Cannery Life, Del Monte in the Santa Clara Valley

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Mission brand yellow cling peaches label

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In Their Own Words

Beatrice and Friends

Learn about Del Monte Plant #3 from the people who worked there.  See videos of former Del Monte employees sharing their memories.

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Seasonal Work

Bertha Lopez’s Identification and Pay Card, 1988.The canning industry, by its very nature, requires the employment of a flexible workforce which grows and shrinks with the fruit and vegetable harvest seasons.  When the harvests of spinach, pears, peaches, or apricots came in, they had to be processed immediately to insure high quality.  When no vegetables and fruits were ripening – from November until mid-March – there was almost nothing to do at the cannery.  There were also downtimes in May and June, after the spinach was canned but before peaches were in.  During each canning season, the plant operated around the clock, with three shifts of workers per day.  Seasonal workers had to maximize their income while the jobs were available, so most made sure to be at work every single day they could.  This might mean coming to work sick, staying at work even after an injury, or leaving children unsupervised. Some migrant workers picked in the fields in the early part of the season and transitioned to the cannery when the lines started running.  In 1937, seasonal workers gained unemployment benefits, giving them a measure of financial stability through the winter months.

Sometimes we worked right straight through the whole week. During apricot season we didn’t get any days off because you know it was right there and they didn’t want to waste it.  Plant #3 worker, Nina Flores.