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Cornell Study Surveys Hispanic Workers on NY Dairy Farms

Since the mid-1990s New York dairy farm employers have relied heavily on Hispanic workers (mostly from Mexico and Guatemala) to fill labor-intensive dairy positions. This study is a partial replication of a 2005 survey when 111 Hispanic workers and 60 dairy managers in New

York State were interviewed (Maloney and Grusenmeyer 2005). The purpose of this survey is to update parts of the 2005 survey, to examine the demographic characteristics of New York.

Hispanic dairy workers and gain insight into their attitudes toward their jobs. The information was collected in on-farm personal interviews of 205 Hispanic workers and 36 dairy managers during the summer of 2016.

The average age of Hispanic workers on these farms is 30 years old. Far fewer workers (16.6%) are between 16-21 years of age compared to the 2005 report where 39% were in this age group. The majority of those surveyed (95.6%) were male. Most workers (80%) come from

Mexico, with the remainder coming from Guatemala. One out of two (52%) have completed between 9-12 years of education. More than half (55.6%) report that they do not speak English well, while 37.6% say they speak some English. The average number of years working in the United States is 12.5. The majority (60%) have worked for one or two employers, while 28.8% have worked for three to five employers.

Almost two-thirds of employees (60.5%) plan to work here for a time and then eventually return to their home country, while two out of five (39.5%) said they would like to stay in the United States long term. Two-thirds have a spouse in their home country.

The majority of Hispanic employees work 12 hours a day (58.8%), and 6 days a week (88.8%). Most (64.9%) milk cows, but nearly half push cows and help with calvings (49%). Employees report performing many other job duties as well.

On average, employers report a starting hourly wage for milkers as $9.34/hour. The highest average hourly pay rate for milkers was $11.05. (See Table 1.) The average hourly wage for the highest paid Hispanic employee in any position on the farm was $12.94 and the highest wage for any Hispanic employee was $26.00.

Both employers and employees were asked about the benefits that workers receive. Nearly 80% receive employer-paid housing and utilities. More than four out of five employers also offer cable TV, Internet, garden space, and a bonus program. Many employees report receiving paid vacation as well.

Responses to four open-ended questions revealed that employees are generally quite satisfied with their jobs. The majority said that nothing was difficult, and that they liked everything about their job. Other responses were that communication is the hardest part of their job, and that they like milking or pushing cows the best. Most employees said that their boss couldn’t do anything to make their job better, while a few said higher pay or more opportunities to learn new tasks would be helpful. When asked what they liked the most about their boss, more than half said that their boss is a good person.

To read the full report, please click here.

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