Reveal: Hell Of A Job

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To use the short-handled hoe, field workers had to bend over and stay stooped in order to move on to the next plant.

In this episode of Reveal, investigate who’s responsible for protecting workers harmed on the job, explore the legacy of toxic chemicals used in electronics manufacturing and the effect they have on the people who've built our technology-based economy, and take to the fields and explore why it was so hard to ban a tool that was injuring agricultural workers.

Thousands of office janitors work at night, alone, sweeping up the crumbs from our sandwiches, taking out the garbage and scrubbing bathrooms. Many are immigrants – some undocumented – and many are women. With these conditions, they are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence. Hear from members of a tiny nonprofit who try to root out abuses in the cleaning industry; women who've sued janitorial companies for failing to protect them from rape and harassment; and an accused rapist who has run his own cleaning company.

Then, a conversation with Yvette Flores. In 1975, when she was 18-years old, she got her first job. She helped assemble delicate parts to make some of the first supermarket checkout scanners. When her son Mark was born five years later, he had severe disabilities. It took 30 years for her to connect her son's problems to that first job. Reveal and The Center for Public Integrity discover that chemical exposures that never would be acceptable outside a plant’s fence are not only tolerated, but legal, inside the plant.

Lastly, 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.

Listen:

  • Saturday, July 4 at 6am on 93.9FM and NJPR
  • Saturday, July 4 at 2pm on AM 820
  • Saturday, July 4 at 9pm on NJPR
  • Sunday, July 5 at 8pm on AM 820