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July 23, 1985 - Image 5

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1985-07-23

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OPINION

The Michigan Daily
Vol. XCV, No. 36-S
95 Years of Editorial Freedom
Managed and Edited by Students at
The University of Michigan
Editorials represent a majority opinion of the
Daily Editorial Board
Po lical prisoners
T HE MICHIGAN Court of Appeal's recent ruling that
anti-nuclear protesters may be jailed indefinitely for
contempt of court if they refuse to promise not to trespass
or block the entrance at the Williams International Corp.
plant at Walled Lake was wrong.
The Court of Appeals was mistaken in the assessment
p that the constitutional rights to acts of civil disobedience
were not violated.
The Court failed to examine the issue of whether the in-
junction would cause the anti-nuclear protesters to
become political prisoners.
The idea of an indefinite jail sentence for trespassing
seems more appropriate in a totalitarian state, not in
Oakland County.
It seems that Oakland County got tired of dealing with
the protesters and their acts of civil disobedience and
decided to put a stop to it. They imposed a penalty for a
political crime not a criminal one.
By making a decision like this, the court is surpressing a
person's right to make a statement about the arms race.
The court is telling people who might commit acts of
civil disobedience in the future that the court will not
regard the act as criminal or civil but rather as a political
action that could lead to an indefinite jail sentence.
Oakland County Judge Francis O'Brien seemed to have
a better idea when he offered the protesters the choice to
do community service, but the protesters were still
required to promise that they would not block the gates of
the plant.
The penalty imposed for violating the court injunction is
too harsh. The Court should treat future acts of trespassing
at the Williams plant as trespassing and not a political
crime.

Tuesday, July 23, 1985
The return of 'El Cortilto'

Page 5

short-handled tolls still allowed in the fields.
By John Ross "We never bought the evidence showing how unhealthy
For many seasons, he worked in California's lettuce the hoe was," says Dan Haley of the association, "but the
fields with a hoe so short he had to bend to the waist to politics brought out such bitter feelings that we decided
swing it. Then Cesar Chavez's back gave out. not to appeal the 1975 state court decision." Haley insists
But the short-handled hoe - "el cortito," the little short that may farmworkers want to work with the short hoe
one to generations of farm workers - left Chavez, soon to because it is more effective for weeding and thinning than
be leader of the United Farm Workers, with more than A the four-foot long tool.
painfully herniated disc. It also gave him purpose in In fact, the 1975 banning was often more a symbol than a
leading the struggle to have the tool outlawed in the fields reality. For several years, growers substituted various
of California. short-handled lettuce and asparagus knives and machetes
IN i75,60 years after "el cortito" was introduced in the for weeding and thinning, which actually caused more
state, the California Supreme Court found over- strain than the hoes according to CRLA attorney Caludia
whelming evidence that the short-handed hoe had indeed Smith who is based in Salinas, the state's lettuce-growing
caused injury, capital.
Because the short-handled hoe was a symbol of back- SMITH SAYS she can document recent incidents of
breaking stoop labor, of an era when farm bosses had ab- workers being taken to hospitals with severe back strain
souehs ,a S S from using "el cortito." And county labor administrators
from California could say Mexicans were better workers say the short-handled hoe is now "habitually" used in rich
"because they were built closer to the ground," the ban- southern California growing areas.
of "el cortito" epitomized the UFw's struggle for in- The resurgence of "el cortito" may be as significant as
ning fetto i zarusn its banning. Today, a combination of take-backs, stalled
dustrial safety standards.leiltoadbracaiintonhslwdte
Now, only 10 years later, the California Occupational lrogslation, and bureaucratic iral and of the UFWth
Safety and Health Administration (CAL-OSHA) is moving particular. With contracts covering only 30,000 - rival
to allow use of the short-handled hoe un the fields once ions say 15,000 - of the state's 250,000 farmworkers, the
INa MlID-JUNE, the agency's Industrial Safety Standar- UFW is struggling just to stay afloat.
.ds Board held hearings on new regulations which would One source of their troubles is the changing nature of
allow the use of the foot-long hoe for weeding and thinning agriculture in California. Lettuce growers, complaining of
"five minutes each hour." The new rule does not define over-regulation and high labor costs, are leaving the state
the hoe by the length of its handle, as previous guidelines in droves, and mechanical pickers have taken many jobs
did, but rather by the "45 degree angle" of the worker's - 50,000 in tomatoes alone since the mid-1960s.
back when using it - halfway between the verticle and WITH THESE factors, the threat of a new immigration
horizontal, law that would bring in tens of thousands of Mexican
The proposal has been broadly criticized by far- "guest workers" at sub-union wages, and difficulties in its
mworker advocates. It shows incredible insensitivity to own ranks, the UFW has lost considerable clout. In 1984,
famworkers,"arges Ral"shws Lightstonee ansenattry fo the union won only four elections, according to the state's
farmworkers," argues Ralph Lightstone, an attorney for Agricultural Labor Relations Board.
Californi ural LgalA sistance, CRLA, which brought That board, once the union's staunch ally, is itself in
At the hearing, an irate Roberto De La Cruz, UFW trouble. Gay. George Deukzejian has cut its budget hy over
political director, presented board members with a a qunrter, and appointed key staff members unfriendly to
sawed-off golf club and asked them to play a few rounds so the UFW. The union's De La Cruz complains that conirac-
they could experience the toll the short-handled hoe takes iscovering 36,00gtable grapeworkershave beenappealed
on the backs of farmworkers. over and over again by growers thereby cheating workers
STEVE JABLONSKI, executive officer of the out of more than $80Omillion in back pay. He also says that
ds Board, claims the new rule is merely intended tandify one Deukmejian-appointed attorney has settled thousands
tceiyof worker claims of unfair labor practices for ten cents on
the court decision into a field regulation. He says he was t orla
unprepared for the vehement opposition - which came r.
from farmers as well as farmworkers. The powerful
Western Growers' Association opposed the measure on
the grounds that it would open to review a whole array of Ross wrote thisfor Pacific News Service.

Letters to the Daily should be typed,
triple-spaced, and signed by the in-
dividual authors. Names will be withheld
only in unusual circumstances. Letters
may be edited for clarity, grammar, and
spelling.

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