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UVM Theses and Dissertations

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Format:
Online
Author:
Irwin, Emily C.
Dept./Program:
Department of Community Development and Applied Economics
Year:
2018
Degree:
M.S.
Abstract:
Abstract To compete with larger, more efficient dairy farms, build resilience against increasingly volatile milk prices, and increase farm income, farms in traditional dairy states such as New York, Wisconsin, and Vermont, have been forced to expand their herds and increase production. Many dairy farmers do not have formal training in human resources management, and find the transition to a larger, non-family workforce to be challenging. In addition, farmers who have transitioned to a primarily Latinx workforce also face considerable cultural and language barriers. The quality of human resource management can have a significant impact on a farm business, and evidence suggests that intentional human resource management can result in healthier cows, higher profits, and lower employee turnover (Billikopf & Gonzalez, 2012; Erskine, Martinez, & Contreras, 2015; Stup, 2006). This thesis explores two essential components of human resource management on dairy farms: the employer-employee relationship, and the components of a competitive wage and non-wage benefit package. Both articles rely upon thirty surveys conducted in Addison County, Vermont, from December 2017 to January 2018. In the first article, using the qualitative data collected in the survey, I apply the concept of precarious employment to the employer-employee relationship on dairy farms in Addison County. Although I discover some evidence of precarity, I also find examples of worker control over working conditions, specifically regarding worker recruitment, termination, wage rates, and hours. In the second article, I use the quantitative data we collected regarding wages, and the estimates provided by farmers for the value of the non-wage benefits offered to employees, to outline the structure of a typical compensation package for Addison County dairy employees. I find that that more than half of employers provide Latinx employees with housing, utilities, internet, satellite TV, a bonus, transportation, farm products, and vacation time. In terms of non-wage benefits offered to U.S. workers, more than half of employers provide housing, utilities, a bonus, farm products, sick time, and vacation time. I also find that including the producer-estimated value of the typical non-wage benefits offered to employees, the median total hourly compensation for Latinx workers is $12.62. American dairy workers in Addison County earn a median total hourly compensation with a range of $21.32 to $24.02. I end with a discussion of the practical and theoretical implications of our research. I also include a few recommendations for future research.