Most farmers have detailed plans and policies in place for taking care of their equipment, facilities, animals and crops. However, as for policies that take care of the relationship between the employer and the laborer, it’s a different story.
Fifty percent of the average farm employer’s costs are labor costs, so it only makes sense to take care of labor — even just for business’ sake, said Yakima attorney Sarah Wixson, who represents agricultural employers as an employment law expert with the law firm Stokes Lawrence Velikanje Moore & Shore.
“They need to give people at least the same attention they give other parts of their organization,” Wixson said.
Wixson said changes in the labor market and society at-large have led more employers to adopt policies and practices that protect workers’ rights. With less labor available these days, employers are incorporating those practices into their recruitment for the best workers.
“Some used to take a job because of money or not having better alternatives, but now if you don’t like your employer, you can probably go somewhere else and look at lots of other options,” Wixson said.
The most common cause of bad relationships between employers and laborers is bad communication, she said. The “golden rule of communication” is for employers to uniformly tell their workers clearly what they want and what is expected of them, including how much they will be compensated. It’s best to have it all written down and provided to employees in a handbook, Wixson said.