourth. Houses occupied
by as many as eight people, in some cases more than one family.
Each house has four built-in double-decker bunks, but there are
not enough mattresses for all. Each house has a table with benches
attached to the sides. At time of first visit no stoves or cooking
utensils had been supplied. Later, two-burner oil stoves were in­
stalled in some of the houses but they are a heater type unsuitable
for cooking; the burners are a considerable distance from the top
surface, with no chimneys above the burners. Some of the tenants



20

MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

were dismantling sections of the stoves in an endeavor to make
them usable for cooking purposes. If they wish to cook they
must either use these stoves or build a fire out of doors.
Water supply consists of three faucets for cold water, one at
the end of each camp street. No showers and no facilities for
washing clothes.
Privies of a sanitary type of construction, two for men and two
for women, close together in the center of the rows of houses.
Very little privacy. Sewage disposal supposed to be by pit method,
but as yet no pits under the women’s toilets and no doors on these.
An open space around outside of the toilets at base of the privies,
so flies and other insects have easy access to pits.
A company store accessible, but inadequately stocked. Serves
not only this camp but four others and is open only three hours in
afternoon when many women are working in the cannery.
Cannery has a clinic but presumably only sufficient to take care
of industrial accidents or the minor sickness of workers in the
plant.
No supervision is provided for the camp. No telephone at camp
or within reasonable distance for use in emergencies.
It was indicated that this camp was only temporary, but it had
been occupied over three weeks at time of visit. It was apparent
that no family units planned for these people would be constructed
by employer or by Federal Public Housing Authority this season.
2. Occupied by Negro families. This camp consisted of tents
with wooden floors. It was reported that the families were to be
moved to new housing when it was completed, but here again it
was understood that the new housing planned for family units
being built by Federal Public Housing Authority could not be
completed this season. Definitely, some other method of housing
the workers should be made.
Cots with one blanket were the only furnishings provided; no
tables, chairs, or stoves.
Water was piped in with faucets at intervals along the camp
streets, but there were no showers and no facilities for washing
clothes. Waste water was poured into gutter in front of the tents.
A toilet pit was being dug but on the day of the visit there were
no toilet facilities available for the use of tenants of this camp.
Tent village was considerable distance from clinic at cannery
where tenants worked, and also from nearest store.
No telephone service and no supervision provided for camp.
3. Occupied by approximately 300 Jamaican men and nearly 150
American Negro women. Barracks provided separately for men
and women, built originally for a C. C. C. camp. Beautiful loca­
tion, some distance from cannery in which these people work.
Barracks furnished with cots placed fairly close together, but
crowding not too bad considering emergency conditions.
Each barrack has hot and cold water. Separate showers for
men and women. Facilities for washing clothes.
Flush toilets in all barracks.
Cafeteria service provided for all residents of this camp, with
food of a type that Jamaicans prefer.



MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

21

No medical service at camp, but services of cannery clinic avail­
able.
Camp has a resident supervisor; telephone service available in
his office.
4. Occupied by single white women. An old summer-resort hotel
is used for a camp; situated on a small lake. Accommodations
satisfactory.
Rooms equipped with same furnishings as provided when build­
ing was used for a hotel. These include beds, mattresses and
bedding, chairs and dressers.
Hot and cold running water; shower baths and bath tubs; provi­
sion for washing clothes.
Meals prepared by workers employed for this; served in dining
hall separate from main building.
No medical facilities provided at camp. Clinic at cannery not
only several miles away but not equipped or staffed to provide
medical care for workers when not actually on the job.
Telephone service available. A resident supervisor, a woman
school teacher, in charge of the camp.
5. A Farm Security Administration camp. Occupied by Jamaican
men and American Negro families.
Due to daily shift of occupants to privately operated camps, it
was hard to determine exact number of occupants on a given day.
According to Regional Office of Farm Security Administration
there were about 516 Jamaican men and approximately 100 Negro
families living here the day of the visit. The Negro families were
gradually being moved to other locations but a number still lived
here at the end of summer.
Jamaicans housed in prefabricated wooden houses and Negro
families in tents. Houses and tents contained the barest necessi­
ties in the way of furnishings.
A fairly generous water supply but only one shower-bath build­
ing and but 12 shower heads for entire camp. Supervisor said
more showers were planned and would be built shortly. No special
facilities for washing clothes; women wash for their families in
galvanized tubs.
Several privies on borders of camp, but built too close to some
of the houses and not easily accessible to others. Not adequate
in number.
Single men fed in cafeteria, but families prepare own meals on
cook stoves provided in the tents.
That a check and closer supervision of camp’s sanitary arrange­
ments should be made seemed necessary, as there had been one
death from typhoid here.
A clinic is set up for the camp in a trailer, attended by a Negro
public-health nurse and by a doctor who gives several hours a
week. Medical service of Farm Security Administration in this
region is under direction of a United States Public Health Service
officer assigned to the Regional Office of the Farm Security Ad­
ministration.
A Farm Security Administration employee is assigned to man­
age this camp.



22

MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

6. Occupied by Negro families. Most of the tenants work on
farms but some in a cannery. Number of occupants not deter­
mined.
Camp consists of a combination of frame houses built during
World War I, of new prefabricated houses, and of tents. Pre­
fabricated houses are 16 by 20 feet, some with partitions down the
middle. Are occupied by 8 or 10 people, and in one case 12 people
live in one of these tiny boxes. In a house divided by a partition
two unrelated couples are assigned to one side.
Houses and tents furnished with cots and bunks, but not enough
mattresses. No cook stoves provided. A few families have their
own stoves, but most tenants have to build open fires in order
to cook.
One water line with an inadequate number of spigots. No facili­
ties for washing clothes. One tenant said there were only four
washtubs in whole camp, and people who can do so borrow them.
Toilet facilities of the outdoor privy type, and apparently not a
sufficient number. Some people use the nearby woods because
toilets so few and inaccessible. An open space around base of
privies permits easy access by flies and other insects.
Distance to nearest store approximately three miles, and store
open only about three hours in afternoon. No provision for re­
frigeration of perishable foods.
Said to be no garbage and refuse collection, and such material is
deposited in woods on borders of camp.
No medical or nursing care provided except at cannery clinic,
a considerable distance from camp. Clinic set up to take care of
workers in plant and not for general medical services.
No supervisor of camp in regular attendance and camp not pro­
vided with telephone service.
7. Occupied by Negro families. This tent colony, set up in a
field, furnishes temporary shelter until other housing can be made
available. Families are to be moved into a Federal Public Housing
project when it is completed. However, since public housing is
not far enough along to be finished very soon, it appears that people
in this camp must stay here a long time.
Here again the facilities for even minimum decent living are
absent. Tents are close together, and because of excessive heat
the sides are kept up most of the time, giving the effect of dozens
of people living together in a more or less promiscuous fashion.
Workers on night shift have little chance of resting in daytime,
as noise of children and other campers goes on unabated.
Roughly constructed toilets have been built but are insufficient
in number.
Water is piped in, but there are no facilities for bathing and
laundry. A few washtubs among the tenants, loaned from person
to person.
Workers in cannery can get one and sometimes two hot meals in
cannery cafeteria. These consist of sandwiches, hot soup, tea,
coffee, or milk. It seems almost impossible that they could prepare
even one simple square meal a day with the stoves they themselves



MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

23

provide and their few cooking utensils. A company store is nearby
but it appears inadequately stocked.
No medical service provided for tenants of camp beyond that
offered by cannery clinic to workers when on the job. No tele­
phone at camp, and nearest doctor and hospital in a town nine
miles distant.
No one to supervise this camp.
8. Occupied by adult men and women and by family groups. This
camp built recently as a permanent camp; constructed of lumber
and wallboard. Houses in units 20 by 20 feet and 20 by 16 feet
with partitions down the middle, each half having its own door.
Camp intended for single men and women but has a number of
family groups with children. During peak season a great many
additional men were brought in. To take care of these, tents were
pitched in front of regular camp. All service facilities planned to
take care of permanent camp, and probably adequate for that,
must have been terribly overtaxed by addition of this tent colony.
Each house has built-in double-decker bunks for four people, a
wooden table, and one or two chairs. Mattresses and pillows made
of ticking filled with straw, and some bedding, are furnished for
each bed.
Sanitary privies are on the outside border of camp at rear of
housing units. Adequate in number for the occupants expected
for permanent camp. Separate toilets plainly marked for men
and for women.
Adequate supply of water with a spigot between each two
houses; separate shower baths for men and women; four stationary
tubs for washing clothes, with hot and cold water, in a wash house.
A large mess hall, and another building for commissary and
kitchen. It is thought by owners that if any considerable number
of families with children occupy this camp it may be better to use
the mess hall for a recreation center and the kitchen as an office.
This would necessitate providing stoves for individual housing
units so that families could do own cooking. Milk is to be delivered
to camp daily, but as yet no provision for refrigeration of milk
or other perishable food has been made. Food stores of the town
are readily accessible and believed to be adequate.
Regular garbage and refuse collection has been arranged for
with town collectors.
Camp not equipped with a clinic, but situated on outskirts of a
town in which cannery has two doctors on call.
Camp is to have a resident supervisor, available to answer ques­
tions and take care of any emergencies that may develop. It is
planned to keep a complete register of all occupants at all times.
9. Originally designed to take care of Italian families from a city
in an adjacent State, but probably to be used this season for Negro
migrant workers from South. Cannery had not yet started operat­
ing at time of visit.
Camp is directly adjacent to cannery on outskirts of a small
town. Consists of long, shed-like, wooden buildings divided by



24

MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

partitions into about 20 units. A covered porch runs full length
of the front of each building.
Each unit has 2 double-size built-in bunks of very rude con­
struction. Italian families had always brought and seemed to
prefer their own mattresses and bedding, but these will have to be
furnished by company if migrants unused to this are brought
from a greater distance.
Hot and cold water are available. No showers, and migrants
heretofore have furnished own tubs for washing clothes.
Outdoor privies with septic tanks, in three accessible locations,
are provided.
An adequate number of cook stoves provided for community
use, placed on porches of the buildings. Fuel for these is fur­
nished by company. Food stores are accessible and apparently
adequately stocked.
Cannery first aid is available to camp. Nearest doctor is in a
town about five miles distant; nearest hospital, seven miles from
camp.
10. A housing unit occupied by white and colored men, consisting
of two-story bunkhouses built on cannery property, was not
inspected. Another unit, for white and colored women, was
about a block from the cannery. This consisted of a two-wing,
one-story dormitory of frame and stucco insulated with beaverboard, estimated by the company as able to house 250 women.
White women were to occupy one wing and colored women the
other. At time of second visit to the camp the tenants were
occupying it, the furnishings were in, and the place seemed ter­
ribly crowded. The beds were placed so closely that in some
cases there was not space for a chair between. Chairs had been
furnished but some of them could not be used because of lack of
floor space.
Each wing has an office and a tiny reception room; toilet rooms,
with an adequate number of flush toilets; shower rooms; and
laundry rooms with stationary tubs and ironing boards. No
recreation room in the building. Outside court could be used in
pleasant weather but dormitory is too near a busy street to
allow for much privacy.
Double-decker beds, mattresses, pillows, sheets, pillow cases,
and towels are furnished by company. Linens are changed fre­
quently and laundered by company free of charge.
A large brick building adjacent to plant has been renovated
and made into a central mess hall for the use of both men and
women. No cooking is done in dormitory. Three meals a day
are served and the cost to workers seems reasonable. Mess hall
could be used for certain recreational activities if a program
could be set up.
No clinic is provided in dormitory. First aid is available to
workers in the cannery. Plant has a doctor on call and the
physicians in the town are accessible. Telephone service is avail­
able.
A matron and assistant matron supervise upkeep of the dormi­
tory. Apparently they lack the qualifications to get the best
cooperation from tenants.



MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

25

11. Occupied by colored men and women. Camp consists of a
long, narrow, frame dormitory building originally intended to
house only men. Building was supposed to have space for 100
workers but is not adequate for this number. There were about
45 tenants at time of visit, 30-some men and 10 or 12 women.
Windows and doors of dormitory are screened and heavy
wooden drops or shutters can be let down in case of rain.
Double-decker bunks placed close together on both sides of
the room leave a narrow aisle down the middle. Some bunks
have been replaced by army cots. No chairs or other furnish­
ings. When company found itself confronted with the need of
housing women as well as men, partitions of light wood or heavy
cardboard were put around some of the bunks. These partitions
are in no sense soundproof, they do not reach to the ceiling,
and there are wide cracks around the doors. Privacy is absolutely
impossible, not only for the women for whom inclosures are
intended but for the men who occupy the open dormitory space.
Aside from the potentialities for immoral behavior which the
occupants of this center may or may not have, in the face of
these housing arrangements the complaints by the employer of
such behavior seem ironical, even when, several of the women
being fired on the grounds of seeming misconduct and unwilling­
ness to work, a number of men quit with them.
There are two showers at the end of the room. A partition
is placed between the two, and one is designated for men, the
other for women.
The out-of-doors toilets are behind the dormitory or bunkhouse.
One of them is for women. It has a screen door, and a wooden
partition is built in front, which affords little privacy.
Adjoining the dormitory, a screened-in pavilion-like building
houses dining room and kitchen. This seems adequate. The
dining room is furnished with long wooden tables covered with
oilcloth, with benches on either side of the tables. The migrants
eat their regular meals here but can buy sandwiches, soft drinks,
and so forth at cannery restaurant. Kitchen is equipped with a
large range and what seems an adequate supply of utensils and
dishes.
The colored preacher who recruited these workers has super­
vision of their living arrangements. He also conducts some
religious meetings for them.
There is no telephone in this center, but one in the cannery is
accessible in case of emergency.
New York.
As was true of New Jersey, both good and bad conditions were
found among the New York housing centers.
1. A company that furnishes housing for men only has leased a
building for this purpose. The building appears adequate from
point of equipment and sanitary arrangements but was not closely
inspected.
Board and lodging are provided at this center, as is also trans­
portation to and from work.



26

MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

Recreation is supplied in the way of a soft-ball diamond and
tennis courts, radios, checkerboards, cards, newspapers, and
magazines.
2. A new center not yet occupied at time of visit. Adjoining
dormitories, one for men and one for women, within walking
distance of cannery. Buildings are of frame and stucco and have
a capacity for housing 250 men and 250 women. Each dormi­
tory has office, lounge room, laundry room, shower room, and
toilet and wash rooms with adequate facilities. The double-deck
metal beds have double metal lockers attached to them. It is
planned to have both a man and a woman supervisor for the
dormitories.
A dining room connecting the two dormitories is to be used by
both men and women.
3. This company has its own housing center for migrants and
the Federal Public Housing Authority has a trailer camp here
for the care of additional workers. The company’s center was
occupied by white and colored families and unattached men and
women at time of inspection. On first visit the trailer camp was
occupied by southern white families, but a month or so later it
was occupied largely by colored families. This almost complete
turn-over was reported as not due to unsatisfactory living ar­
rangements but to unsatisfactory working conditions.
The company housing is crowded into a little space across
from a railroad track between a public road and some plant
buildings. It is old and dilapidated. Center has had a reputa­
tion for bad conditions but the day of the visit it was clean and
not overcrowded. Probably the presence of the trailer camp has
eased the situation and has encouraged better conditions. Rooms
are small, accommodating from two to four people, and are
sparsely furnished with bunks and an occasional chair. Apart­
ments and conveniences for white workers are separate from
those for colored.
Cooking arrangements and dining rooms, separate for colored
and white, are in the building used for sleeping quarters.
Outside toilets probably meet requirements of State and local
ordinance but they seem few in number and are not properly
cared for.
No bathing facilities were seen.
The F.P.H.A. trailer camp, in a thinly planted grove of trees,
is very attractive, though on land that does not drain very well
and often makes a muddy playground.
There are 20 expanded trailers housing from four to six per­
sons, and 30 standard ones housing from two to four. The
trailers have linoleum floor coverings, built-in cupboards and
closets, davenport-like beds, chairs, and so forth. They have
electric stoves and refrigeration. There are a trailer office, which
is headquarters for the camp supervisor and the post office; a
camp clinic; a wash house with six or eight stationary tubs sup­
plied with hot and cold water and ironing boards; shower houses,
separate for men and women; and a trailer for use as a child­



MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

27

care center. It is expected that the Child Care Committee of
the New York State War Council will place a worker here. The
New York Church Committee on Migrant Work already has a
representative here, engaged in supervising a religious and recrea­
tional program for the workers.
4. About 25 one- and two-story houses of from three to six rooms,
owned by the company. Houses are spaced fairly well apart.
They need paint and repairs but seem fairly comfortable. Some
are occupied by more than one family, according to size of family
and size of house. Company supplies the minimum requirements
and the workers bring additional furnishings with them.
Cooking is done in two or three community kitchens or cook
houses and there are enough stoves for the families.
The out-of-door toilets are located conspicuously, crowded close
to the houses, some behind and others in front of the houses.
Separate shower houses for men and women are supplied with
hot and cold water. The laundry is done in the houses, which
have running water. There is a small recreation building.
Center is adjacent to the cannery and at the edge of a sizable
town where a sufficient food supply is available.
Company has a doctor on call whose services are available to
workers in the housing center, and medical and health services of
the town are accessible also.

5. Occupied at time of visit by about 80 Negro men and women

and some children, who came from Florida. Canning season
was practically over when center was visited and many workers
had left. Buildings consist of an old farmhouse and an old barn,
both in a terrible state of disrepair. House was filthy the day of
the visit, windows broken out and screens torn. Furnishings
very meager and crude.
It was not ascertained how many persons had occupied the
house, but not enough sanitary conveniences were provided to
meet the needs of more than a few. No bathing facilities beyond
those the worker might provide for himself.
As for the barn, holes in the walls have been partially patched
up with cardboard. A few small windows have been cut in the
walls; they are covered with screening, but obviously are in­
effectual in face of the gaping cracks through which wind, rain,
flies, and mosquitoes enter unrestrained.
Sleeping rooms are partitioned off by use of heavy cardboard,
which extends a few feet above head level; a kitchen is set off
in one corner of the barn, also with cardboard. Gas is piped in
for the kitchen stove. A long table covered with oilcloth stands
on the unpartitioned floor, which serves as a dining room. Flies
attracted by the cooking and food are thick. Caterpillar-like
worms crawl on the floor and over the beds. Soiled bed ticks
filled with straw are used as mattresses.
There are no bathing facilities nor running water at the bam.
Out-of-doors privies, inadequate in number, are behind the barn
and it is questionable whether they meet the minimum require­
ments of State or local sanitary codes.



28

MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

There is no provision for child care and no recreational pro­
gram is provided.
6. Formerly occupied by Italian families brought from a city
within the State, but occupied this year by colored families.
Center is composed of two rows of run-down, dilapidated shacks
that should be condemned. The built-in bunks with wooden slats
and no springs are broken down and dirty. There are chairs
in some of the rooms or shacks but most of them are without
any furnishings but the beds. The Italian families that formerly
occupied this center preferred to bring their own bedding, but
this is impracticable for migrants from a distance. The workers
do their own cooking and a stove is provided in each shack.
Fuel and lights are furnished free by the company. Outdoor
toilets, one for men and one for women, are inadequate in number
and are too close to the shacks; the odor was disagreeably notice­
able the day of the visit. There is only one shower, adjacent to
the toilets, for the entire group of shacks.
Food is available in the nearby stores of the community. Such
medical and health services as are provided in the town are
accessible to these people.
There is no plan for recreational activities and no provision
for child care.

7. Occupied by Italian and Polish families from nearby cities.

These migrants are housed in buildings formerly the winter
quarters for employees and animals of a circus. The buildings
are for the most part shack-like structures, unpainted and for­
lorn looking. Each family is allowed one, two, or three rooms,
according to size of family. Beds are the only visible furnishings
and are of all kinds from wooden bunks with wood slats to old
brass bedsteads. The tenants supply their own bedding.
Meals are prepared at several community cook houses on wood­
burning stoves shared by the workers.
Water piped into the grounds is obtainable at several spigots.
The outdoor privies are flushed by a motor arrangement. No
showers or other bathing facilities are provided.
Scraps of food were lying on the ground outside the houses
the day of the visit, attracting flies; the silage pile directly
behind the quarters smelled horrible.
The medical and health facilities of the nearby village are
accessible but their adequacy was not determined.
The company has arranged to use one building as a service
center. It supplies a trained nurse and the New York Church
Committee on Migrant Work provides two social workers.
8. Three housing centers for farm migratory workers were re­
ported to the Women’s Bureau agent as having unspeakably bad
conditions. They were said to have passed the inspection of local
and State health inspectors but were considered by many citizens
in nearby communities as not meeting at all the minimum stand­
ards of decent living. The broader social aspects of the living
conditions for these people apparently had been given no con­



MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

29

sideration. The Women’s Bureau agent observed these camps
but did not inspect them because they were for farm and not
cannery workers.
Company Charges for Lodging.
In both New Jersey and New York several companies provide
free lodging for their migrant workers. One in New Jersey
furnishes lodging and a light luncheon in the plant cafeteria
without charge.
The charges made by companies for lodging and three meals
a day range from $6 to $8.50 a week; light and fuel are included.
The two companies visited in New York that provide lodging
and three meals a day to workers charge $8 a week. The other
companies furnish lodging without charge. Trailer houses in
the Federal Public Housing Authority camp rented for $7 a week,
and the rental included electricity for light, cooking, and refrig­
eration. Workers furnished their own meals.
Transportation.
Most of the canneries visited were experiencing transportation
difficulties, many of them due to the curtailment by the Office of
Defense Transportation in the amount of gasoline available to
bus companies and drivers of private cars. Seven of the 21 can­
neries visited in New Jersey operated company busses or con­
tracted for the use of school busses and others to transport
workers to and from work. One large cannery in New Jersey
operates its own bus company to transport workers to and from
company housing centers and from nearby towns. This company
had also arranged with the Public Service Bus Company for
special service to and from specific points. Several canners said
that the curtailment of bus service made it impossible for many
women in nearby communities to work in the canneries and
necessitated the bringing in of more migratory workers for whom
housing must be supplied.
Women who traveled long distances complained about the time
lost in waiting to be transported by company busses, as well as
by public conveyance. Many workers felt that they should be
compensated for this lost time. Workers recruited locally for
one cannery complained that the company does not keep its
promises about providing transportation and that busses often
are late or do not come at all. Many workers in New Jersey
drove their own cars and had “riders.”
Most of the canneries visited in New York were near bus lines
or trolley lines. As elsewhere in the country these busses and
trolleys usually were crowded beyond normal capacity. Many
workers drove and shared their own cars. Only two canneries
visited operated busses and two others sent automobiles to pick
up small groups of workers.
STANDARDS FOR THE HOUSING OF MIGRATORY WORKERS
Adequate housing for migratory workers is an important ele­
ment in the successful utilization of manpower and to meet the
needs for labor in agriculture and in food-processing plants.



30

MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

The pressure of the war situation was bringing some employers
of migrant help to a realization that the kind of housing they
provided had a definite bearing on their ability to get and to
keep the workers. In all too many instances, however, the atti­
tude seemed to be, “it’s as good as they’ve been used to” or "we
can get plenty of migrants without spending any more on
housing.”
Several factors enter into a determination of what constitutes
suitable or satisfactory housing arrangements. If the housing
provided is to be utilized for an emergency period, as for the
duration of the war, the type of construction and arrangements
may be of a somewhat temporary character. If, on the other
hand, the housing is intended for migrant workers who annually
augment the seasonal-labor supply, then, obviously, housing of a
more permanent character should be built. Climate will be a
determining factor in the type of construction to be used, and
whether the houses are to be occupied by unattached men or
women or by family groups should influence the kind of con­
struction and the spacing of the units. In any case it is neces­
sary that certain minimum standards be met if the housing is
to be fit for human habitation. The standards outlined here
entail nothing elaborate, and the knowledge and experience of
sanitary and building engineers are not necessary to recognize
that such standards are essential minimums.
Type of Construction.
For temporary housing, tents may be used in warm weather
for unattached men and women if entirely separate units are
set up for each and if adequate provision is made for water supply,
sanitary facilities, furnishings, and so forth. The tents should
be provided with platform floors and with adequate protection
from the weather. Tents are not recommended for the use of
family groups nor for workers doing their own cooking. The
Federal Public Housing Authority has set up trailer camps in
some places to meet the emergency. Some of these include such
facilities as housing for recreation centers, child-care centers,
clinics, shower houses, laundries, and so forth. They have the
advantage of being movable and can be taken from place to place
as the need arises.
Portable prefabricated houses have been used for temporary
quarters, but in many cases the desirability of this kind of
housing is defeated by overcrowding and the lack of essential
housekeeping facilities and equipment as well as adequate sani­
tary arrangements. One farmer met the need of housing for a
group of college girls by renovating and converting a chicken
house for their use. It turned out to be most attractive and
livable and the girls’ promise to come back another year was
conditioned on their being allowed to live in the “chicken house.”
Another farmer converted a granary that had long been out of
use into a most satisfactory dormitory for men. C. C. C. camps
have proved useful for housing migratory workers, and small
summer hotels, unable to operate in wartime, also are used for
this purpose.



MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

31

Location and Lay-out.
Whether for temporary or for permanent use, the location
of housing for workers is important. The centers should be
on sites convenient to the place of work. If, in providing tem­
porary housing, it is impossible to locate the housing center near
the place of work, adequate transportation facilities should be
maintained. The center should be on well-drained ground where
it can get some sunshine, and should be near an adequate supply
of pure water. The grounds should be lighted at night.
From the standpoint of health and cleanliness, dormitories,
eating quarters, toilets, and so forth should not be crowded
together. The kitchen, commissary, and eating quarters should
be some distance from the sleeping rooms and especially from
the toilets. If incinerators are used they should be near the
kitchen.
Water Supply.
Plenty of wholesome water for drinking and bathing should be
supplied. Privy vaults and cesspools should be so placed that
pollution of the water is not possible and the water supply should
be free from organic contamination.
Sleeping Quarters.
Good sleeping quarters are essential to the health of the
worker and to his best effort on the job. A standard amount of
air space must be provided for each person. Houses should be
properly ventilated and protected from the weather. Doors and
windows should be screened. Since workers transported by
automobile, bus, or train from distant places cannot possibly
bring much in the way of household equipment with them, mini­
mum furnishings provided in each house should include sanitary
beds, one for each person wherever possible; mattresses and
blankets; and a chair for each person. Cooking should not be
done in rooms used as sleeping quarters, but if cooking is to be
done in individual units cook stoves and cooking utensils should
be provided. If sheets and pillow cases are furnished they
should be changed at regular and frequent intervals. Some ar­
rangement should be made in the assignment and supervision
of quarters to insure that workers in plants operating more
than one shift have opportunity for rest and sleep in the time
allotted for this.
Cooking and Eating Quarters.
If central or community cooking and eating quarters are pro­
vided they should be large enough and well lighted and ventilated.
These quarters should be screened and free from flies. The place
where food is stored should be kept clean and sanitary. Refrig­
eration should be provided for perishable food. Dishes, cooking
utensils, and so forth should be kept clean. Dogs and other
animals should not be allowed in these premises. Persons pre­
paring, cooking, or serving food should be required to have a
physical examination.
Regardless of whether the food is to be prepared in individual
houses or in community kitchens, an adequate supply of inex­



32

MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

pensive, wholesome food should be available.
Garbage and Refuse Disposal.
In rural areas where there is no public collection of garbage it
should be the responsibility of the company operating the hous­
ing center to see that regular daily collection is made. Until
disposed of, garbage should be kept in covered containers. Metal
containers are preferable if obtainable.
Toilets.
It is essential that adequate and healthful means be provided
for disposing of sewage.
Wherever possible, the installation of flush toilets is urged.
In temporary housing centers it may be necessary to substitute
outdoor privies or toilets with septic tanks. If this is done,
consideration to privacy should be given in their construction.
Doors should be provided with fasteners. Toilets should be
marked clearly as for men or for women. They should be
located in places conveniently accessible but not so near other
buildings as to be unpleasant. They should be adequate in num­
ber, not less than 1 for every 15 people and at a greater ratio
if required by law. Pits should be dug to a proper depth. Light­
ing and ventilation should be good. Seats should have covers.
Disinfectant should be supplied, and lye, soil, or other substance
for covering surface excreta so as to keep down odors and repel
flies. A constant supply of paper should be furnished. Cleanli­
ness and care in the use of toilets must be insisted on.
Bathing Facilities.
Every housing center should be provided with bathing facilities.
Showers are preferable because more sanitary, more easily in­
stalled, and cheaper. There should be at least one shower for
every 15 persons. These should be near the sleeping quarters
and should be allocated to men and women separately. Bathing
houses should be well-ventilated and well-lighted. In permanent
camps the floors should be of cement and so constructed as to
drain well. Walls should be lined with nonabsorbent material.
Drainage from bathrooms or shower houses should be disposed
of in some sanitary way. Ground that is wet, if such condition
is unavoidable, should be treated for mosquito prevention. In
addition to showers, adequate facilities for washing face and
hands should be provided. A sufficient supply of both hot and
cold water is essential.
Laundry.
Tubs or sinks should be furnished to enable employees to
launder their clothes and an adequate supply of hot water should
be provided for this purpose.
Sanitation and Health.
In every housing center one or more persons should be em­
ployed whose specific duty is to keep the place clean.
The sanitary and health regulations of the State and localities
in which there is housing for migratory workers should be
strictly observed. There should be regular inspection of the



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33

centers by sanitary and health authorities, and the enforcement
of regulations should be insisted on by citizens.
Sufficient health and medical care should be available and
access to this care should be provided for the workers. Cases of
serious illness or communicable disease should be immediately
reported to the local health officer.
As already suggested, nothing that would encourage the breed­
ing of mosquitoes should be allowed to exist.
Some method for the extermination of bedbugs should be used
frequently and persons infested with lice should be required to
get rid of them and be given the necessary means for such
treatment.
Child Care.
It is important to the working mother as well as to the welfare
of the child that provision be made for the care of young chil­
dren. This care, to meet the needs of children of all ages, should
be in accordance with the standards established by the Children’s
Bureau of the U. S. Department of Labor. Such care should
include centers for children of pre-school age and should provide
playgrounds, leisure-time programs, and supervision after school
hours for children of school age.
Recreation.
The most desirable thing in the way of recreation for migrant
workers is that plans be developed as a part of the community
program in the locality in which they live. In addition some pro­
vision should be made at the housing center for a place where
workers can get together in groups for singing, dancing, and
games, and where books, magazines, and newspapers are avail­
able.
Registration.
A complete register of all the occupants of a housing center
should be kept up-to-date at all times.
Supervision.
Housing centers may be well-located, well-built, well-equipped,
and provided with adequate services, but if there is not proper
supervision the center will not operate successfully. This super­
vision involves not only the policing of the buildings and grounds
from the point of view of cleanliness, sanitation, health, and
order, but takes into account the workers’ welfare from a broader
social point of view. This does, not suggest the necessity of
supervision by a trained social worker, which, however desirable,
is quite out of the question in most cases, but it does mean the
selection of a supervisor of sympathetic and intelligent under­
standing, to whom the workers can go for advice on personal
and group problems and who can suggest activities and assist
the workers in the best use of such leisure time as they may have.
Willingness on the part of the employer to provide some of
these things not required by law is almost sure to result in a
better attitude on the part of the workers toward their work.
It tends to attract a higher quality of labor and should be a factor
in securing a more permanent labor supply.



34

MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

Summary of Migrant Problems.
Only when a careful survey of the local labor supply, including
all available women, shows such supply to be wholly inadequate
should the bringing in of workers from a distance be considered.
If workers are available in the vicinity of the industry, such
community and industry problems as housing, transportation,
feeding, and child care can to a large extent be avoided.
Adequate transportation is so essential to securing workers
from nearby communities that every effort to meet such needs
should be made.
When migrant workers are recruited, false promises or mis­
representation with regard to work, earnings, housing facilities,
housing costs, and so forth should be scrupulously avoided.
Living and working arrangements for American migratory
workers should compare favorably with those provided by con­
tract between the United States Government and the govern­
ments of other countries supplying such workers.
Since to a large extent the need of migrant workers for food
growing and processing is not of a temporary character nor for
the duration of the war only, agencies interested in the welfare
of these workers should seek not minimum standards alone but
standards compatible with right working and living conditions.
Constant efforts should be made to improve working conditions
that fall below accepted standards.
Estimates as to labor needs should be arrived at and made
available by the canners early enough to make possible adequate
programing of housing needs and other essential services for
migratory workers. (Standards for these provisions should fol­
low those outlined in this report.)
Orders from canners for migratory labor should not be filled
until a check has been made of housing facilities and they are
found to be satisfactory.
Working through the proper channels, insistence should be
made that canneries having Government orders should at least
meet minimum standards.
Coordination of the efforts of the many agencies concerned
with the problems discussed in this report is necessary if the
recommendations outlined are to be effectively carried out. A
plan should be developed whereby the responsibilities of the
several agencies, local, State, and Federal, whose activities relate
themselves to these problems can be defined, whereby the proper
agencies can be given full authority to investigate and make
periodic inspections, and whereby adequate provision is made
for the enforcement of their recommendations. Such a plan
would offer a basis for united action on the part of both private
and public agencies for attacking these problems in a constructive
way.
Progress was made in the direction of cooperative endeavor
when the joint survey of housing provisions and needs of migra­
tory workers, referred to earlier in this report (page 19), was
made by four Federal agencies. A report of the survey, includ­
ing recommendations, was sent to the companies and to the



MIGRANT CANNERY WORKERS, NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

35

various State and Federal groups concerned, and conferences were
held with many of them to discuss the problems.
Two meetings called by the Director of the New Jersey Office
of Civilian Defense have been held in Trenton for the purpose of
coordinating State responsibility in these matters, and the pro­
cess of developing a conference between Federal and State
agencies is under way.
Initial contacts have been made with local, State, and Federal
agencies concerned with living conditions for migratory workers
in New York. It is expected that plans will go forward to meet
the problems there and that improvement of conditions existing
in. certain places will be made long before next summer’s in­
migration of workers begins.
. The New York Canners Association expects to spend some
time during the less busy winter months in collecting material
on housing for migratory workers, and this will be made avail­
able to the canners of the State. One company operating several
canneries has already indicated its intention of undertaking the
building of housing facilities this winter.
The agencies whose functions indicate a responsibility for the
conditions under which migratory workers live and work in­
clude, among others, the United States Department of Labor
(the Women’s Bureau and the Children’s Bureau in particular)
and the State Departments of Labor; the War Manpower Com­
mission and its United States Employment Service Division;
the United States Public Health Service and the State Depart­
ments of Health; the Community War Services, the State De­
partments of Welfare, and the USO; the Extension Service of
the United States Department of Agriculture and the State
Departments of Agriculture; the National Housing Agency and
Federal Public Housing Authority; the State Offices of Civilian
Defense; Federal and State child-care agencies; and the State
Departments of Education. To this list probably should be
added representation from the procurement offices for the Army,
Navy, and Lend-Lease, and certainly there should be ad.ded the
names of the individual employers and the associations -of can­
ners and of farmers.




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Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, One Federal Reserve Bank Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63102