Migrant farm workers had to use the short-handled hoe or el cortito for thinning and weeding. Because it required them to stoop during long hours in the fields, the hoe became a symbol of the exploitive working conditions. Campaigns by the United Farm Workers and others helped outlaw use of the hoe in 1975.
American agriculture’s dependence on Mexican labor has always been a source of great conflict and great opportunity for field workers and the agriculture industry. In the U.S., agricultural labor was overwhelmingly Mexican and Mexican American. Issues of legal status, workers rights, and use of domestic workers are issues the unions, agricultural producers, and the federal government have been struggling with since the 1920’s.
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