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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,TJ in San Diego ADD: The Grape Pickers Tragedy (Jack Warshaw) (8) RE: ADD: The Grape Pickers Tragedy (Jack Warshaw) 16 Mar 10


I grew up in the central San Joaquin Valley of California, where this song was derived. I had many schoolmates and playmates who were children of farm workers, a number of whom lived in labor quarters.

Particularly in the Kern County area, near the town of Delano, there were examples of egregious disregard of field workers' conditions; re: safety, health and living quarters. Fortunately, many of the insecticides used prior to the 1970's, DDT being one, are now banned. Most of the health and safety concerns were addressed legally and practically many years ago. Most, but not all.

One of my cousins flew crop dusters for many years. He would not fly in proximity to fields where pickers or other laborers were working. In fact, his concern for these people is probably what cost him his life. He was making an early morning pass over a field when he spotted carloads of workers pulling in where they were not supposed to be. In attempting to quickly abort his pass, he hooked his wheels over a high power line and crashed.

It is very likely that a number of pilots or those that hired them failed to adequately account for winds drifting insecticides to adjacent fields, exposing the workers. I have never known farmers callous enough to purposely expose their employees, but some certainly did so out of ignorance or neglect. Huge corporate farms were the principal culprits.

But, if you were one of those workers, especially someone who lost loved ones during that time, all of that surely rings hollow. The words are poignant still. Cesar Chavez is celebrated as the man who did the most to expose the wrongs and protect the workers. Had Woody Guthrie lived, he probably would have written a song for Cesar and for the victims.

Sorry for the ramble, but this brought a flood of memories to me.


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