The long tale of the short-handled hoe | WBEZ
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The long tale of the short-handled hoe

We take a look back at a historic battle over workers’ rights in California. It all started in “the salad bowl of the world” – aka Salinas Valley – and the fight was over a simple tool: the short-handled hoe.

This smaller hoe looks like a standard gardening tool, but workers had to bend over pretty far to use it. Doing that kind of work for 12 hours a day caused debilitating and permanent back damage for those tasked with maintaining huge fields of vegetables.

This short hoe – or “cortito” in Spanish – became a symbol of cruelty, oppression and literally back-breaking labor. That is, until a lawyer in the early 1970s took on big ag, and the story of “el cortito” was heard before the California Supreme Court.

Music: “The Migrant’s Song” by Peter Krug, performed by Danny Valdez and Augustin Lira, from “Broadside Ballads, Vol. 4: The Time Will Come and Other Songs from Broadside Magazine” (Folkways Records)

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