The Oliver Salt Company

Salt of the Hayward Shoreline

Labor in the Marshes

Production of salt, whether it be through methods mining or by methods of solar evaporation, is extremely time consuming and labor intensive.   While technological advances have made work to produce salt less gruesome it continues to be quite strenuous and physically challenging.  In order to produce salt by methods of solar evaporation, the upkeep of levees and dikes is crucial; constant labor is required to check and repair anything that may need to be fixed.  Adding to this physical labor that is already necessary, moving salt from one evaporation pond to the next requires countless hours to transport water, brine, and salt crystals.  Initially, moving ocean water through all of the dikes into levees and various evaporation ponds was all done using wheelbarrows and man power.   Technological advancements of railroads and the Archimedes screw pump were utilized by the Oliver Salt Company.  The Archimedes screw pump, that was designed and built by Andrew Oliver, helped to decrease some of the strain that was put on laborers.  Instead of having to physically shovel each mound of product from one evaporation pond to the next, the wind-powered Archimedes screw pump help to speed up this process.  Installing railways on the Oliver property also sped up production time; laborers used small railways to bring salt from the fields into the mills for further refining and bagging.

Additionally, many laborers of the Oliver Salt Company were seasonal employees, living oceans away from their families, and making very little money for the work that they were actually doing.  The seasonal labor force during the turn of the century consisted primarily of Japanese immigrants.  Segregation was apparent when Japanese workers were put to run different fields, live in different housing quarters, and prepare separate meals than non-Japanese employees.  These differences pushed Japanese workers of the salt industry to join the Japanese Union and insist on better pay.  In 1901 Japanese workers demanded $1.35 per day from the Oliver Salt Company though when no additional compensation was granted laborers left to find better accommodations in the fields of San Jose, Castroville, and Watsonville.  The Oliver’s worked for years to create a working environment that not only met the needs of the company but also those of their employees.

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This entry was posted on March 18, 2013 by .