Sometime in the afternoon, a rumor began circulating that we would no longer be paid by the hour but changed to piece work. This news was disconcerting, we were not getting wealthy as it was and now we feared our work style would not be sustainable. There was a meeting called in management’s office late in the afternoon. Piecemeal we reassembled back at our living quarters. Mood was turning depressing as we gathered our grumbling and prepared for a meeting we feared would not turn out well. Some of the veterans assured us these switches were inevitable as the season progressed. They seemed willing to hang in there.
It was just before our evening meal on our day of rest when the meeting commenced.
It was explained that now that the bulk of harvesting had been conducted the tomato vines were sparse and it was not feasible to continue paying by the hour for an increasingly meager yield. The significance being that those picking would not be able to match their slight hourly wage as the crop was dwindling. It made slight sense but felt unfair. Many of us determined we would not stay even as gleaners. I was losing my taste for tomatoes and my mouth and many others produced their own crops of ulcers as a result of a heavy acidic diet. It was time to move on. Management agreed to pay immediately any wages due to those who chose to leave and would allow us to stay on their property one more night.
As we marched out of the office someone broke out a song and we left singing in unison the words from Wooden Ships, “Silver people on the shore line, let us be…. We are leaving-- you don’t need us.” Our last evening was more lively as it followed a day of rest and was filled with the energy of impending separations. That only changed the tunes, tone and volume of our live radio. In the morning Lance, Alison and I headed back to Slocan with slightly more money.