Publication Citation

1 (2) IUSTITIA 21 (1973)


The agricultural industry, because of seasonal nature of crops, is unique in its use of labor. The required labor force fluctuates not only from year to year but from week to week, and day to day. Not as many laborers are required to weed and cultivate as are needed to plant and harvest. Inclement weather reduces the need for workers. The grower in Indiana needs an efficient means for ensuring a supply of labor for each season. Each spring between fifteen and twenty thousand Mexican- Americans come to Indiana to plant, cultivate, and harvest its crops. Traditionally, the work force Indiana draws upon comes from Texas. It is composed largely of Mexican-American laborers who are unskilled, of a different cultural tradition, and who are often unable to communicate in English.

The difficult task of locating and hiring the workers has been delegated by the grower to farm labor contractors, hereafter called crew leaders. Since the grower has traditionally relied on the crew leader for all his contracts with the work force he has developed no other efficient means of ensuring that sufficient numbers of workers will return each season. Crew leaders are given money to recruit workers from Texas in the early spring. In addition to the crew leader's salary the grower frequently provides him with a bonus for each worker he recruits. As a hiring inducement the crew leader loans money, provided by the grower, to pay debts accumulated by migrants during the past winter. The crew leader records this loan to be repaid with interest by the migrant from his family's weekly wage. The crew leader's responsibilities to the grower and to the migrants include bargaining with workers over terms and conditions of employment, discovering and disclosing the kind of living accommodations, and arranging transportation and meals for the workers and their families.