Washington legislation and its consequences on agricultural labor
With the closing of the 90th Congress came the expiration of certain proposed legislation pertaining to agricultural labor, which if enacted would have had serious adverse effects on Florida agriculture.
FFVA’s position on the proposed bills was stated in a letter from Joffre C. David addressed to Sen. Spessard L. Holland and introduced into the Record by the senator.
While the letter set forth in considerable detail, the following paragraphs serve to illustrate the association’s position:
“ … Because of the perishability of our products, there already is a built-in inequality of bargaining power between farmers and unions. Workers and crew leaders already have tremendous bargaining power over farmers in the area of wages and working conditions without the added burden of compliance with the provisions of the NLRA. The continuing shortage of agricultural workers also has place a premium on their services. Giving unions the additional power dictated by the NLRA over farms would completely destroy any semblance of equality in bargaining between unions and farmers.
This inequality in agriculture would be much more pronounced than the pro-labor inequalities that other industries have been vehemently protesting during recent years and which have resulted in the introduction of legislation to restore some semblance of balance in labor-management relations in the United States.
The legislation initiated in the Senate this session to establish a Federal Labor Court has been construed in many quarters as an expression of dissatisfaction with the obvious pro-union decisions that have consistently been rendered by the National Labor Relations Board.
Agriculture is the lifeblood of all American people. A widespread strike at harvest time by unions could do considerable harm to this great nation of ours. A Civil Defense study a few years ago concluded that at NO time was there more than seven days’ supply of fresh fruits and vegetables en route from the producer and available to the consumer through normal channels of distribution. Past experience with strikes in industries where even the public interest was at stake gives much room for concern.
“ … Recent studies at the University of Chicago have indicated that increases in wage rates have the most adverse effect on young people just coming into the labor market and the older people who are no longer fully productive. Reductions in use of farm workers, particularly the young and the old, would only add to the many problems already being experienced by our congested cities and would certainly not help the manpower requirements needed to produce and harvest our crops.
“ … Florida agriculture is in an exceedingly vulnerable position with regard to competition for its products from neighboring foreign countries, particularly Mexico. Florida, more so than any other state in the United States, is in direct competition with Mexican production throughout most of its growing season, and this competition is expected to accelerate as the costs of producing agricultural commodities increase in the U.S.
“ … The Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association must oppose any action that would encourage more foreign agricultural products being imported into the U.S. from low-wage countries without adequate protection for the Florida agricultural producer. In our estimation, the inclusion of agricultural workers under the NRLA would encourage more foreign agricultural products being imported into the U.S. because of the increased cost of production on American-grown fruit and vegetable crops. Cost of production on agricultural products grown in the U.S. has increased considerably during the past few years. These increases are attributable in part to an increase in labor costs. Florida has been no exception in showing increases in cost of production including increases in cost of labor.”
“ … With this direct competition from low-wage countries and the magnitude of its future threat facing our growers, FFVA must oppose any action that would further accelerate our production costs and place our growers in an even more disadvantageous position in relation to our foreign competition.”