Saturday, September 08, 2018

The Delano Grape Strike

“The Delano [Kern County] 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 [this is when Filipino pickers first walked out of the fields; Bardacke marks September 20th  as the official beginning of the coordinated strike action], 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.”—This is an excerpt (sans embedded hyperlinks) from the beginning of the Wikipedia entry on the strike, which is quite reliable and the endnotes contain excellent links to some of the best material available online about this strike and period of farmworker history in California which is crucial to the later formation of the United Farm Workers (of America—the UFW).

The foremost historical and analytical account of the strike and its aftermath is found in Frank Bardacke’s Trampling Out the Vintage: César Chávez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers (Verso, 2011).

See too the bibliography for “César Chávez & the United Farm Workers… and the Struggleof Farm Workers in the U.S.”


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