Cannery Life, Del Monte in the Santa Clara Valley

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Mission brand yellow cling peaches label

View a database that includes artifacts, photographs, and documents in the History San José collection which relate to Del Monte Plant #3 in San José, California.

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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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Piece Rate

Cannery worker filling glass jars with peach halves, 1949.  Women doing handwork on the assembly line were paid based on the amount of fruit or vegetables – by weight or volume – which they processed.  Placement at the start of the line gave an employee the best opportunity to process fruit quickly, while those at the end of the line might see only a few pieces of fruit.  Workers who wanted to earn more fought for “a good spot on the line.”  Workers who wanted to slow down or take a little break could do so - if they were comfortable earning less and if it did not bother their supervisor.

Piece-rate tasks that became mechanized - like slicing and pitting - were still paid by the piece whenever possible.  But women had less control over piece rate pay working on machines, because they could not control the speed of the machine.  Some women devised ways to cheat the counting and weighing machines to increase their pay.