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It's an event that has come untethered in memory, ambled about, and plopped itself down in a place it doesn't belong.  The incident has taken up residence in a much later time frame than it possibly could have happened.  Based on my personal circumstances associated with the incident, it could not possibly have been earlier than late November, 1969, and based on the historical record it had to have been no later than mid-1970.  It was shortly before a major holiday, so almost certainly had to have been December, 1969,  yet the sulci on my brain stubbornly resist my attempts to herd it back into that pen.  

Whenever the incident occurred, I remember it being one of those late fall or early winter central Illinois days when temperatures are pleasant enough during the day but drop precipitously when the sun goes down.  I was dressed for "pleasant enough during the day"; it was now well past sunset and I was cold.

I was part of a group -- perhaps a dozen, perhaps less -- picketing at a grocery store in Champaign, Illinois, as part of a nationwide boycott of California-grown table grapes in support of the United Farm Workers.  We were, according to the right, pissant little children of privilege playing at revolution.  They were probably more right than wrong.


In 1965, a predominantly Filipino labor union, the AFL-CIO-affiliated Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), went on strike against grape growers in the Delano, California area, trying to force the growers to recognize their union for collective bargaining.  

They shortly recruited the support of a competing union, the three-year-old National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) which was then representing largely Latino farm laborers.  The following year, the two unions, still striking  the growers,  merged to form the United Farm Workers under the leadership of Cesar Chavez of the NFWA.

The ever-expanding strike was to drag on for five years, employing an escalating arsenal of tactics to draw attention and support for their cause.  It was in support of that strike that I found myself among a group of college students staging an informational picket outside an Eisner supermarket in (maybe) December of 1969.

The picketing we were engaged in was an exercise in small victories.  For every ten shoppers who brushed by us, avoiding eye contact, or with a sneer or an insult, refusing the literature we were proffering, there was the one housewife who took our leaflet.  Maybe she just crumpled it into a ball and tossed it in the trash can inside the door; maybe she laid it in the cart and just left it there when she checked out; maybe she stuffed it in her purse and threw it out when she got home; but maybe one in ten read it as she shopped, and maybe of those one in ten decided she could live without grapes at her holiday gathering this year.  Maybe one in ten of those who took the leaflet home stood over her trash can for a second and read it before throwing it away.  Maybe one in ten of those decided it would only be a minor inconvenience to do without grapes the next time she went to the store.  

Small victories.   For every gang of fellow college students who took delight in buying a bag of grapes in the store and standing outside throwing them at us, along with hurling insults and taunts, we could console ourselves with the young mother who read our leaflet intently, turned around, and left.  Maybe she just went down the street to another store, likely selling the same grapes.  Maybe we were only a minor speed bump in her quest for grapes, a mere inconvenience, an annoyance, but we counted it a victory nonetheless.  

Small victories.  Get them where you can.


The strikes and accompanying boycotts, which initially targeted  a succession of individual growers, led to tactics by the grape producers such as evading the boycott by selling their product under the labels of cooperating competitors who had already settled with, or had not yet been targeted by the union.  The growers may have been opponents in the marketplace, but when it came to brown-skinned people organizing into unions, they were all on the same side.  


With no way to determine which labels of grapes were "safe" to buy any longer, the UFW expanded its boycott to all the growers, and by the time I became involved in it, we were picketing simply "California grapes".  The persistence and dedication of the farm workers and their leaders inspired growing support across the nation.  A month-long, health-threatening hunger strike by Cesar Chavez attracted national attention, and momentum continued to build.

By the middle of 1970 the pressure on the grape growers reached a critical mass and one by one they began to buckle, signing contracts recognizing the UFW.  I'm not presumptuous enough to delude myself with the notion that a handful of kids passing out leaflets at a grocery store in the midwest had a damn thing to do with it, but very soon, the strike was over and the upstart  migrant workers had won (however temporarily).  In the context of the deplorable working conditions endured by the farm workers, it was a small victory, but a significant one.  Now recognized as the official bargaining unit in the vineyards, it was time now to move on to other issues.  One of those -- one with a long history that was already the subject of some intensive lobbying by farm laborer advocates -- was the hated short-handled hoe.

I don't remember how many pickets of grocery stores I actually took part in after that first one.  My part-time job -- which I had started only shortly before that first picket -- soon kept me busy three or four evenings a week and weekends and prevented me from being as active as I wanted.  

I always felt like a hypocrite, and with good reason -- my job that precluded my regular participation was with a competing grocery store that was probably selling the same grapes from the same producers.  I always feared running into someone from my employer while picketing who would report me to the management and cost me my job.  Or worse, a decision to picket the store where I worked!  Talk about an untenable position.

It was a crappy part-time stock clerk / bag-boy job, but it was paying me a bit above minimum wage in a more liberal era and a single-breadwinner model when even minimum wage came very close to being a living wage.  Bagging groceries would eventually pay for my college education.  Losing that job would have been a major inconvenience.  Fortunately, I was never found out.  By either side.

Growers look at human beings as implements. But if they had any consideration for the torture that people go through, they would give up the short-handled hoe.
 
Cesar Chavez
1969
 


El Cortito, “the short one”.  El brazo del diablo, "the devil s arm".  The growers of the California fields couldn't do without it -- though ironically, the agricultural community in 48 other states never found sufficient reason to utilize it.  

The employers insisted it was a matter of control and accuracy.  Unless the worker got down close to the ground, too many plants would be damaged weeding and cultivating the fields.  But hour upon hour, day upon day, month upon month, year upon year of bent-over labor was brutal, leaving workers crippled well before they reached retirement age (not that there was much of anything that could be called a retirement program for farm workers).  


Migrant workers who toiled in the sugar beet and lettuce fields were forced to use a special tool.  It was a short-handled hoe that they called El Cortito, "the short one."  This special hoe had a handle that was only 12 or 18 inches (30.5 or 45.7 centimeters) long.  A regular hoe has a long handle that allows a person to stand up while using it.  El Cortito, however, forced workers to stay in the bent-over position, twisting their bodies to crawl along rows of lettuce or beets.  After 10 or 12 hours of holding this position, many people were unable to stand straight.  Because the children's bones were still forming, using El Cortito was especially harmful for them.  It often resulted in horribly painful backaches for the rest of their lives.  Even though the long-handled hoe could be used, the growers insisted that workers use El Cortito.  Th growers believed that the short-handled tool caused less damage to the growing vegetables.
Barbara J. Davis, The National Grape Boycott: A Victory for Farmworkers


Since the late nineteenth century, the owners of the fields of California had relied on cheap, temporary migrant labor to plant, tend, and harvest their produce.  They had no investment in the long-term health of their workers; if one was no longer able work, there were plenty of others to take his or her place.  They were immanently disposable.  From the very beginning, the short-handled hoe was a tool of choice -- not of the workers, but of the owners.

The workers forced to use the short-handled hoe suspected that the only issue of control in the politics of the short hoe was control of them.  El Cortito made the job easy for the field bosses.  Anyone standing was not working.

As early as the 1920s farm workers were engaging in isolated protests and work stoppages over the use of the short-handled hoe. During the Depression, though, the poor people from Oklahoma, Arkansas, and elsewhere who flocked to California were willing to do any work, including using the short-handled hoe, for lower wages. Hence the protests of the 1920s were rendered ineffective.
Douglas Murray, "The Abolition of the Short-Handled Hoe"

Hispanics, a staple of the California fields since irrigation turned the arid land into productive farm ground, and beginning to organize in opposition to oppressive working conditions including use of the short hoe, suddenly found themselves persona non-grata as desperate white Americans flooded the fields and orchards.  The Mexican Repatriation during the Great Depression forced as many as a million Hispanics out of the United States, some 60% of them legal U.S. citizens.  There were plenty of Okie refugees streaming in from the Dust Bowl willing to work cheaper, and too desperate to complain about working conditions.  The growers were no longer dependent on Hispanics.  It would take a world war before they were welcomed back into the fields.


Even immediately after college, in another town, in the dreadful Nixon wage-price-freeze economy leading into the mid-seventies, the grocery industry provided me with what we would call today a "McJob" that, as McJobs go, was a pretty good one, the only union gig of my life and one that, by the time I left three years later (in the middle of an aggressive union-busting campaign), was paying an hourly rate that put my annual income squarely at the median household income for that year.  The federal minimum wage would not surpass my last hourly rate in the unionized grocery industry until nearly 30 years later.

All I had to do for those sweet wages was stock shelves, bag groceries, and, once or twice a week,  help out in the produce department re-packaging the contents of cartons of Bud Antle lettuce into cellophane bags for resale.  

Souls sold cheap here.

Section 5 Duties
(a) Each employer --
(1) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;

General Duty Clause, Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970

The struggle against the grape growers had been an exercise in small and, as it turned out, tenuous and often fleeting victories.  The damage done by the short hoe called for something sweeping, wide-ranging, and incontrovertible.  The tactics of the grape strikes were insufficient to the demand.  The power of the state needed to be invoked.  The recently passed Occupational Safety and Health Act seemed to offer a perfect avenue to relieve the workers of the torture of the short hoe.  The state, however, and its movie star governor, declined to become involved.

The labor organizers had, since the late sixties, been cultivating relationships with community assistance organizations for support.  One of these was California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA).  An outgrowth of Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, the then-federally-funded CRLA was, in fact, already in the early stages of legal proceedings against the California education establishment on behalf of the migrant workers at the time the grape strikes ended in 1970.  

The CRLA  won a major victory in Diana vs The California State Board of Education , filed in 1970 and concluded in 1973.  At the request of Hispanic laborers, the CRLA challenged the schools' practice of warehousing the children of migrant farmworkers -- more than 35,000 of them -- in special education classrooms on the basis of intelligence tests administered in English only.  The state was forced to revamp its testing and teaching methods to accommodate the migrant children's language skills.


At the same time, the CRLA was building its case against the short hoe.  They gathered mountains of medical evidence and testimony of medical professionals that long-term use of short-handled tools led to debilitating and permanent injuries.  especially in children who toiled with their parents in the fields as their young bones were still forming.  The CRLA collected evidence that the short hoe had never been used in 48 states, and oversaw a study that found long handled-tools to be more effective than the short tools.

The growers enlisted their own army of supporters, arguing that the tools were not the cause of the migrants' injuries, because they were just the inevitable result of farm labor in general, and recruited their own medical experts who argued that the Hispanics' bodies were simply genetically deficient and predisposed to such injuries.

The CRLA presented their evidence to the Industrial Safety Commission of the California Occupational Health and Safety Agency, arguing that the evidence clearly showed the short-handled tools constituted an "unsafe hand tool" under the statutes, and that alternatives existed that were not cost prohibitive.  They had built a formidable case for the farm workers.

The Industrial Commission ruled that it did not have jurisdiction over "long term" injuries.


Governor Moonbeam and First Squeeze Linda Ronstadt
                     
In response, the CRLA filed suit against the state demanding that it enforce the rules against dangerous tools.  In 1975, the California Supreme Court handed down Carmona vs. Division of Industrial Safety, ruling that the Industrial Safety Commission did indeed have the authority to regulate short-handled tools and ordering the commission to reconsider its decision in the context of the court's ruling.

The case went back to the Industrial Commission, but it was a very different commission than the one that had initially ruled on the case.  In the interim between the commission's initial ruling and the court-ordered reconsideration of the case there had been an election -- you know, those things with consequences.  Governor Ronald Reagan had not sought re-election, opting to move on, his sights set on fucking up things much larger than mere states, and the new governor,  Democrat Jerry Brown, had replaced the old Chesterfield pitchman in the governor's mansion.  The Industrial Commission had undergone a facelift and was populated with a new group of commissioners, much more sympathetic to the plight of the farm workers.  There was no foot-dragging this time.  El Cortito was no more.

A weekend of gardening has taken its toll on my back.  It's hell getting old.  The doctor suspects the problem is arthritis, although he acknowledges there are a couple of other things it might be.  He could do a few tests and find out for sure, he says, but at this point the treatment for all is the same -- take some over-the-counter pain relievers and quit whining.

And just about everyone has had quite enough of dsteffen's incessant whining.  "He's cold," "His back hurts," "He might get fired."

Look, I'm a white, middle-class male.  I could live a hundred years and I'll never know what it's like to be a Black man in a ghetto, or a Native American on a reservation, and while I've spent a few days in my lifetime -- certainly not much more than a couple of hundred -- baling hay, walking beans, building fence, shoveling manure, and all the other kinds of physical labor a typical farm boy of the 1950s and 60s ended up doing in the course of his youth, it comes nowhere close to giving me the least bit of insight into the life of a Hispanic migrant worker spending a lifetime laboring day in and day out in the fields.

All I can do is believe them -- and not their employers -- when it comes to the effects of working conditions in the fields.  Which side are you on, boys?

In the 35 years since the banning of the short hoe, the incidence of back injuries among migrant farm workers has fallen by 34%.  Despite the stunning improvement, unfortunately, the banning of the short hoe did not universally provide the relief the workers and their supporters had hoped.  With the short hoe banned, many growers turned to hand weeding to avoid feared crop losses from what they perceived as the less-controlled long-handled tools.  The farm workers and their allies dug in for another battle.

Almost 30 years after the short-handled hoe was outlawed, California became the first state to restrict hand weeding in 2004.  The regulations still allow hand weeding if the grower can demonstrate a compelling need to protect delicate crops that can't be achieved with long-handled tools, but the regulation places restrictions on the length of time a worker can be required to engage in the practice, and mandates longer and more frequent breaks to help protect the workers' health.

But California is just one state -- others still permit the practice -- and even in California, enforcement is problematic.  Unlike an outright ban, the practice can still be utilized, so observance of workers engaging in the practice is not necessarily evidence of a violation.  And adherence to limits on hand weeding are as flexible as the employers' record-keeping allows.  And violations are as widespread as the winners of the last election permit.

The United Farm Workers currently represent about 27,000 farm workers in California and nine other states.  They have survived now for 45 years in the notoriously hard-to-organize agricultural community.  As an old farm boy, I can rattle off a long list of white guys' farm unions that reside now only in the dust bin of history.  According to Fox News, the UFW has simultaneously shrunk to insignificance and at the same time represents the biggest threat to farm workers.  They must be doing something right.

California Rural Legal Assistance was de-funded by the federal government in 1996 -- is there really any need for me to spell out the historical context for that turn of events? -- but the organization has managed to survive on other sources of funding.  They have undergone an ongoing series of federal investigations into their operation and fundraising initiated under the Bush administration.  Elections have consequences.

I don't know what became of most of the people I picketed with back in those days.  Hell, I remember hardly any of their names.  Most, presumably, went on to live productive lives with varying degrees of involvement in progressive causes.  A few may even have become conservatives, who knows?  I suppose many of us probably "sold out" (at least through periodic non-involvement) to one extent or another.  Life takes people on strange journeys, but we were mostly college-educated white kids.  Few or us probably suffered much beyond a few inconveniences.

One of our leaders in those pickets later transferred to Berkley.  I read some time later -- one of those "where are they now?" pieces in the campus newspaper that happened to appear on a day when I drove over to visit a friend who was still in grad school -- that he married an Hispanic woman and was involved at that time in migrant farm labor issues.  The Google Machine says he is now an attorney in California, specializing in personal injury and workers' compensation law.  I wonder if he ever litigated claims resulting from the short hoe.  

I'd like to think so.

And that, dear Kossacks, is where regulation comes from -- not from bored bureaucrats sitting in an office in Washington trying to think up ways to make life miserable and expensive for some innocent and unsuspecting businessman, but from real human suffering and tragedy brought about, all too often, by people who shirk what should be obvious responsibilities, who neglect basic diligence, who sacrifice safety for profit.  They bring suffering on those who trust them and their products, and society adopts measures to make sure it never happens again.  We have to force them, through regulation, to behave as they should have been behaving all along.  That's how regulation came to be.

Hat tip to mariachi mama, who suggested the Short Hoe in the diary on the Cincinnati  Who concert tragedy.  Many thanks!
You can submit online public comments on proposed rules and regulations at Regulations.gov
(h/t  to stusviews)

Previous installments of How Regulation came to be:


1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act
The Iroquois Theater Fire
Radium Girls - Part I
Radium Girls - Part II
Radium Girls - Part III
Construction Summer
Red Moon Rising
The Cherry Mine Disaster, Part I
The Cherry Mine Disaster, Part II
Ground Fault, Interrupted
The Cocoanut Grove
DK GreenRoots: Donora
Confined Spaces
The Hotel Fires of 1946 - Part I
The Hotel Fires of 1946 - Part II
Our Lady of the Angels
The Great Molasses Flood
Toy Safety
The Power of One: Frances Oldham Kelsey
Santa Barbara
The Scofield Mine Explosion
The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
The Cincinnati Who concert tragedy
The Flexner Report
The Eastland Disaster

Most images of farm workers and strikers in this diary are from the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University.

Originally posted to dsteffen on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 02:36 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  tip jar (32+ / 0-)

    This narrative, as I've written it, is centered around organizations and movements, but the struggle of the California farm workers' labor movement is also a story of bold individuals and powerful personalities.  The stories of Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Larry Itliong, Mo Jourdane, Marty Glick, and many, many others -- preserved in both biographies and first-person accounts -- provide a far more richly-textured rendering of the farm workers' movement than I've been able to present here.

    We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

    by dsteffen on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 02:28:16 PM PDT

  •  I can remember hearing about El Cortito (11+ / 0-)

    when I was a high school kid and the grape strike.  That was a hard up-hill battle for the UFW.  Chavez was a very strong person and I am sorry he is gone.

  •  Reminds me of John McCain's single moment (10+ / 0-)

    of humanity in 2008, when he acknowledged that working in the fields was backbreaking, and that most people couldn't do it.  What a credit to those who enacted OSHA that it reached to protect even the lowest worker on the ladder.

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 03:25:40 PM PDT

    •  You beat me to it. (6+ / 0-)

      I had this one on tap to post after a few comments (a Cisco Houston version, actually).

      So I guess I'll post this one instead:

      As always, thanks for stopping in and commenting, and thanks for your support of my little endeavor.

      We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

      by dsteffen on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 03:30:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  As an Illini (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dsteffen, RiaD, allep10

        I'm surprised you never worked as a corn detassler.  When I worked for Employment Security, every year we looked to a brief increase in employment numbers as kids went into the fields for a brief couple of weeks during the growing season.

        If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

        by marykk on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 03:38:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That always seemed a little too much... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiaD, marykk, allep10

          ...like work to me.

          I don't know why I never did it.  The first year I was eligible I landed a much sweeter job through a government program that I'm not even sure how I got into.  I just remember coming home from school and my Mom or Dad asking me if I was interested, so I went up to one of the doctors' offices in town who was active in the local Republican party.  The only real question I remember being asked in the interview was whether my parents were good Republicans -- they were, no problem there -- and the next thing I know I'm in this program working part time for the city and part time for the school district with about a dozen other guys doing little odd jobs all summer.  

          After that, going out into those hot, sweaty, buggy fields would have been such a come down, I found other cushier jobs so I could avoid it.

          We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

          by dsteffen on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 03:48:48 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It was work. (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RunawayRose, Ahianne, dsteffen, RiaD, allep10

            Do they still do it by hand?  I'm afraid I'm out of touch with what I once knew about farming practices anymore, even in the prairie state.

            If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

            by marykk on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 03:53:45 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I think it's all pretty mechanized now. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              RunawayRose, Ahianne, marykk

              It's been several years since I saw kids gathering in the mornings waiting for the trucks to take them to the fields.  Of course, they quit using trucks for transport decades ago after a couple tragic accidents involving detasslers in open trucks getting hit by semis (one here just outside of town).  It was all buses when I last saw them going out.

              I'm sure there are still some jobs that need the hand work, especially the experimental plots and so forth, but I think most of the basic production detassling is machines now.

              We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

              by dsteffen on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 04:06:30 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I assume the open trucks (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                RunawayRose, dsteffen

                are also verboten by OSHA. For exactly that reason.

                If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

                by marykk on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 04:10:40 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  They still do clean up by hand (5+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                RunawayRose, Ahianne, dsteffen, marykk, allep10

                after the machines have gone through, however, due to improved genetics they don't miss many, and a few crews of kids can make quick work of what's left.  I think they still have some places where they do so serious detassling.

                BTW,  I recently heard they are experimenting with some version of sterility again.  So maybe we'll see the whole Texas Male Sterile fiasco all over again.  

                AS for me...screw detassling, I got paid a lot more to sling bales, and at least we usually had a breeze.

                WWJD - for a Klondike bar. Sign on a graduate student's door.

                by Hard to Port on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 04:47:04 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Breeze??? You got a breeze? (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  RunawayRose, allep10

                  There was no breeze up in the loft!  How'd you manage to get the rack?

                  We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

                  by dsteffen on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 04:58:25 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  dunno, but i usually did. (4+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    RunawayRose, dsteffen, marykk, allep10

                    I worked the loft some too.  The worst was midsummer in Howard's loft up on those platforms that he had over the cattle lofing area.  We were short on help and it was him and I carrying and stacking and as I recall we had to lug them a ways across the loft.  Closest I ever came to passing out.

                    WWJD - for a Klondike bar. Sign on a graduate student's door.

                    by Hard to Port on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 05:02:29 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Worst I ever had... (4+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      RunawayRose, marykk, Youffraita, allep10

                      ...was working for your across-the-street-neighbor's father in that big old red barn they tried to exploit for the vineyard's fall activities in more recent years.  I think that thing acted like a hermetically-sealed solar collector.  It was hot as hell in there and not a hint of air movement.  We used to work as fast as we could to throw the stuff in place so we could slip out for a quick breath of air before the next rack showed up.

                      By the way -- did detassling pay sub-minimum wage?  I seem to remember they took advantage of the ag exemption to pay something like 80 cents when the minimum was $1.25, but I could be remembering wrong.

                      We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

                      by dsteffen on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 05:11:32 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  You remember right (5+ / 0-)

                        which is one of the reasons the south is so anti-union.  There was great fear that if unions came into the states, they would bring fair wages with them.

                        If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

                        by marykk on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 05:14:39 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Well, you know. (5+ / 0-)

                          It's just kids and they're just working to get money for drugs and booze entertainment and the latest school fashions -- it's not like they're supporting a family or anything.

                          Many of the jobs I had in the grocery industry were also being worked by people who were supporting familes.  Not after they busted the union they weren't.  They made them into jobs that would only buy records and jeans.

                          We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

                          by dsteffen on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 05:33:58 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                        •  And now that we're discussing this... (3+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          RunawayRose, marykk, allep10

                          ...the ossified old gray matter popped loose another memory, that it was exactly that reason that I never detasseled -- I refused to work for them if that was all they were going to pay me.  Not something that particularly pleased my parents, I'm sure, since it wasn't exactly like I had an alternative in the queue.  I think the city/school job was one they found for me in lieu of the Plan B I didn't have.

                          We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

                          by dsteffen on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 06:27:34 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                      •  I guess your question got answer above, (4+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        RunawayRose, dsteffen, marykk, allep10

                        My sophomore year I went to work "in town",  at IGA in the air conditioning for a whopping $1.60/hr.  I was there when Nixon froze wages, cause one of the assitant managers bitched about it for weeks.

                        WWJD - for a Klondike bar. Sign on a graduate student's door.

                        by Hard to Port on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 05:18:40 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

            •  A couple of my nephews in Iowa (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              RunawayRose, dsteffen, marykk, allep10

              ..worked on detasseling crews a few years back.

              I can haz vuvuzela!!!

              by Ahianne on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 06:49:06 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  In Texas the short hoe was seen as a way (10+ / 0-)

    to ensure that the workers were actually working, rather than just standing around looking like they were.

    http://books.google.com/...

    I suspect they also liked the idea that the workers had to stoop all day, considering that they lost the Civil War and all . . .  .

    Their real God is money-- Jesus just drives the armored car, and his hat is made in China. © 2009 All Rights Reserved

    by oblomov on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 03:31:08 PM PDT

  •  First person video (7+ / 0-)

    Dolores Huerta recounts how she became involved in the early days of the struggle.

    We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

    by dsteffen on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 03:36:16 PM PDT

  •  If you're in Texas, vote for Linda Chavez-Thompso (10+ / 0-)

    n for LT. GOV. this fall.

    She's been a labor organizer for more than 20 years.

    Vote for Hank Gilbert for Ag Commissioner, too. It's time for a change in that office, held by the GOP since the last time Jim Hightower had a state post.

    And vote for Bill White for governor.

    We need to start somewhere, y'all, and here in Texas we have a chance to start with the state's executive offices, where folks who have done business, organized labor, and understand what the responsibilities of the offices entail are sorely needed to help us get out from under the detritus of a GOP stranglehold going back to '94/'96.

    The short hoe's not irrelevant in Texas.

    LBJ & Lady Bird, Sully Sullenberger, Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, Drew Brees: Texas is No Bush League! -7.50,-5.59

    by BlackSheep1 on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 03:43:17 PM PDT

  •  "Photographing Farmworkers in California" (6+ / 0-)

    is a book reviewed in a Fresno BEE article (7/27/04) called Fruits of their Labor.  Heading the article is a photo of a boy clearing a makeshift high-jump in a labor camp on the west side of Fresno County in 1958. It was taken by George "Elfie" Ballis (who died Friday in Fresno at the age of 85). Ballis spent decades in the Central Valley photographing farmworkers, whom he greatly admired. "They were amazing people," he said. "They had strength and dignity. I wanted my photographs to reflect to them the power and dignity they had." The author of the book, Richard Street, says

    Ballis, Kouns, Lowe and Jon Lewis are the great saints of farmworker photography. They worked under difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions at a time when there were few outlets for their photos.

    •  Great article. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ybruti, hopi13, Youffraita, allep10

      I liked this quote:

      "These photographers never declared themselves to be neutral," Street says.
      "They were activists."

      Thanks for sharing the link.  George Ballis can depart this plane proud of what he did.

      We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

      by dsteffen on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 04:30:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Like a lot of coalition movements... (7+ / 0-)

    ...the merger of the AWOC and the NFWA wasn't all sweetness and light.  There were some hard feelings among some AWOC members that their people were getting the short end of the stick.  This documentary on the Filipino side of the UFW touches on some of the discord.

    We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

    by dsteffen on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 04:12:24 PM PDT

  •  Truly fantastic diary. Thanks so much. nt (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dsteffen, Youffraita, allep10
  •  Excellent work! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dsteffen, allep10

    http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/206488-1 at 1:31:20

    by TexMex on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 05:37:11 PM PDT

    •  yes!!! MAZIE the union maid! (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ahianne, dsteffen, marykk, allep10

      http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/206488-1 at 1:31:20

      by TexMex on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 05:39:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  1938! (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ahianne, dsteffen, marykk, hopi13, allep10

        PECAN-SHELLERS' STRIKE. On January 31, 1938, 12,000 San Antonio pecan shellers, mostly Hispanic women, walked off their jobs. A three-month strike followed, in which the pecan shellers confronted both management and San Antonio politics. In the 1930s Texas pecans accounted for approximately 50 percent of the nation's production. San Antonio was the Texas shelling center because half the commercial Texas pecans grew within a 250-mile radius of the city.

        http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/206488-1 at 1:31:20

        by TexMex on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 05:41:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Maizie (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dsteffen, allep10

          http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/206488-1 at 1:31:20

          by TexMex on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 05:47:15 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Your grandmother sounds like... (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ahianne, TexMex, marykk, Youffraita, allep10

          ...she was an amazing woman.  I presume she passed away before you were even aware enough to formulate the questions you would have wanted to ask her.  Seems to be the natural order of things, but awfully cruel to deprive us of the kinds of family folklore we might treasure.

          The photos in the powerpoint were fantastic.  I see the pecan producers had their personal enforcement division at work.  

          Thanks so much for the kind words on the diary, and thanks even more for providing the comments and links.

          We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

          by dsteffen on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 06:07:42 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Terrific diary. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ybruti, dsteffen, marykk

    T&R, of course.

    Loved the design, too, and the way you interwove your memories with the story of the strike and the banning of the short hoe.

    Just wonderful.  Thanks for another superb How Regulation Came to Be.

    Over the last 30 years, the Democrats have moved to the right, and the Republicans have moved into a mental hospital. -- Bill Maher

    by Youffraita on Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 10:16:51 PM PDT

    •  Thank you, Youfraita, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Youffraita, Calamity Jean

      and thanks for all your support.  I'm glad the personal reminisce didn't detract too much.  I've been concerned ever since I first started writing this that I was making it too much about --->ME<--- and not enough about the people it's really supposed to be about.  Glad you liked the approach, at least.</p>

      And thanks again for the kind words.

      We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Justice Louis D. Brandeis

      by dsteffen on Mon Sep 27, 2010 at 10:35:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's odd, b/c (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dsteffen

        I never noticed you putting yourself into a diary at all: It was always about regulation & how it helps people.

        Look: what I wanted to tell you last night: yours is one of the very best diary series on this site.

        I feel grateful that you publish it & give us all the opportunity to read you.

        So -- thank you.  From the bottom of my heart.

        Over the last 30 years, the Democrats have moved to the right, and the Republicans have moved into a mental hospital. -- Bill Maher

        by Youffraita on Mon Sep 27, 2010 at 07:52:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'm glad I saw this in time to recommend. n/t (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dsteffen, marykk

    Renewable energy brings national security.

    by Calamity Jean on Mon Sep 27, 2010 at 04:01:12 PM PDT

  •  First experience (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dsteffen

    The table grapes boycott was my first time participating in an organized protest. I was in high school and since I graduated in the spring of '70 I'm going to say your initial dating of fall '69 is probably correct.

    I stood outside of a local supermarket holding a large "Boycott California Table Grapes" sign and two classmates (male) handed out flyers. On the whole we were well received by the store patrons and we got more than a few comments of "good for you, kids" and "you're right". I was feeling pretty good about being there and what we were doing...downright virtuous in fact.

    We'd been there a couple of hours when a middle-aged man came out of the store, stopped in front of me, reached into his bag of groceries and pulled out a large bunch of grapes which he shoved into my face. He then proceeded to call me a dirty commie bitch and berated us all for being stupid kids who didn't understand "realities" and that people like us made the cost of food go up, etc.

    When I got home and told my parents what had happened they said that #1 they were proud of me, and #2 that it is never possible to question the status quo without upsetting some people, and that they hoped "grape man" hadn't dampened my enthusiasm for fighting for change. It didn't. I'm still out there trying to do what I can, whenever I can. I'm sure I still upset people, although I've never experienced anything quite as up close and personal as "grape man".

    You know why we can't have nice things? Because we keep electing Republicans.

    by maisey on Thu Sep 30, 2010 at 08:58:21 AM PDT

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