Salad Bowl strike

The Salad Bowl strike[1] was a series of strikes, mass pickets, boycotts and secondary boycotts that began on August 23, 1970 and led to the largest farm worker strike in U.S. history.[2] The strike was led by the United Farm Workers against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The Salad Bowl[3][page needed] strike was only in part a jurisdictional strike, for many of the actions taken during the event were not strikes. The strike led directly to the passage of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act in 1975.[4][page needed]

Salad Bowl strike
Boycott Lettuce.jpg
Protestors during the Salad Bowl strike
DateAugust 23, 1970 – March 26, 1971
GoalsCollective bargaining
MethodsPickets; boycott; secondary boycott
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures
Frank Fitzsimmons César Chávez


Collective bargaining rights for most hourly workers in the United States were first given legal protection in 1933 by Section 7a of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA). Although NIRA did not specifically exempt agricultural laborers from the protection of the Act, the Roosevelt administration, eager to win the political support of farm-state members of Congress, argued that farm workers were excluded.[5][page needed] When the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was enacted in 1935, it specifically exempted agricultural workers due to pressure from the "farm bloc" in Congress.[5][page needed][6][page needed] The NLRA was not the only federal law to discriminate against farm workers; the Social Security Act of 1935 and Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 also excluded them.[7][page needed] Although a number of attempts were made in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s to organize farm laborers, these efforts were unsuccessful.[8][page needed]

In August 1966, the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) and Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), two unrecognized and relatively minor labor unions claiming organizing jurisdiction over farm workers in California, merged to form the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (the predecessor organization to the United Farm Workers). Adopting the philosophy of pacifism in the face of often violent reaction to its organizing efforts and engaging in strikes, hunger strikes, boycotts and secondary boycotts (including the successful Delano grape strike), marches, rallies and cutting-edge public relations campaigns, the United Farm Workers (UFW) began organizing large numbers of agricultural laborers into unions.[4][page needed] In some cases, the UFW even won recognition and negotiated contracts.[4][page needed][9][page needed]


By 1969, the UFW was on the verge of winning its four years old Delano grape strike.[4][page needed] In June 1969, about 25 small growers broke ranks with the rest of the industry,[10] and by the end of July 1970 the strike had ended.[11] The UFW believed that success over the Delano grape growers would lead hundreds of growers to recognize the union and negotiate contracts with the union.

But the UFW was not the only union to see the end of the Delano grape strike as an opportunity. Six thousand drivers and packing workers in the Salinas Valley in California, represented by the Teamsters, struck on July 17, 1970 effectively preventing most of the nation's summer lettuce crop from reaching consumers.[12] The price of iceberg lettuce tripled overnight, and thousands of acres of lettuce were plowed under as crops spoiled on the ground.[13] The strike ended on July 23, but the contract included a special agreement by the growers to give the Teamsters, not the UFW, access to farms and the right to organize workers into unions.[14][15][16]

The UFW, which had long asserted jurisdiction over the field workers, was outraged, especially when the Teamsters signed a contract with the growers days later without having to do much organizing or build support among the workers.[16][17] Even as UFW leader César Chávez went on a hunger strike to protest the Teamsters' actions and a state district court imposed a temporary injunction to preempt UFW members from walking off the job,[18] the UFW held secret talks with the Teamsters to avert a strike by the UFW.[19] An agreement to return jurisdiction over the field workers to the farm union was reached on August 12,[14][20] and FreshPict Foods (then owned by the Purex Corporation) and Inter-Harvest (part of the United Fruit Company) broke ranks with the other lettuce growers and signed contracts with the UFW.[14][21]

But the August 12 agreement collapsed, and 5,000–7,000 UFW workers struck the Salinas Valley growers on August 23 in what was the largest farm worker strike in U.S. history.[2][a] More workers walked off the job in the next few weeks, while other unions supported the strike, shipments of fresh lettuce nationwide almost ceased, and the price of lettuce doubled almost overnight. Lettuce growers lost $500,000 a day.[1][23] A state district court enjoined Chávez personally and the UFW as an organization from engaging in picketing, but both Chávez and the union refused to obey the court's orders.[24] In late September 1970, the UFW asked consumers to join in a nationwide boycott of all lettuce which had not been picked by members of the United Farm Workers.[25] Violence, sporadic at first but increasingly widespread, began to occur in the fields. On November 4, 1970 a UFW regional office was bombed.[26]

On December 4 federal marshals arrested Chávez and, for the first time in his life, César Chávez was put in jail.[27] Two days later, he was visited in the Monterey County jail in Salinas by former Olympic gold medal-winning decathlete Rafer Johnson and Ethel Kennedy, widow of slain Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Kennedy and Johnson were attacked by an anti-union mob on the steps of the jail, and only intervention by city police, Monterey county sheriff's deputies, and the Brown Berets prevented a riot and injury to the visitors.[4][page needed] Chávez was released by the Supreme Court of California on December 23, but the next day called a strike against six additional lettuce growers.[28]

The bitter strike ended on March 26, 1971 when the Teamsters and UFW signed a new jurisdictional agreement reaffirming the UFW's right to organize field workers.[29]


The Salad Bowl strike did not end the jurisdictional disagreement between the Teamsters and the UFW. The Teamsters resumed their dispute with the UFW in December 1972, which led to further extensive disruptions in the state agricultural industry, mass picketing, mass arrests, and extensive violence.[9][page needed][30] By April 1973, the UFW was "fighting for our lives" and threatening to launch a nationwide boycott of any grower which signed a contract with the Teamsters.[31] Thousands of UFW members began picketing in the fields on April 15, 1973.[32] Mass arrests quickly occurred,[33] and many county jails were soon overflowing with detainees.[34] The organizing battles between the two unions became violent with audacious and brutal attacks on UFW members day and night.[4][page needed][35] The UFW appeared to be losing the battle physically, legally, and organizationally.[36] The violence worsened; seventy farm workers were attacked on July 31, a UFW picketer was shot on August 3, five firebombs were thrown at UFW picket lines on August 9, two UFW members were shot on August 11, and a UFW picketer was shot to death on August 16, 1973.[37]

With the UFW beginning to buckle under the financial, legal, and organizational stress of the jurisdictional dispute, Chávez entered into talks with the Teamsters on August 6 but quit them on August 10.[38] But the Teamsters, too, had suffered greatly (it is possible that the FBI still suspected the union of having links with organised crime and that this was bringing a lot of unwarranted attention focused onto The Mob), and the day after the peace talks ended the Teamsters shocked other unions and many growers by repudiating all the contracts they had signed since the new round of battles had begun.[39]

Talks resumed, and a tentative agreement was reached on September 27, 1973 in which the Teamsters again agreed to leave jurisdiction over farm field workers to the UFW.[40]

By late 1974, many observers were concluding that the UFW was no longer a viable force. In July it was forced to end picketing at some grape fields near Delano.[41] Newspaper columnists suggested in June that the UFW no longer had any capacity to fight, and by February 1975 had concluded the union had no future.[42]

Enactment of CALRAEdit

The ongoing fight between the Teamsters and UFW and its effect on UFW's organizational viability led César Chávez to seriously consider and advocate for legal reform in 1974.[4][page needed][43] Although Jerry Brown had been elected Governor of California in November 1974, Brown's election was not enough to win passage of legislation. The UFW knew it had to make a strong political showing in order to push the California State Legislature to act.

Although it considered mass picketing, rallies, and more boycotts, the UFW worried that it had lost the support of farm workers and that such events would only highlight the union's political weakness.[4][page needed] Instead, the UFW settled on a 110-mile (180 km) march by a small group of UFW leaders from San Francisco to the E & J Gallo Winery in Modesto.[4][page needed] The march would be dramatic, but not require large numbers of participants. Although just a few hundred marchers left San Francisco on February 22, 1975, more than 15,000 people had joined them by the time they reached Modesto on March 1.[43][44][45]

The dramatic success of the Modesto march energized the farm labor movement in California, and Governor Brown quickly began pushing for labor law reform. The march may have been the capstone, but it was the Delano grape boycott's success which brought the growers to the table. "The grape boycott scared the heck out of the farmers, all of us," said one major grower.[46] The march brought politicians and the Teamsters to the table.[4][page needed][30][43][44]

Broad agreement on a bill was reached on May 7, 1975 just 68 days after the Modesto march.[47] The California State Senate passed the bill on May 26,[48] and the California State Assembly passed the bill two days later.[49] Governor Brown signed the legislation into law on June 4, 1975.[50] The act went into effect on August 28, 1975.[51]

After hundreds of elections under the law in its first two years, the UFW and Teamsters finally signed a long-lasting jurisdictional agreement in March 1977,[52] and the UFW ended its boycotts of lettuce, grapes, and wine in February 1978.[53]



  1. ^ "The United Farmworkers of America organized strikes and boycotts—including the 'Salad Bowl Strike,' the largest farmworker strike in U.S. history—to protest for, and later win, higher wages for farmworkers working for grape and lettuce growers."[22]


  1. ^ a b Bernstein, Harry. "Harvest, Shipping Near Standstill in 'Salad Bowl' Strike." Los Angeles Times. August 26, 1970.
  2. ^ a b "Coast Workers Vote Strike At 27 Vegetable Ranches." Associated Press. August 24, 1970; Bernstein, Harry. "Massive Farm Strike Begins." Los Angeles Times. August 25, 1970; Bernstein, Harry. "5,000–7,000 Strike in Largest Farm Walkout in U.S. History." Los Angeles Times. August 25, 1970.
  3. ^ Because of the large number of vegetable growers in the Salinas Valley and the diversity of crops grown there, the Salinas Valley is known as "the Salad Bowl." See: Anderson, Burton. America's Salad Bowl: An Agricultural History of the Salinas Valley. Salinas, Calif.: Monterey County Historical Society, 2000. ISBN 0-9705860-0-0
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Feriss, Susan; Sandoval, Ricardo; and Hembree, Diana. The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Movement. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1998. ISBN 0-15-600598-0
  5. ^ a b Weber, Devra. Dark Sweat, White Gold: California Farm Workers, Cotton, and the New Deal. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1996. ISBN 0-520-20710-6
  6. ^ Higgins, John E. and Janus, Peter A. The Developing Labor Law: The Board, the Courts, and the National Labor Relations Act. 5th ed. Washington, D.C.: BNA Books, 2006. ISBN 1-57018-585-9
  7. ^ Hurt, R. Douglas. American Agriculture: A Brief History. Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 2002. ISBN 1-55753-281-8
  8. ^ Bernstein, Irving. The Lean Years: A History of the American Worker, 1920–1933. Paperback ed. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1972. ISBN 0-395-13657-1[page needed](Originally published 1960); Bernstein, Irving. The Turbulent Years: A History of the American Worker, 1933–1941. Paperback edition. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Co., 1970. ISBN 0-395-11778-X (Originally published 1969.)
  9. ^ a b Hurt, R. Douglas. American Agriculture: A Brief History. Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 2002. ISBN 1-55753-281-8
  10. ^ Bernstein, Harry. "Grape Growers Group Offers to Talk With Union." Los Angeles Times. June 14, 1969; Roberts, Steven V. "United Front Against Union Is Broken, But Majority of Growers Stand Firm." The New York Times. June 19, 1969; Bernstein, Harry. "Federal Mediators Enter Grape Strike." Los Angeles Times. June 19, 1969; Bernstein, Harry. "Further Breaks in Ranks of Grape Growers Reported." Los Angeles Times. June 29, 1969.
  11. ^ Bernstein, Harry. "Grape Growers in Delano Sign Union Contracts." Los Angeles Times. May 21, 1970; "Farm Workers Sign Largest Pact to Date." United Press International. June 11, 1970; Boyarsky, Bill. "Handshakes Seal Pact Ending Grape Boycott." Los Angeles Times. July 30, 1970.
  12. ^ "Strike By Teamsters Hits Produce Crops." Los Angeles Times. July 18, 1970.
  13. ^ "Strike Triples Lettuce Price." Los Angeles Times. July 22, 1970; "Acres of Lettuce Plowed Under in Strike at Salinas." Los Angeles Times. July 23, 1970.
  14. ^ a b c "From Fruit Bowl to Salad Bowl." Time. September 14, 1970.
  15. ^ "Salinas Agreement Ends Lettuce Strike." Los Angeles Times. July 24, 1970; "6,000 Back in Lettuce Fields." Los Angeles Times. July 25, 1970.
  16. ^ a b "Chavez Union Plans Salinas Protest Walk." Los Angeles Times. July 31, 1970.
  17. ^ "Contract for Farm Workers." Los Angeles Times. August 2, 1970.
  18. ^ "Chavez Goes on Fast and Assails Injunction." United Press International. August 12, 1970.
  19. ^ Bernstein, Harry. "Battle Between Teamsters and Chavez Looms." Los Angeles Times. August 5, 1970; Bernstein, Harry. "Chavez Union and Teamster Talks Revealed." Los Angeles Times. August 7, 1970.
  20. ^ Bernstein, Harry. "Teamsters Give Chavez Clear Field to Organize Farm Hands." Los Angeles Times. August 13, 1970.
  21. ^ "Grower Breaks Ranks, Talks With Chavez." Los Angeles Times. August 23, 1970; "Farm Union Signs a Contract With Lettuce Grower on Coast." United Press International. August 31, 1970.
  22. ^ Bonifacio 2014, p. 120.
  23. ^ "Price of Lettuce Doubles As Coast Strike Continues." United Press International. August 27, 1970; Bernstein, Harry. "Growers Losing $500,000 a Day in Lettuce Strike." Los Angeles Times. Aug 27, 1970; Bernstein, Harry. "Lettuce Strike Gaining Support of Other Unions." Los Angeles Times. August 28, 1970.
  24. ^ "Chavez Defies Court Order on Picketing but Escapes Arrest." Los Angeles Times. September 10, 1970; "Court Enjoins Chavez Union." The New York Times. September 17, 1970.
  25. ^ "Chavez Is Pressing Nationwide Boycott In Lettuce Dispute." Associated Press. September 20, 1970.
  26. ^ Roberts, Steven V. "Fear and Tension Grip Salinas Valley in Farm Workers' Strike." The New York Times. September 6, 1970; "Union Office Is Bombed." The New York Times. November 5, 1970.
  27. ^ Roberts, Steven V. "Chavez Is Jailed In Lettuce Strike." The New York Times. December 5, 1970; "Chavez Jailed First Time, Urges Union to Press Boycott." Los Angeles Times. December 5, 1970.
  28. ^ "Chavez Ordered Freed By Court." United Press International. December 24, 1970; "Chavez Union Calls Strike Against 6 Lettuce Growers." Associated Press. December 25, 1970.
  29. ^ Bernstein, Harry. "New Pact to End Unions' Long Lettuce Dispute Reported Near." Los Angeles Times. March 17, 1971; Turner, Wallace. "Chavez-Teamsters Pact Ends Lettuce Labor Rift." The New York Times. March 27, 1971; Bernstein, Harry. "New Teamster-Chavez Peace Treaty Signed." Los Angeles Times. March 27, 1971; Kendall, John. "Chavez Signs Nation's Largest Independent Lettuce Producer." Los Angeles Times. April 24, 1971; Bernstein, Harry. "Teamsters Ask Farms to Sign Chavez Pacts." Los Angeles Times. May 12, 1971.
  30. ^ a b Arneson, Eric, ed. Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working-Class History. New York: Routledge, 2007. ISBN 0-415-96826-7
  31. ^ "Chavez Warns of Boycott If Grape Pacts Are Shifted." The New York Times. April 13, 1973; Del Olmo, Frank. "Chavez' Farm Union in All-Out 'Fight for Life'." Los Angeles Times. April 15, 1973.
  32. ^ "Teamsters Gain California Farms." The New York Times. April 16, 1973; Del Olmo, Frank. "Teamsters Sign First Grape Pacts." Los Angeles Times. April 16, 1973.
  33. ^ "33 Farm Worker Pickets Arrested." Los Angeles Times. April 18, 1973; "135 More Picketers Held In Coast Vineyard Dispute." The New York Times. April 20, 1973; "350 Pickets of UFWU Jailed in Kern County." Los Angeles Times. July 18, 1973; Del Olmo, Frank. "450 Arrested in Kern County Farm Dispute." Los Angeles Times. July 19, 1973.
  34. ^ "Chavez' Pickets Defy Court Order; Kern County Jail Full." Los Angeles Times. July 21, 1973; Caldwell, Earl. "Grape Workers Assail Judges As Arrests of Pickets Continue." The New York Times. July 21, 1973; "Arrest Toll Is 1,700 For Chavez Pickets." The New York Times. July 22, 1973.
  35. ^ Pandol, Jack. "Violence on the Grape Farms." Los Angeles Times. July 14, 1973; Del Olmo, Frank. "Seafarers Union to 'Guard' Chavez Pickets in Strike." Los Angeles Times. June 8, 1973; Bernstein, Harry and Del Olmo, Frank. "Teamsters Hit Use of Guards by Farm Union." Los Angeles Times. June 12, 1973.
  36. ^ Shabecoff, Philip. "Chavez Union Struggling for Survival." The New York Times. June 27, 1973; Bernstein, Harry. "Chavez' Farm Workers Facing Severest Crisis." Los Angeles Times. July 26, 1973.
  37. ^ "70 Nonunion Farm Workers Attacked." Los Angeles Times. July 31, 1973; Del Olmo, Frank. "Arrests, Trouble Mark Second Day of Escalated Grape Strike." Los Angeles Times. August 1, 1973; Del Olmo, Frank. "Court Curbs Pickets at Major Vineyard." Los Angeles Times. August 2, 1973; Caldwell, Earl. "Picket Shot, Many More Arrested in Grape Strike." The New York Times. August 3, 1973; "Firebombs Hurled in Area Of Grape Labor Disputes." The New York Times. August 9, 1973; "2 Chavez Pickets Shot in Clash With Nonunion Workers." Los Angeles Times. August 11, 1973; "Shots Fired at Chavez' Son in Vineyard Fight." Los Angeles Times. August 15, 1973; "Chavez Picket Shot to Death On Coast." The New York Times. August 17, 1973; Del Olmo, Frank. "Chavez Picket Shot to Death in Violence Near Bakersfield." Los Angeles Times. August 17, 1973.
  38. ^ Shabecoff, Philip. "Farm Union Boycott of Grapes and Lettuce Appears to Falter." The New York Times. August 7, 1973; Bernstein, Harry. "Chavez Quits Peace Meeting With Teamsters." Los Angeles Times. August 10, 1973; Bernstein, Harry. "Peace Talks Collapse in Grape Strike Dispute." Los Angeles Times. August 11, 1973.
  39. ^ "Teamsters Repudiate Contracts As Chavez Quits Grape Talks." The New York Times. August 11, 1973.
  40. ^ Shabecoff, Philip. "Chavez Reaches Tentative Accord." The New York Times. September 28, 1973; "Chavez Says Pact Means Teamsters Will Leave Fields." The New York Times. September 29, 1973./
  41. ^ Del Olmo, Frank. "UFWA Ends Picketing at Some Grape Fields." Los Angeles Times. July 6, 1974.
  42. ^ Powers, Charles T. "Chavez and the State of His Union." Los Angeles Times. June 23, 1974; Griffith, Winthrop. "Is Chavez Beaten?" The New York Times. September 15, 1974; Taylor, Ronald B. "Chavez's Union: A Future?" The New York Times. February 8, 1975.
  43. ^ a b c del Castillo, Richard Griswold and Garcia, Richard A. Cesar Chavez: A Triumph of Spirit. Stillwater, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997. ISBN 0-8061-2957-3
  44. ^ a b Levy, Jacques E.; Chávez, César; Ross, Fred Jr.; and Levy, Jacqueline M. Cesar Chavez: Autobiography of La Causa. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007. ISBN 0-8166-5049-7
  45. ^ Del Olmo, Frank. "Chavez Union Marches to Back Winery Boycott." Los Angeles Times. February 25, 1975; Del Olmo, Frank. "Demonstrators at Gallo Aim for Farm Labor Law." Los Angeles Times. February 28, 1975; "The State." Los Angeles Times. March 2, 1975.
  46. ^ Feriss, Sandoval, and Hembree, The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Movement, 1998, p. 161.
  47. ^ Taylor, Ronald B. "Farm Union Peace Is Seen On Coast." The New York Times. May 8, 1975.
  48. ^ Gilliam, Jerry. "Senate Passes Farm Labor Bill." Los Angeles Times. May 27, 1975.
  49. ^ Gilliam, Jerry. "Assembly Sends Farm Bill to Brown for Signing." Los Angeles Times. May 30, 1975.
  50. ^ "Governor Signs Historic Farm Labor Legislation." Los Angeles Times. June 5, 1975.
  51. ^ Bernstein, Harry. "Farm Labor Law in Effect." Los Angeles Times. August 29, 1975.
  52. ^ Turner, Wallace. "Chavez and Teamsters Sign Accord." The New York Times. March 11, 1977.
  53. ^ "Chavez Ends the Boycotts Of Lettuce, Grapes, Wine." The New York Times. February 1, 1978.