In this "big picture" chapter, Steinbeck describes the work of cotton pickers. Pickers must supply their own bags, which cost one dollar, taken out of their first wages. Once they have filled their bags, they inevitably argue with the men working the scales, who accuse the pickers of having put rocks in the bags to increase the bags' weight. The pickers suspect the scales are fixed, at any rate. And sometimes both parties' suspicions are true! The laborers live under the threat of an automated cotton-picking machine: "Well, if it comes-fella says it'll put han' pickin' out." At the end of a day, a family of pickers has earned three dollars-not a fortune, but enough for side-meat and biscuits. "Wisht it would last. It ain't much money, God knows, but I wisht it would last."
Steinbeck portrays the sad life of the migrant worker. No matter where they try to work or live, they are mistreated, dealt with unfairly, and dehumanized.