Delano grape strike
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The Delano grape strike was a labor strike by the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee and the United Farm Workers against grape growers in California. The strike began on September 8, 1965, and lasted more than five years. Due largely to a consumer boycott of non-union grapes, the strike ended with a significant victory for the United Farm Workers as well as its first contract with the growers.
The strike began when the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, mostly Filipino farm workers in Delano, California, led by Philip Vera Cruz, Larry Itliong, Benjamin Gines and Pete Velasco, walked off the farms of area table-grape growers, demanding wages equal to the federal minimum wage. One week after the strike began, the predominantly Mexican-American National Farmworkers Association, led by Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and Richard Chavez, joined the strike, and eventually the two groups merged, forming the United Farm Workers of America in August 1966. The strike rapidly spread to more than 2,000 workers.
Through its grassroots efforts—using consumer boycotts, marches, community organizing and nonviolent resistance—the movement gained national attention for the plight of some of the nation's lowest-paid workers. By July 1970, the UFW had succeeded in reaching a collective bargaining agreement with the table-grape growers, affecting in excess of 10,000 farm workers.
Before the Delano Grape Strike, a grape strike by Filipinos occurred in Coachella Valley and succeeded in being paid the same wage braceros were paid. The majority of those Coachella Valley strikers were over 50 years old, and after the strike those same workers followed the grape-picking season and moved to Delano. Upon moving north to Delano, those workers who succeeded in their strike in Coachella were told that they would be paid less than what they succeed to be paid after their strike. These Filipino workers who came up from Coachella were led by Larry Itliong, Philip Vera Cruz, Benjamin Gines, and Pete Velasco.
As a result of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee's decision to strike against Delano grape growers on September 8, 1965, Chavez held a conference in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church (Iglesia Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe), in September 16 which is the Mexican Independence Day, in order to allow the National Farm Workers Association to decide for themselves whether or not to join the struggle at Delano. An estimated crowd of more than twelve hundred supporters and members of Chavez's organization repeatedly chanted, "Huelga!" the Spanish word for strike, in favor of supporting the Delano grape farmers.
On March 17, 1966 Cesar Estrada Chavez embarked on a three-hundred mile pilgrimage from Delano, California to the state's capital of Sacramento. This was an attempt to pressure the growers and the state government to answer the demands of the Mexican American and Filipino American farm workers which represented the Filipino-dominated Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee and the Mexican-dominated National Farm Workers Association, led by Cesar Chavez. The pilgrimage was also intended to bring widespread public attention to the farm worker's cause. Shortly after this, the National Farm Workers Association and the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee merged and became known as the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee. In August 1966, the AFL-CIO charted the UFW, officially combining the AWOC and the NFWA.
After a record harvest in the fall of 1965, thousands of California farm workers went on strike and demanded union representation elections. Many were arrested by police and injured by growers while picketing. Chavez sent two workers and a student activist to follow a grape shipment from one of the picketed growers to the end destination at the Oakland docks. Once there, the protestors were instructed to persuade the longshoremen to refrain from loading the shipment of grapes. The group was successful in its course of action, and this resulted in the spoilage of a thousand ten-ton cases of grapes which were left to rot on the docks. This event sparked the decision to use the protest tactic of boycotting as the means by which the labor movement would win the struggle against the Delano grape growers.
This initial successful boycott was followed by a series of picket lines on Bay Area docks. The International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, whose members were responsible for loading the shipments, cooperated with the protesters and refused to load non-union grapes.
Chavez's successful boycotting campaigns in the docks inspired him to launch a formal boycott against the two largest corporations which were involved in the Delano grape industry, Schenley Industries and the DiGiorgio Corporation.
Starting in December 1965, Chavez's organization participated in several consumer boycotts against the Schenley corporation. The increased pressure from supporters in the business sector led to the farm workers’ victory and acquisition of union contracts that immediately raised wages and established hiring halls in Delano, Coachella, and Lamont.
The large corporations affected by the strikes led by Chavez employed fear tactics in order to protect profits. The documentary The Wrath of Grapes mentions that the Delano-based company, M Caratan Inc., hired criminals to break up farm workers voting to unionize. They attacked voters, overturned tables and even smashed ballot boxes.
The DiGiorgio Corporation was finally pressured into holding an election among its workers allowing them to choose the union they wanted to represent them on August 30, 1967. This came as a result of the boycott tactic of blocking grape distribution centers. With their products not on the shelves of retailers as a result of the boycott, the DiGiorgio Corporation was pressured to answer to the demands of the farm workers. The result of the vote favored the union representation of the UFW, a 530 to 332 vote, against the representation of The Teamsters, which was the only union that was competing against the UFW in the election.
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The grape strike officially began in Delano in September 1965. In December, union representatives traveled from California to New York, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Detroit, and other large cities to encourage a boycott of grapes grown at ranches without UFW contracts.
In the summer of 1966, unions and religious groups from Seattle and Portland endorsed the boycott. Supporters formed a boycott committee in Vancouver, prompting an outpouring of support from Canadians that would continue throughout the following years.
In 1967, UFW supporters in Oregon began picketing stores in Eugene, Salem, and Portland. After melon workers went on strike in Texas, growers held the first union representation elections in the region, and the UFW became the first union to ever sign a contract with a grower in Texas.
National support for the UFW continued to grow in 1968, and hundreds of UFW members and supporters were arrested. Picketing continued throughout the country, including in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Florida. The mayors of New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Detroit, and other cities pledged their support, and many of them altered their cities’ grape purchases to support the boycott.
In 1969, support for farm workers increased throughout North America. The grape boycott spread into the South as civil rights groups pressured grocery stores in Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans, Nashville, and Louisville to remove non-union grapes. Student groups in New York protested the Department of Defense and accused them of deliberately purchasing boycotted grapes. On May 10, UFW supporters picketed Safeway stores throughout the U.S. and Canada in celebration of International Grape Boycott Day. Cesar Chavez also went on a speaking tour along the East Coast to ask for support from labor groups, religious groups, and universities.
Mapping UFW Strikes, Boycotts, and Farm Worker Actions 1965-1975 shows over 1,000 farm worker strikes, boycotts, and other actions.
In June 1975, California passed a law allowing for secret ballot union representation elections for farm workers. By mid-September, the UFW won the right to represent 4,500 workers at 24 farms, while the Teamsters won the right to represent 4,000 workers at 14 farms. The UFW won the majority of the elections in which it participated.
Following the strike the actions of Cesar Chavez were highlighted and remembered. One significant example was that a movie which shared Chavez's name was released in 2014. Less remembered were the many who were around him during the strike. Particularly forgotten was the efforts of Filipino Americans in the strike; for example in the movie about Chavez in the Delano Grape Strike, the Filipinos role was largely absent, except for one speaking line and a few group shots.
- Morehouse, Lisa (19 September 2015). "Grapes Of Wrath: The Forgotten Filipinos Who Led A Farmworker Revolution". Food for Thought. National Public Radio. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
Because it was here that, on the night of Sept. 7, 1965, farmworkers — almost all Filipino — voted to go on strike the next day.
- Matt Garcia (May 2016). "Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Movement". American History. Oxford Research Encyclopedias. doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199329175.013.217.
- Nelson, Eugene (1966). "Huelga" (PDF). Delano, California: Farm Worker Press. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
More Filipinos walk out—2,000 men on strike now.
- Magagnini, Stephen (6 September 2015). "The grape strike that transformed a nation, 50 years later". Sacramento Bee. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
Twelve days later, labor organizer Cesar Chavez and more than 1,200 Mexican workers joined the strike that led to the first United Farm Workers contracts with growers in 1970.
- "La Causa: The Delano Grape Strike of 1965-1970". Smithsonian. 16 September 2005. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
his historic strike lasted more than 5 years and resulted in contracts for more than 10,000 workers.
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- Morehouse, Lisa (7 September 2015). "The Forgotten Filipino-Americans Who Led the '65 Delano Grape Strike". KQED. San Francisco. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
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- Eric Arnesen (2007). Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working-class History. Taylor & Francis. p. 354. ISBN 978-0-415-96826-3.
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- Ballis, George (3 January 2006). "La Causa: The Delano Grape Strike of 1965-1970" (PDF). National Museum of American History. Smithsonian Institute. Retrieved 11 November 2009.
- "UFW timeline". depts.washington.edu. Retrieved 2016-04-22.
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- Nevarez, Griselda (26 September 2015). "50 Years Later, Remembering the Delano Grape Strike". NBC News. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
- Meister, Dick (1970). "Victory in Delano" (PDF). San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 3 September 2018 – via University of California, San Diego.
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Pawel, Miriam (November 2013). "How Cesar Chavez Changed the World". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
Carney, Francis (13 November 1975). "The Progress of Cesar Chavez". New York Review of Books. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
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Rodriguez, Cindy Y. (28 March 2014). "Why the 'Cesar Chavez' biopic matters now". Retrieved 3 September 2018.
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- "Strike! Filipino Activism and the Delano Grape Strike". Asian American Activism: The Continuing Struggle. Brown University. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
Guillermo, Emil (8 September 2015). "Eclipsed by Cesar Chavez, Larry Itliong's Story Now Emerges". NBC News. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
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- Mapping UFW Strikes, Boycotts, and Farm Worker Actions 1965-1975: An interactive map with over 1,000 farm worker strikes, boycotts, and other actions, as well as a timeline and an essay.
- Official Site of the United Farmworkers
- Farmworker Movement Documentation Project
- Fight In The Fields, PBS documentary on Chavez and the UFW's history
- The Jerry Cohen '63 Papers at Amherst College