Forty years ago, farmworkers in California’s fields were forced to stoop over for eight to twelve hours per day because the growers made them use short-handled hoes to tend lettuce, sugar beets, and other crops. After only a few years in these factories in the fields, farmworkers suffered from chronic and debilitating back injuries. The emergence of the United Farm Workers union gave new voice and visibility to their plight.
In 1972, California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) petitioned the Industrial Safety Board of California’s Division of Industrial Safety to prohibit the use of the 12-inch short-handled hoe. They argued that farmworkers should be allowed to use a four foot long-handled hoe to reduce back injuries.