Wet corn mills yield top pay among grain industries Essay

Wet corn milling had the highest pay levels of four grain mill
industries, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of
occupational pay. At $10.72 per hour, average earnings in wet corn
mills in September 1982 were 25 percent higher than in flour mills
($8.59), 34 percent higher than in blended flour plants ($8.01), and 72
percent higher than in rice mills ($6.25). Nearly all workers in wet
corn mills were located in metropolitan areas–chiefly within the Great
Lakes States–in plants with 100 workers or more, and in establishments
where collective bargaining agreements covered a majority of the
workers. These characteristics, historically associated with higher pay
levels, were found to a lesser extent in each of the other milling
industries studied. Rice mill workers, for example, were concentrated
in the Southwest, one of the lowest paying regions, and just under half
of the workers were unionized.

The grain mill products industries covered by the survey employed
just over 23,000 production workers in September 1982. Slightly more
than one-third of the workers were employed in flour mills,
approximately one-fourth each in wet corn mills and blended flour
plants, and about one-sixth in rice mills.

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Regional employment patterns varied considerably by industry. Flour
milling, for example, the largest of the four industries with 8,115
production workers, was found in nearly all regions of the country. In
contrast, slightly more than four-fifths of the 3,236 rice milling
employees were in the southwest. Except for rice milling, the Great
Lakes region was the major center of production; it accounted for nearly
three-tenths of the production work force in flour milling, and for
three-fifths of the workers in both the blended flour and wet corn
milling industries.

Pay. Table 1 presents nationwide average pay rates for
representative occupations in the grain milling industries. As with the
industry averages, occupational pay levels were consistently highest in
wet corn mills. This was true even where comparisons could be made
within the same geographic region. In each industry, maintenance
journeymen usually were the highest paid and custodial or general labor
personnel, the lowest.

Nearly all workers in each industry were paid according to formal
time-rated pay plans. Except in rice mills, where rate-range plans
prevailed, most workers were paid single rates for specified
occupations. Although single rate pay systems generally result in
narrow earnings distributions, wide differences in pay scales among
establishments produced a contrary effect in flour mills and blended
flour plants. Blended flour plants had one of the highest wage
dispersion indexes (57) among the industries in which the Bureau studies
occupational pay. Wage dispersion indexes for the other grain milling
industries were 13 for wet corn, 33 for flour, and 37 for rice.

Benefits. Virtually all production workers were in grain mills
providing paid holidays and vacations after qualifying periods of
service. The most common holiday provision in rice mills was 8 days; in
wet corn mills, 10 days; and in flour mills and blended and prepared
flour establishments, 12 days. Typical vacation provisions in each
industry granted at least 1 week of paid time off after 1 year of
service, at least 2 weeks after 3 years, and 3 weeks or more after 10
years. Vacation benefits were less generous in rice mills than in the
other industries, particularly after longer periods of service.

All or virtually all production workers were in mills that provided
at least part of the cost of hospitalization, surgical, basic medical,
and major medical insurance coverage. Life insurance plans were
available to at least nine-tenths of the workers in each industry.
Accidental death and dismemberment insurance coverage was available to
about half of the workers in blended flour plants, and to three-fourths or more of the workers in each of the remaining industries.

Retirement pension plans–other than Federal social
security–applied to at least nine-tenths of the production workers in
the flour, blended flour, and wet corn mill industries; the proportion
was four-fifths in rice mills.

A COMPREHENSIVE REPORT on the survey findings, Industry Wage
Survey: Grain Mill Products, September 1982, Bulletin 2207 (Bureau of
Labor Statistics, 1984) is for sale ($3) by the Government Printing
Office, or by any of the Bureau’s regional offices.


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