Recruiting and Placing Puerto Rican Workers With Growers During the 1978 Apple Harvest Were Unsuccessful

Gao ID: HRD-80-45 February 14, 1980

The Department of Labor (DOL) expenditures of Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) funds for transporting and housing Puerto Rican workers during the 1978 apple harvest were reviewed. GAO focused on determining the sequence of events and major problems in Virginia and West Virginia during the 1978 apple harvest, and attempted to develop an overall perspective on specific concerns and to assess the DOL handling of this effort.

During the 1978 apple harvest, more than 17,200 workers were employed. Of the 11,822 domestic workers, 992 were Puerto Ricans who were referred to growers in four States. After 15 consecutive calendar days, only 97 Puerto Ricans were still working. In Virginia and West Virginia, 356 Puerto Ricans were hired; only 47 remained 15 consecutive days, and only 19 completed the harvest. An estimated $153,066 of CETA funds was spent referring and recruiting these workers in Virginia and West Virginia, while the workers referred to those States earned only an estimated $48,484. The effort to recruit and refer U.S. workers from Puerto Rico was poorly managed and resulted in few acceptable workers being referred to growers. The workers contribution to the harvest was not worth the cost. Primary causes for this situation included: uncertainty over whether a Puerto Rican labor law requiring employers to guarantee certain conditions of employment could be waived for U.S. growers requesting workers resulted in the recruiting effort beginning only weeks before workers were to be placed; recruiting did not focus on providing workers with a complete job orientation or obtaining workers with agricultural or apple picking experience; workers were not trained for picking apples; workers were placed before growers were ready to harvest; and DOL and State employment security agency staff were not fully oriented or prepared to handle the situation that arose during the placement of workers.


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