Wines & Vines Home
   
 
Welcome Guest
LOGIN |  CREATE ACCOUNT
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 
 
04.20.2007  
 

Immigration Reform vs. Vineyard Labor Needs

Napa growers get useful numbers and advice for coping

 
by Jim Gordon
 
 
Napa, Calif.--Vineyard managers in Napa this spring are bringing in workers from California's Central Valley literally by the busload, Hal Huffsmith observed to an audience of about 200 at Apr. 19's "Ahead of the Curve" seminar organized by the Napa Valley Grapegrowers (NVG). Those "mobile laborers," as Huffsmith, senior vice president of vineyard operations for Trinchero Family Estates, called them, are doing the ever-more-vital manual jobs of spring suckering and shoot thinning.

But how much are those workers earning, and how likely is it that they will be available at harvest time this fall and again next spring? Huffsmith and another speaker of the 11 who were shoe-horned into a substantive 5-hour morning session at Copia, addressed vineyard labor issues from different perspectives.

Huffsmith said that the larger issue of immigration reform, which President Bush supports, is an emotional one. He played a video clip showing pundits Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Rivera shouting at each other while debating the issue on O'Reilly's Fox network television show. "When Geraldo Rivera looks like the reasonable one in an argument, then you know you've got an emotional issue," Huffsmith said. (Watch the clip at youtube.com)

Possibly there will be no immigration reform passed by Congress until 2009, Huffsmith predicted, since the issue is too highly charged to be resolved quickly, and since major legislation like this rarely gets approved in a presidential election year (2008). Until then, Napa growers can likely keep their labor needs covered by doing what many are doing now, he said: Paying more than the average, using the mobile labor force when needed, moving toward mechanization and talking to their members of Congress about the winegrape industry's need for a guest worker program that's not onerous in fees and paperwork.

Professor Robert Yetman of the UC Davis Graduate School of Management presented results of the 2007 Napa Wages & Benefits Survey done by UC Davis in cooperation with the NVG. He said that median wages for vineyard workers were $10.50 per hour last year, according to the survey, and that crew supervisors were paid a median of $15.50.

It beats flipping burgers, but is this compensation enough to keep the work force returning from the Central Valley and from Mexico at a time when immigration and labor laws are being tightened, and possibly dramatic reform may be imminent? Huffsmith said that during last year's harvest, most growers in Napa and Sonoma were apprehensive about whether their labor would materialize, but that it did, prompted at least in part by the prevalence of higher wages in Napa and Sonoma counties compared to most of the state.

The wage survey backed up this observation. The median raise in 2006 for Napa Valley vineyard workers was 7.4%, and for supervisors it was 6.5%. This compared to a 3% to 3.5% estimated increase in the cost of goods and services, Yetman said. "The survey gives a good ballpark representation of the situation in Napa Valley," he said, being based on 47 responses out of 300 surveys sent out.

Contract wages, the amounts paid to independent crews, were higher than those paid directly by vineyard or winery owners. The median hourly pay for contract workers was $12.90, while for contract supervisors it was the same as grower-employed supervisors, $15.50 per hour.

Yetman said workers in Napa vineyards earn a significant premium over the California average for agricultural labor. The premium in Napa is $2.53 per hour or 32%, and for supervisors it's $2.43 per hour, or 19%.

Cash bonuses went to 73% of the workers covered by the survey, and a sizeable portion of them received at least some benefits. For workers, 55% got medical benefits of some kind, 30% got dental coverage, 12% got vision coverage, 9% got housing help, 63% got paid vacation and 24% could use employee-sponsored 401-k accounts to put away some of their money for retirement, though it was not known how many employers contributed to these retirement accounts. The percentage of supervisors who got these benefits was higher for each category.

During the seminar, NVG's executive director, Jennifer Kopp, also introduced the following speakers: Cyril Penn, editor of Wine Business Monthly; Bill Turrentine and Brian Clements of Turrentine Brokerage; Bill Cascio of distributor Glazers; Shannon Staglin and Tim Keller of UC Davis Graduate School of Business; Paul Wagner of Balzac Communications, Lee Hudson of Hudson Vineyards, Bob Steinhauer of the American Vineyard Foundation and Dave Whitmer, Napa County Ag Commissioner.

A schedule of all upcoming NVG events can be viewed at napagrowers.org.
SHARE »
Close
 
Currently no comments posted for this article.
 
CURRENT NEWS INDEX »


 
Wines & Vines Home
 
866.453.9701 | 415.453.9700 | Fax: 415.453.2517
65 Mitchell Blvd., Ste. A San Rafael, CA 94903
info@winesandvines.com
Wine Industry Metrics
 
Off-Premise Sales » Month   12 Months  
February 2015 $643 million
7%
$7,954 million
5%
February 2014 $601 million $7,560 million
     
Direct-to-Consumer Shipments » Month   12 Months  
February 2015 $132 million
4%
$1,823 million
14%
February 2014 $126 million $1,598 million
     
Winery Job Index » Month   12 Months  
February 2015 275
26%
238
16%
February 2014 219 206
     
 
MORE » Released on 03.13.2015
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Direct To Consumer
Wine Shipping Report
2015
 
Download full report »
 
 

Practical Winery & Vineyard Library
 
Search the PWV archive »
 
 

CALENDAR
  • March 26-29
     
    Taste Washington
     
  • March 27-28
     
    Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting
     
  • March 27-29
     
    Garagiste Festival
     
  • March 31
     
    Wine Market Council Consumer Research Conference
     
  • MORE »
 

READER COMMENTS
 
Article: Is Organic Grape Growing Possible in the East? »
 
Some Long Island, NY, vineyard farmers are already using nearly organic methods. They have worked...
Reader: envcat
 
Article: Loosening AVA Regulations »
 
When I see 'Napa Valley'on a wine label, it doesn't only suggest the flavors I...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Loosening AVA Regulations »
 
I should be able to live in MA, buy Napa, CA grapes, truck them across...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: The Stark Disparity in Critical Tastes »
 
The disparity is all well and good for consumers. More opinions and a kind of...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Commercial Teaching Winery for the Midwest »
 
Please visit www.lakemichigancollege.edu/wine for more information about the program.
Reader: Guest
 
 


Directory/Buyer's Guide — Your Wine Industry Marketplace
 
 
WINERY SEARCH
 
 
Advanced Search »
SUPPLIER SEARCH
   by Product
 by Company Name or Brand
 
Browse by Category »
2015 Directory/Buyer's Guide
The Wines & Vines Directory and Buyer's Guide
 
 
EXPANDED ONLINE SEARCH INCLUDED WITH PURCHASE
 
ORDER NOW »
 
LEARN MORE »
 
 
Wines & Vines Magazine
 
 
LEARN MORE »
 
SUBSCRIBE »
 
Digital Edition Now Available!
Wines & Vines Digital Edition Now Available
 
LEARN MORE »
 
ORDER NOW »
 
 
The Wines & Vines Online Marketing System
 
The Industry Standard winery marketing application
 
FREE LIVE DEMO »
 
VIEW VIDEO »
 
 
 
 
Latest Job Listings
 North Central Regional...
 Chicago, Detroit, IL
Sales and Marketing
 District Sales Manager...
 Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Sales and Marketing
 Wine Sales Representat...
 Manhattan, NY
Sales and Marketing
 Visitor Center Busser/...
 Rutherford, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Assistant Winemaker
 Los Olivos, CA
Winemaker/Enologist
 Retail Wine And Liquor...
 Nyc, NY
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Spirits Specialist, Ce...
 Glen Allen, VA
Sales and Marketing
 Wine Educator
 Rutherford, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Hospitality Support St...
 Rutherford, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Marketing Manager
 Santa Maria, CA
Sales and Marketing
 
More Job Listings >>
Follow Us On:
 
 





Home  |  About Us  |  Editors  |  Subscribe  |  Print Edition  |  Digital Edition

Advertise  |  Site Map  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy
 
 
Copyright © 2001-2015 by Wine Communications Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
No material may be reproduced without written permission of the Publisher.
Wines&Vines does not assume any responsibility for any unsolicited manuscripts or materials.