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United Fruit Company - the People

Learn about the Port experience and the people who worked at this facility.

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Longshore Local 13 provided the manpower to work the banana facility at the Port of Los Angeles. The laborers were organized into groups, and because the work was so arduous, each banana handler labored 40 minutes out of each hour with a rest period of 20 minutes. Working together for long periods led to strong ties between the coworkers and feelings of comradery, which lasted well into their retirement years. In 1973, the first female banana handler was hired to work at the terminal. Until that date, all work at the terminal was performed by male laborers.

Workers unloading bananas
Workers unloading bananas

Banana unloading facilities varied depending on where they were located, the climate, and layout of each port. Early unloading systems in the United States tended to be simple warehouses or transit sheds located on wharves. Sometimes they included rail access to move the banana cargo. Ships would dock at the wharf, and laborers would move the bananas from each ship to a warehouse. From the warehouse, the fruit was transported throughout the western and southwestern United States. This process was time consuming and inefficient because it required the ships to remain docked for long periods. As the volume of bananas entering the country increased, companies such as United Fruit Company streamlined the unloading process by using new 1920s technology.