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Workers Rule In Heartland

In the farmlands of southeastern Nebraska, "success" is a matter of producing hot commodities, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod.

On the Gerdes family farm, the workers are as hot as the hogs.

"You don't only see headhunters in corporate America," says Mary Gerdes. "You kinda see people doing that in agriculture also."

In the heartland, home of record low unemployment, there is more work than workforce. The Gerdes family now provides its workers with health, life and disability insurance just to stay competitive.

"Years ago on the farm," says Mary, "it was just mainly salary, maybe some meat. Maybe a hog once a year."

To keep their workers happy in this kind of job market, Dan and Mary Gerdes do the unthinkable: the wash. Hog breeding manager Jason Lambert says "Dan and Mary do all of our clothes washing so that we don't have to take home anything that smells."

Low unemployment is also being felt in the factories of Nebraska. If a booming economy is a double-edged sword, the employees are swinging it and the employers are ducking.

Julie Vitosh is reminded of this all the time when workers leave her lawn mower factory, Exmark Manufacturing Co. She says "The employees can basically choose where they want to go work. It's an employees market not an employers market."

Gilbert Reyes says he never liked his 35-mile commute to Vitosh's company. So when a chicken processor offering attendance bonuses opened near where he lives, he jumped.

Employers now have to sell themselves not only to consumers, but also to employees. That's the rule of doing business when the job market is tight. In the factory or on the farm, the American worker is in the driver's seat.

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