Looking back 50 years after Delano farm workers' grape strike | us news

Looking back 50 years after Delano farm workers’ grape strike

27 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

50 Years Later, Remembering the Delano Grape Strike.

DELANO, Calif. (AP) — About 1,000 people gathered in California on Saturday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the labor strike that led to the creation of the nation’s first farmworkers’ union. It’s been five decades since thousands of Mexican-American and Filipino farm workers walked out on California table and wine grape growers in what became known as the Delano grape strike. The event took a look back at the 1965 Grape Strike, a civil rights movement started by Filipino and Latino farm workers who walked out of wine and table grape vineyards. “We have so many of the folks who started the movement back in 1965, whether they were strikers or marchers or boycotters or worked on our staff, they join with us today to really celebrate the accomplishments,” said Arturo Rodriguez, President of United Farm Workers of America. “They’re a part of my family, Cesar and the Chavez family and Arturo Rodriguez. About 4,000 farm workers joined him in a symbolic bread-breaking ceremony marking the end of their leader’s fasting for the principle of non-violence.

They also honored Bustos and other Filipino and Hispanic grape strikers, marchers and boycotters who protested years of poor pay and working conditions. And they created a revolution in empowerment and self-determination among Latinos that is felt in every corner of America today.” The daylong event included a morning ceremony with speeches from Rodriguez, Chavez’s son, Paul Chavez, UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and UFW leaders and drew 1,000 people to the union’s early headquarters, now a National Monument, members of a boisterous crowd still hugged old friends and told stories they never wanted to forget.

A close personal bond was forged with Chavez,” the senator’s daughter, Kerry Kennedy wrote in an editorial printed in Thursday’s Sacramento Bee. A man with a guitar led a singalong of “Me and Bobby McGee.” It was Kris Kristofferson, the entertainer and son of Swedish farmers, who shared a stage with Chavez for decades.

That first visit was in 1966, about six months into the strike that began with mostly Filipino farm laborer walking away from their jobs at grape vineyards in the Delano area in protest of labor conditions and pay issues, and they soon were joined by the mostly Hispanic members of the UFW. Huerta, who posed for pictures with children and gave autographs throughout the celebration, recognized the early strikers and spoke about the impact of the grape strikes. The strike, which also lead lead to boycotts of California grapes, resulted in the farm workers getting union-negotiated contracts with farms and setting the stage for improved labor conditions for the workers, union officials note. She also made sure to remind everyone Saturday to continue the cause, “La Causa.” Rodriguez invited a group of today’s labor leaders onto the stage to recognize their success at negotiating contracts and renewals and their current challenges. In an effort to draw attention to the violence being used against the striking farm workers and to reaffirm his belief for nonviolence, Chavez began a water-only fast on Feb. 11, 1968.

Her hair was pulled up under a red bandana and a black fedora with a spray of black feathers head down by a brooch pin with Cesar Chavez’s face on it in profile. In her editorial, Kerry Kennedy said that despite her father’s and Chavez’ differences in backgrounds and social standings, “they shared a deep bond. They recognized in one another a fierce commitment to justice and an unshakable belief in the individual’s ability to bring it about.” And before the union’s success with the strike, she wrote, “California’s migrant laborers earned paltry wages, received no health or safety protections and were subject to widespread sexual harassment and racial prejudice. Baca Rios used the activism training she received from the UFW to get a playground built at the project and to persuade a local store to take credit and not carry boycott grapes.

On Sept. 16, 1965, the Mexican American workers of Chavez’s National Farm Workers Association voted to join their Filipino American peers from Itilong’s Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee on an eight-day-old strike. Together, thousands of Filipinos and Latinos spent five years confronting poor wages and wretched working conditions by squeezing growers’ supply of workers and launching an international table grape boycott that brought growers to the bargaining table in 1970 to sign the first contracts with the UFW. The strike and grape boycott continued for two more years until July 29, 1970, when California table grape growers signed union contracts and agreed to grant workers better pay, benefits and protections. The first day they got up at ”three or four in the morning“ and drove out into the vineyards until they found the first group of workers preparing to go in among the vines on the John Pagliarulo & Son property.

The contracts were signed inside a union hall at the Forty Acres complex. “What the grape strikers achieved went far beyond themselves,” Rodriguez said. “They inspired succeeding generations of Americans to social and political activism. Cesar said if the movement did not survive his passing, then his work and the work of all those who sacrificed so much would have been in vain,” he said. “So today we also honor the present.

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