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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Labor: Gender

Richardo Gutierrez working in the warehouse at Del Monte Plant #3, c. 1980.During the 1960’s and early 1970’s, work at Del Monte continued to be segregated by gender.  The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represented production, assembly and warehouse employees, codified the division of year-round, mechanical jobs for men and seasonal, production jobs for women.  At the same time, IBT’s procedural rules prevented seasonal workers from voting or becoming union representatives, locking women out of the collective bargaining process which might change the inequities.

Cannery culture also dissuaded women from trying to improve their individual situations.  Though they often operated complicated machinery on the production line, women with considerable seniority who asked to be trained in year-round tasks were often refused.  When allowed to move to a new job, they might be given inadequate training, and then reported as failing in their duties. 

Guadalupe Gonzalez in the warehouse, c. 1995.This gendered division of labor would slowly start to change at the canneries during the 1970’s and 1980’s.  In 1976, canneries were required by court order to redress the barriers to advancement in position and pay for seasonal workers, i.e. women and minority workers.  The affirmative action program did result in the placement of female long-time seasonal workers in year-round jobs that had traditionally been held by men.

Many of the female oral history respondents began their careers as seasonal production workers.  When their children grew up and moved away from home, these women began taking full-time, year-round jobs.  Jobs in the warehouse or in the office often took them into what had previously been all-male territory.  None of these women considered their move into full time work part of the feminist revolution in the workplace, but as the natural progression of their working lives.  With no children at home, they were able to work full-time year-round.  They needed the extra income and recognized the advantage of increasing their retirement benefits through full-time work.  Guadalupe Gonzalez pushed for full-time work in the 1990’s, “[b]ecause… we knew that they were going to close down and I needed to have something in my insurance.”  Many women reported that they also liked these jobs better, as they were more independent and had more responsibilities. 

“When I went to work… in the warehouse, for me it was like a relief, you know. It was, I got a better job, [an] easy job.” - Plant #3 employee Mary Lou Reyes