Friday, July 15, 2011

Historical Events: The Delano Grape Strike (1965-1970)

The Delano Grape Strike, which began on September 8, 1965, was a boycott led by the United Farm Workers or UFW against California table grape growers. Working conditions for migrant workers and illegal immigrants had been poor and unsanitary since the Great Depression. Also because of the great demand for labor, farmers began to lower wages and hire more workers. A 1951 law which allowed Americans to hire Mexican workers, or braceros, added to this issue of fair wages as whole families of braceros would be paid 20 cents for three hours of work; they often lived in run down shacks or tents in crowded camps and some family members would sleep under bridges nearby if there was not enough room. This no doubt evoked a sense of anger and resentment among workers against their employers setting the foundation for the large scale strike in the mid-1960s.It initially began when the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, made up of  mostly Filipino farm workers in Delano, CA, demanded wages equal to the federal minimum wage for foreign workers. A week after the boycott began, the predominantly Mexican-American National Farmworkers Association led by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta joined the strike; the two groups later merged forming the UFW in August 1966.

Chavez gained followers after a march to the state capitol in Sacramento inspired workers to join. in 1966. The strike would eventually spread to include over 2,000 workers in the fields.  Using a combination of consumer boycotts, marches, community organizing and nonviolent resistance, the movement gained national attention for the plight of some of the nation's lowest paid employees. During the strike, the UFW boycotted all table grapes which received wide public support; this boycott became the most successful in American history. By 1970, the UFW succeeded in getting a collective bargaining agreement with the table-grape growers which covered approximately 10,000 farm workers.


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