This is what many blacks as well a whole lot of poor white folks were in the South during the agricultural days down here.
It was a form of being an indentured servant. You would live in a little shack out on the farm somewhere; somewhere far enough so that there was little danger of you walking into the yard of the owner. You were said to share in the crops. This meant that you worked your ass off in the fields from dawn to dark, and you could go to the local store and get what you needed for groceries and stuff. The problem with this scheme, if you were the sharecropper, was that the price of what you got at the store just so happened to be what you were owed in wages, or more.
So the good news was that you had a place to live and enough to eat so that you and your family could survive. The bad news was that you were always dead broke and had no chance of escaping this life.
These union workers who go on strike at the drop of a hat over the size of their bathroom or something equally trivial should have worked as sharecroppers for a couple of years. They can change jobs; the folks caught up in the institution of sharecropping didn't have that option.