How United Farm Workers Took on Pesticide Use

Jan 13, 2021 | Labor and Employment

The United Farm Workers of America is a labor union founded in 1962 by labor leaders and activists, Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. The United Farm Workers have been inspiring workers across the country to organize, mobilize, and spread their message.

The Dangers of Pesticides

Pesticides have been known to cause negative side effects to farm workers since the late 1960s. The hazards of pesticides have left people with stomach pains, nausea, headaches, chills, and skin irritations.

After World War II, pest control became a more intense chemical. Although effective against insects at first, DDT’s, a chlorinated hydrocarbon, eventually wore off on species that grew an immunity against it. As way of a solution, organophosphates, originally developed for biological weapons and nerve gas, began being applied to crops. However, it proved very dangerous to the workers dealing with and applying it to the fields and crops.

The United Farm Workers Provide Aid to Workers

Farmers knew they were being poisoned but feared for their jobs if they mentioned it to the growers, who had little incentive to listen to the workers concerns. Additionally, most workers could not afford health care and therefore were unable to receive a proper diagnosis for the pesticide poisoning.

Thousands of people were discovering that they were all suffering the same symptoms and needed both medical care and policy protections against the unjust treatment. Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers of California were key in initiating awareness and legislative action. They advocated for remedying the health risks involved with pesticides and against the injustices against farm workers and consumers. Their efforts were to increase awareness about the danger of pesticides and to encourage the legislature to enact protective measures about the use of pesticides.

Worker protections and pesticide controls in contracts was a leading goal of the United Farm Workers campaign. They were able to establish the regulatory requirements for the use of pesticides and acceptable residue levels on consumer goods.



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