Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Remembering Chavez and the Delano Grape Strike

There are moments in any movement that people can point to as ones that changed history. And 50 years ago today, labor giant Cesar Chavez was the catalyst for one of those.

At a church in the Central Valley of California on Sept. 16, 1965, the father of U.S. farmworker organizing cajoled Latino pickers to join Filipino grape workers and strike against area table and wine grape growers to protest years of low pay and poor conditions. It was the beginning of the five-year Delano Grape Strike and Boycott, which is discussed in the video above.

The effort went far beyond the fields of the Golden State, as United Farmer Workers  (UFW) -- a member of the Change to Win labor coalition like the Teamsters -- detailed:
Hundreds of grape strikers traveled across the U.S. and Canada, telling their stories and organizing mass support for the grape boycott. The strikers were joined by thousands of supporters who helped tirelessly organize the boycott.
... The boycott connected middle-class families in big cities with poor farm worker families in the California vineyards. Millions stopped eating grapes. At dinner tables across the country, parents gave children a simple, powerful lesson in social justice. 
By 1970, the grape boycott was a complete success. Table grape growers at long last signed their first union contracts, granting workers better pay, benefits, and protections.
There were other battles along the way. But Chavez was a great union and civil rights leader whose influence and importance has lingered well beyond his death in 1993.

Today, the union movement again sits at the precipice of great change. Growing income inequality has left many workers struggling with low wages -- not enough to support their families. The Teamsters, UFW and all unions have a role to play to ensure that everyday Americans receive a fair wage.

Union Strong, America Stronger!