Legal Intermediaries and the Making of Pesticides Victims Mobilizations in California and France

Saturday, June 25, 2016: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
88 Dwinelle (Dwinelle Hall)
Jean-NoŽl Jouzel, Centre de sociologie des organisations, Sciences Po CNRS, Paris, France
Giovanni Prete, Universitť Paris 13, IRIS, Villetaneuse, France
Individual and collective mobilizations of farmers and farmworkers denouncing the effects of pesticides on their health have occurred in California and in France. In both contexts, legal intermediaries (lawyers and legal advisers) have played a central role in the emergence and development of these mobilizations: convincing farmers and farmworkers that there is a link between their health problems and pesticide exposure, helping them to bring their case in court to claim compensation, or gathering different cases in collective actions.

Yet, the political outputs deriving from this legal assistance appear much contrasted in California and France.  In California, the use of the law has mainly led to a focus on growers and their responsibility regarding the poisoning of their employees. In France, it has resulted in the denounciation of the chemical firms producing and selling pesticides. Basing our paper on a social science literature review and field research, we will show that this difference is due not only to the characteristics of the agricultural job market structure in France (where the workforce is mostly constituted of farmers) and California (where it is mostly constituted of migrants, often undocumented), but also on the legal resources and constraints that are available in both contexts to legal intermediaries when setting up their strategies.