Abstract

In the mid–twentieth century many California growers required their field workers to use the short-handled hoe to thin and weed crops such as lettuce and sugar beets. With only an eight to eighteen-inch handle, this tool could be used only in a stooped position. Over time, such stooping caused chronic back pain and, often, debilitating back injuries. In 1970 Latino activist Cesar Chavez implored Maurice Jourdane, a young lawyer of the California Rural Legal Assistance, to find a way to outlaw the tool. For the next four years, Jourdane and his supervisor, Martin Glick, worked to do just this. Despite opposition from growers and the bias of California officials, they eventually convinced the state government that the tool could and should be replaced with the regular long hoe. Through this case, many California leaders and citizens came to consider more seriously the physical wellbeing of Latino workers.

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NOTES

1. Maurice Jourdane,
The Struggle for the Health and Legal Protection of Farm Workers:
El Cortito (
Houston
:
Arte Público
,
2004
),
20
,
23
24
.
2. Richard Steven Street,
Beasts of the Field: A Narrative History of California Farmworkers, 1769–1913
(
Stanford
:
Stanford University Press
,
2004
),
765
,
315
; Victor Davis Hanson,
Mexifornia: A State of Becoming
(
San Francisco
:
Encounter
,
2003
),
iv
.
3. Douglas Murray claimed in
“The Abolition of El Cortito, the Short-Handled Hoe: A Case Study in Social Conflict and State Policy in California Agriculture,”
Social Problems
30
(
Oct.
1982
):
27
, that the Japanese laborers of the late nineteenth century began the trend as the short hoe was “a traditional tool used in Japanese gardening.” However, Street,
Beasts of the Field
,
765
, more comprehensive research traced the tool back to the Chinese workers of earlier decades.
Associated Press
,
“Farm Workers Seek Ban on Hoe with Short Handle,”
Fresno (Calif.) Bee
,
Mar.
7
,
1973
; Jourdane,
Struggle
,
122
.
4. Jourdane,
Struggle
,
24
; Matt Garcia,
From the Jaws of Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement
(
Berkeley
:
University of California Press
,
2012
),
78
79
,
108
; Frank Bardacke,
Trampling out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers
(
New York
:
Verso
,
2011
),
324
25
; Richard J. Jensen and John C. Hammerback,
The Words of Cesar Chavez
(
College Station
:
Texas A&M University Press
,
2002
),
116
,
131
,
159
; Hector de la Rosa, interview with author, Aug. 16, 2013, Salinas, Calif.
5. Jourdane,
Struggle
,
3
,
6
7
.
6. Ibid.,
78
79
; Jourdane, interview with author,
Oct.
25
,
2014
, San Diego, Calif.
7. The grape boycott included some investigation of pesticides and their effects on workers' health, but this was not the main focus of the boycott. The problem of pesticides persisted well into the 1980s. Bardacke,
Trampling out the Vintage
,
164
,
324
26
; Garcia,
From the Jaws of Victory
,
78
79
,
110
12
; Jensen and Hammerback,
Words of Cesar Chavez
,
131
,
159
.
8. Susan Ferriss and Ricardo Sandoval,
“The Death of the Short-Handled Hoe,”
in
The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Movement
, ed. Diana Hembree (
New York
:
Harcourt Brace
,
1997
),
207
(emphasis mine).
9. Murray,
“Abolition of El Cortito.”
10. Jourdane,
Struggle
,
120
; Richard D. Maltzman to Donald R. Wright,
Sept.
6
,
1974
, Short-Hoe File, CRLA, Salinas, Calif.; Short-Handled Hoe Hearings: 1973–1975, Cry Wolf Project, http://crywolfproject.org/briefs/short-handled-hoe-hearings-1973-1975 (accessed June 17, 2015).
11. Garcia,
From the Jaws of Victory
,
129
30
;
California Safety News, 1970–1979
, box A23, Governor's Papers, Ronald Reagan Presidential Archive, Ronald W. Reagan Presidential Library & Museum, Simi Valley, Calif.;
Department of Industrial Relations
,
“Report on the Division of Industrial Relations,”
Dec.
1971
, Government Publications, California State Library, Sacramento, Calif. The term “agribusiness” need not be synonymous with grower abuse; rather it can refer to large-scale farming and its central role in the state economy. As David Vaught pointed out, agribusiness has become a “vague yet readily accepted concept” in which growers are blamed for California's “undemocratic, nonagrarian [non-family farm] rural social structure.” He demonstrated the need to understand that growers expanded operations over time because it was economically savvy to do so, not because they wanted to abuse workers. See, Vaught,
Cultivating California: Growers, Specialty Crops, and Labor, 1875–1920
(
Baltimore
:
Johns Hopkins University Press
,
1999
),
7
8
.
12.
“Press Release: California Rural Legal Assistance,”
Sept.
20
,
1972
, Short-Hoe File, CRLA;
“Transcript of Proceedings: Public Hearing for the Purpose of Considering Proposals Prohibiting or Limiting the Use of Short-Handled Hoes by Agriculture Employees,”
Imperial, Calif.
,
May
1
,
1973
, pp.
50
52
, Cry Wolf Project, http://crywolfproject.org/sites/default/files/docs/may_1_1973_hearing_transcript.pdf (accessed June 12, 2015);
“Transcript of Proceedings: Public Hearing for the Purpose of Considering Proposals Prohibiting or Limiting the use of Short-Handled Hoes by Agriculture Employees,”
Salinas, Calif.
,
May
3
,
1973
, pt. 1, pp.
12
13
, Cry Wolf Project, http://crywolfproject.org/sites/default/files/docs/may_3_1975_hearing_transcript_part_1.pdf (accessed June 12, 2015).
13.
“Petition to Division of Industrial Safety,”
July
1973
, p.
5
, Short-Hoe File, CRLA;
“Transcript of Proceedings,”
Imperial,
2
3
.
14.
“Petition to Division of Industrial Safety,”
6
;
“Transcript of Proceedings,”
Imperial
,
14
15
.
15.
“Transcript of Proceedings,”
Imperial
,
63
,
29
.
16. Ibid.,
4
5
,
10
,
34
,
23
24
.
17.
“Transcript of Proceedings,”
Salinas, 14.
18.
“Transcript of Proceedings,”
Imperial
,
6
,
25
;
“Transcript of Proceedings,”
Salinas
,
33
.
19.
“Transcript of Proceedings,”
Salinas
,
8
11
;
Associated Press
,
“Two Views Presented on the Short Handle Hoe,”
Salinas Californian
,
May
3
,
1973
, Short-Hoe File, CRLA.
20. Jourdane,
“The Short Hoe as a Cause of Back Injuries,”
Short-Hoe File;
“Press Release: California Rural Legal Assistance,”
Sept.
20
,
1972
, Short-Hoe File, CRLA. Hector de la Rosa accused growers of using the short hoe as a control mechanism, see, Jourdane,
Struggle
,
81
; Jourdane,
Waves of Recovery: The Life of an Advocate of Latino Rights
(
Mountain View
:
Floricanto
,
2007
), 21.
21.
“Transcript of Proceedings,”
Salinas
,
33
.
22. Street,
Beasts of the Field
,
316
.
23. Dionicio Nodín Valdés,
Organized Agriculture and the Labor Movement before the UFW: Puerto Rico, Hawai'i, California
(
Austin
:
University of Texas
,
2011
),
192
; George D. Horwitz and Paul Fusco,
La Causa: The California Grape Strike
(
New York
:
Macmillan
,
1970
),
44
; Ruben Salazar,
“Murphy Statement,”
in
Border Correspondent: Selected Writings, 1955–1970
(
Berkeley
:
University of California
,
1995
),
153
. Not all Americans shared these racist sentiments, however. In response to the comment, satirist Tom Lehrer wrote a biting song called “George Murphy”: “Should Americans pick crops? George says ‘No, Cause only a Mexican would stoop so low’ And after all, even in Egypt, the Pharaohs Had to import Hebrew Braceros.” Lehrer,
That was the Year that Was
R6179 (
San Francisco
:
Reprise Records
,
1965
), track 3. Jourdane interview.
24. Letter from Jourdane to Attorney Leland Alan Stark, May 21, 1974;
“Industrial Safety Board Denies Petition against Short Hoe,”
July
13
,
1973
, Short-Hoe File, CRLA.
25. Evelle J. Younger to Chief Justice Donald R. Wright, Sept. 11, 1974, Short-Hoe File, CRLA (emphasis in original).
26. Jourdane,
Struggle
,
113
; Clara Johns letter to the Director of the Division of Industrial Safety, San Francisco, California, Mar. 1, 1974, Short-Hoe File, CRLA.
27.
“Transcript of Proceedings,”
Imperial
,
38
39
.
28. Account from May 3, 1973, presented in short-hoe hearing before the Department of Industrial Relations, Short-Hoe File, CRLA. While the case dealt with the state government, it is worth noting that, on a local level, officials were often allied even more closely with growers, see, Randy Shaw,
Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW, and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century
(
Berkeley
:
University of California
,
2008
),
16
.
“CRLA Petition for Rehearing,”
1973
, Short-Hoe File, CRLA.
29. Jourdane,
Struggle
,
111
.
30. Ibid.,
120
,
128
29
; Jourdane interview.
31. Jourdane interview; Jourdane,
Struggle
,
118
19
; Letter from Jourdane to Attorney Leland Alan Stark, May 21, 1974, Short-Hoe File, CRLA.
32. Malvina Reynolds,
“El Cortito,”
© 1973 Schroder Music Co. (ASCAP), Berkeley, Calif.; Harold L. Kahn to Director of Industrial Safety, Jan. 28, 1974; Pete Mandrapa to Senator Alan Cranston, May 14, 1973;
“To the California Department of Industrial Relations: Affidavit of Willie Moreno,”
May
16
,
1973
, Short-Hoe File, CRLA.
33. Jacques E. Levy,
Cesar Chavez: Autobiography of La Causa
(
Minneapolis
:
University of Minnesota
,
2007
),
64
.
34. Ibid.,
74
75
; Miriam Pawal,
The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography
(
New York
:
Bloomsbury
,
2014
),
437
.
35. Levy,
Cesar Chavez
,
67
; Jensen and Hammerback,
Words of Cesar Chavez
,
xxii
,
34
35
,
125
. By the 1960s, California had a long history of unions—from the Industrial Workers of the World (the Wobblies) of the first decades of the twentieth century, to the Confederation of Mexican Worker Unions of 1927, to the United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing, and Allied Workers of America of the late 1930s. In the late forties and early fifties, a fresh wave of union activity spread through the state with Ernesto Galarza and the National Farm Labor Union.
36. Pawal,
Crusades of Cesar Chavez
,
86
,
176
,
139
; Hector de la Rosa interview; Jourdane interview; Chavez to Jourdane, Jan. 31, 1975, Short Hoe File, CRLA;
“Transcript of Proceedings,”
Salinas
,
53
55
; California Rural Legal Assistance, Flyer for the farmworkers, c. 1973, Short-Hoe File, CRLA.
37.
“Administrative Interpretation: Department of Industrial Relations,”
Apr.
7
,
1975
, Short-Hoe File, CRLA;
“Transcript of Proceedings,”
San Diego, Calif.,
Mar.
24
,
1975
, Cry Wolf Project, http://crywolfproject.org/sites/default/files/docs/may_3_1975_hearing_transcript_part_1.pdf (accessed June 12, 2015);
“Transcript of Proceedings: Public Hearing,”
Salinas, Calif.,
Mar.
27
,
1975
, Cry Wolf Project, http://crywolfproject.org/sites/default/files/docs/may_3_1975_hearing_transcript_part_1.pdf (accessed June 12, 2015).
38.
“Ramundo Daniel,”
nd; Elena Aguirre,
Apr.
13
,
1975
, Short-Hoe File, CRLA.
39. Ferriss and Sandoval,
“Death of Short-Handled Hoe,”
207
;
“Administrative Interpretation,”
Apr.
7
,
1975
; John Radebaugh to Jourdane, May 13, 1975, Short-Hoe File, CRLA.
40.
“Long Hoe has Upped Production,”
Santa Cruz (Calif.) Sentinel
,
Apr.
14
,
1975
.
41. Jourdane,
Struggle
,
167
42. Rick Nahmias,
The Migrant Project: Contemporary California Farm Workers
(
Albuquerque
:
University of New Mexico
,
2008
).