Food Justice Organizing Zine: Issue 1 The United Farm Worker Movement

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Food Justice Organizing Zine 1 The United Farm Worker Movement

Co Authored by Diana Robinson & Beatriz Beckford Art & Design Compilation by Miyuki Baker & Beatriz Beckford


For those food, land and water warriors who fight tirelessly each and every day on the frontlines. This is for you. We see you.


Power concedes nothing without demands, and demands without action yield little if any concessions. Direct Action has been a critical strategy for advancing social movements throughout history, and the grassroots leadership of communities of color who have challenged power by employing direct action has contributed to the archive of tactics available to those who lead and engage in social justice organizing efforts across issues and throughout the world.

Boycotts, blockades, occupations, sit ins, strikes and all forms of disruptions “​create such a crisis and foster such a to demand a response.”​ MLK​, Letter from Birmingham Jail. Organizing that utilizes direct action strategies becomes more effective at confronting purveyors of oppression. Additionally, ​direct action in the confronting and shifting of power it forces as a tactic, also creates a reclamation space for healing. ​Building the capacity for community to engage in tactics that directly confront power, demand clear mechanisms for accountability and restorative/transformative justice allows for deep healing and social change. Further, the vision and hope for this organizing zine is for it to be a resource that pushes us to learn from the challenges, failures, and successes of organizing and actions that have taken place in the past. It is crucial that we utilize the lessons of the past as we continue to push on the levers of change by building collective power and confronting injustice now and into the future.

The great social justice changes in our country have happened when people came together, organized, and took direct action. It is this right that sustains and nurtures our democracy today. The civil rights movement, the labor movement, the women's movement, and the equality movement for our LGBT brothers and sisters are all manifestations of these rights. -Delores Huerta 2

In this zine, we highlight the The United Farm Workers and specifically focus on the boycotts they organized nationally. While the UFW engaged in a variety of direct action strategies including marches, walk outs, and strikes, the organizing across racial, ethnic, gender and class lines apparent within the boycott strategy is one of unmatched scale. The courage and leadership of the organizers and farmworker members of the UFW moved an entire country to consider the connection between the individual choices they make on a daily basis with respect to food, the plight of the farmers and other workers along the food chain, and the systems of oppression that weave between the two, to create an

unjust food system. Directly challenging the notion of profits over people. Equally so the UFW was able to weigh on the conscious of a nation the moral dilemma and obligation to respond to injustice, and to do so in a way that gave power to every individual and group that supported the boycotts. As a result they were able to build a broad based network of allies all working in solidarity to advance the demands of the farmer workers of the UFW. The actions and tactics the United Farm Worker Organization employed to the immigrant rights, and labor movements were strategic and rooted in love and justice. Boycotts specifically were deeply transformative in that they confronted the status quo and cultural norms by disrupting everyday operations. Movements before and since then have used boycotts and divestment tactics for as tools of resistance, and we seek to encourage the utilization of direct action in the food justice movements and beyond. Lastly, we this zine serves to honor the work of those who came before us and acknowledge that we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors who have fought and won, failed and carried on.


FOOD, LABOR, AND THE FOOD SYSTEM Over 20 million people in the U.S. and hundreds of millions more around the world work in the food system. This system was historically built on slave and indentured labor and continues to be subsidized by the exploited labor of low-wage workers, most of whom are people of color and immigrants. But make no mistake--there was clear intent on making the system function this way. In 1935 Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA") to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy. Farmworkers in the U.S. were historically African American and due to this fact, both farmworkers and domestic workers (who at the time were mostly African American as well) were excluded from the act to get support from southern democrats.

The​ Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)​, enacted in 1938, guarantees a minimum wage for each hour worked and requires overtime pay to most employees—those working more than 40 hours in a week must be paid one and a half time their regular rate of pay for each hour exceeding 40. FLSA fully excluded farm workers ​until 1966​, and to this day it continues to exclude them in significant ways: 1. farm workers have no right to overtime pay 2. workers on small farms are not entitled to receive minimum wage 3. children as young as twelve are legally allowed to work in the fields


This legacy continues to impact farmworkers across the U.S. Creating an invisible workforce and often times exploited one. Today the agricultural workforce in the U.S ​is mostly made up of immigrants from Latin America​. In addition, they are barred​ from certain rights such as: 1. workers’ compensation 2. health insurance 3. disability insurance 4. protection for joining unions 5. engaging in collective bargaining

UNITED FARM WORKERS By the mid-1950s, many working Americans had organized into unions to gain more control over their working conditions. Farmworkers were an exception. ​The seemingly endless supply of labor, seasonal work, and constant relocating made it difficult to organize successfully. ​When the UFW formed in the mid-1960s​, it had to overcome this history and battle powerful growers with far-reaching influence. Co-founded in 1962 by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, the United Farm Workers of America is the nation's first and largest farm workers union currently active in 10 states. The UFW continues to organize in major agricultural industries across the nation. It is important to highlight Huerta’s and Helen Fabela’s (Cesar Chavez’s wife) roles as women in the farmworker movement because many times their contributions are left out of the conversation.


Dolores Huerta was Born on April 10, 1930, in the mining town of ​Dawson, New Mexico​, Huerta was the daughter of Juan Fernández—a miner, field/farm worker, union activist, and state assemblyman—and Alicia Chávez. Huerta's community activism began when she was a student in Stockton High School. Huerta was active in numerous school clubs and was a majorette and a dedicated member of the ​Girl Scouts​ until the age of 18. Her mother was known for her kindness and compassion towards others and was active in community affairs, numerous civic organizations, and the church. She encouraged the cultural diversity that was a natural part of Huerta's upbringing in Stockton. Her mother Alicia Chávez was a businesswoman who owned a restaurant and a 70-room hotel where she welcomed low-wage workers and farm worker families for affordable prices and sometimes even for free. This prompted Huerta to think about civil rights. ​In 1965, Huerta directed the UFW's national boycott during the ​Delano grape strike​, taking the plight of the farm workers to the consumers. The boycott resulted in the entire ​California​ table ​grape​ industry signing a three-year ​collective bargaining​ agreement with the United Farm Workers in 1970.


Helen Fabela was born in Brawley, California in 1928 to Mexican migrant parents, Fabela began working in the fields at the age of 7. She met César in high school and married him soon after. While the two were living in San Jose, it was she who convinced César to join the grassroots Community Service Organization (CSO) led by Fred Ross. Through that leadership experience, César saw organizing farmworkers as his next calling. Helen was equally committed to civil rights and volunteered extensively for the CSO, handling administrative duties, registering voters and helping migrants obtain their citizenship (Colorlines, Flores 2014).

Image of UFW official taken in 1977. Dolores Huerta, Richard Chavez, Mack Lyons, Philip Vera Cruz, Marshall Ganz, Cesar Chavez, Gil Padilla, and Pete Velasco. Photography by Cathy Murphy. Image: Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs

Filipino farmworkers also played an important role in the success of the strikes of farmworkers and within the UFW. ​Larry Itliong, Phillip Vera Cruz, Pete Velasco, and Andy

Imutan were Filipino leaders within the UFW who helped to shape it and played important roles in bringing justice to farmworkers in California. Often times the contribution of these farmworkers is overlooked or unrecognized. They played an instrumental part in the Delano Grape boycott of 1965 and their story is told in a film entitled "The Delano Manongs: Forgotten Heroes of the UFW".

Cesar Chavez was a farmworker himself. From the 1960s through the 1980s, Chavez organized with workers in the fields in California who struggled for fair wages, safe working conditions and respect on the job. Chavez also collaborated with ​Filipino labor leaders​ like Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz to found the United Farm Workers.


The vision of the UFW is to provide farm workers and other working people with the inspiration and tools to share in society's bounty. This vision is made up of five core values: 1. Integrity​: Doing the right thing even when no one is looking 2. Si Se Puede® Attitude​: The embodiment of a personal and organizational spirit that promotes confidence, courage and risk taking 3. Innovation: ​The active pursuit of new ideas 4. Non-Violence:​ Engaging in disciplined action 5. Empowerment:​ A fundamental belief in and respect for people

UFW TIMELINE March 31, 1962--​On his birthday, Cesar Chavez resigns from the Community Service Organization after the group refuses to commit to organizing farm workers. He moves his wife and eight small children to the dusty little Central Valley farm town of Delano and dedicates himself full-time to organizing farm workers. Dolores Huerta and others later join him.

Sept. 30, 1962--​The first convention of the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) is convened with hundreds of delegates assembled in an abandoned movie theater in Fresno. The group's distinctive flag, a black eagle symbol on a white circle in a red field, is unveiled. September 1965--​The mostly Filipino American members of another union, the AFL-CIO-affiliated Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), walk out on strike against Delano-area grape growers on Sept. 8, and ask Cesar's largely Latino NFWA to join the walkouts. On Sept. 16, Mexican Independence Day, the NFWA, with 1,200-member families, votes to join a strike. Thus begins the five-year Delano Grape Strike.


March-April 1966--​Chavez and a band of strikers embark upon a 340-mile peregrinacion (or pilgrimage) from Delano to the steps of the state Capitol in Sacramento to draw national attention to the plight of farm workers. During the march and after a four-month boycott, Schenley negotiates an agreement with NFWA--the union's first contract. Thousands of supporters join the marchers on the steps of the Capitol in Sacramento on Easter Sunday.

1967--​The UFW strikes Giumarra Vineyards Corp., California's largest table grape grower. In response to a UFW boycott, other table grape growers allow Giumarra to use their labels. So the UFW begins a boycott of all California table grapes. Meanwhile, strikes continue against other grape growers in the state.

1967-1970--​Hundreds of grape strikers, union volunteers and supporters fan out across the U.S. and Canada to organize an international grape boycott. Millions of Americans rally to La Causa, the farm workers' cause.

Spring-summer 1970--​As the boycott continues picking up steam, most California table grape growers sign UFW contracts. On July 29, 1970, led by the Giumarras, Delano-area table grape growers file into the union hall at the UFW's ¡°Forty Acres¡± headquarters in Delano to sign their first union contracts. Dec. 10-24, 1970--​Chavez is jailed in Salinas, Calif. for refusing to obey a court order to stop the boycott against Bud Antle lettuce. Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ethel Kennedy, widow of Robert Kennedy, visit Chavez in the Salinas jail.


Spring-summer 1973--​When the UFW's three-year grape contracts come up for renewal, growers?including the E&J Gallo winery?sign sweetheart pacts with the Teamsters without an election or any representation procedure. That sparks a bitter months-long strike by grape workers in California's Coachella and San Joaquin valleys. Some 3,500 nonviolent strikers are arrested for violating anti-picketing injunctions, many of which are later overturned as unconstitutional, hundreds of strikers are beaten, dozens are shot and two are murdered. In response to the violence, Chavez calls off the strike and begins a second grape boycott. Once again, strikers, union staff and volunteers spread out to cities across North America, organizing popular support for the boycotts of table grapes, lettuce and Gallo wine. 1973-1975--​According to a nationwide 1975 Louis Harris poll, 17 million Americans are boycotting grapes. Many are also boycotting lettuce and Gallo wine.

Spring, summer, fall 1976--​UFW organizers and volunteers collect hundreds of thousands of signatures to place their own initiative, Proposition 14, on the November ballot to restore the shut-down ALRB and prevent amendments weakening the farm labor law. Although a well-financed and deceptive grower TV ad campaign defeats the initiative, it forces the Legislature to restore funding for the ALRB. Mid-to-late 1970s--​The UFW continues winning elections and signing contracts with growers. The union establishes comprehensive schools at its La Paz headquarters to train farm workers and union staff to become negotiators and contract administrators. In 1977, the Teamsters union signs an historic "jurisdictional" agreement with the UFW and agrees to leave the fields. In 1978, the UFW calls off its boycotts of grapes, lettuce and Gallo wines as it appears the law is working. April 23, 1993--​Cesar Chavez dies at the modest home of a retired San Luis, Ariz. farm worker while defending the UFW against a multi-million dollar lawsuit brought against the union by the large vegetable grower Bruce Church Inc. April 29, 1993--​Some 40,000 mourners march behind Chavez's plain pine casket during funeral services in Delano.


Mid- to late-1990s--​Despite intense industry resistance, the UFW mounts a major organizing campaign in the Central Coast strawberry industry. It results in two union contracts, including Coastal Berry Co., the nation's largest direct employer of strawberry workers. 2005--​The latest UFW organizing drives include a successful 22-month legal and contract campaign?and a three-month boycott?that produces a new contract with Gallo winery in Sonoma. The union mounts a major organizing drive among Central Valley table grape workers resulting in a summer election at Giumarra vineyards, America's largest table grape producer. Labor observers say it is one of the largest private sector union election campaigns in the nation in 2005. In November 2005, the state farm labor board rules the UFW has established a prima facie case that the election should be thrown out because of numerous violations of the law by Giumarra.

Boycott “The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people.” César Chávez Today we often are deeply immersed in how things are produced and what we are consuming is made of but missing from the conversation are the people who make it possible. To truly create a just and fair food system we need to see the humanity of the invisible hands that feed us. This was true in the 1960s and unfortunately remains true today, because those hands remain invisible to us. It is unfortunately all too easy to strip workers in the food system of the humanity that elicits compassion and outrage from people.


In the early 1960s, in the small town of Delano, California, farmworkers had had enough. Workers were tired of not being paid and the disrespect they suffered in the fields. They called several strikes to demand higher pay and better working conditions from local grape growers. Their ideas caught on. In 1966, Filipino members of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee joined forces with Latino members of the National Farm Workers Association to form the United Farm Workers (UFW). Together they pushed for contracts with powerful California growers—a nearly impossible feat—by staging a nationwide grape boycott. UFW leaders, such as president Cesar Chavez, ​connected farmworkers’ rights to civil and human rights issues.​ This struck a nerve with supporters. The first grape boycott led to others. Each time, the UFW continued to raise awareness about the working conditions of farmworkers, stressing the dignity of the work and the workers. UFW leaders turned to Americans for help, asking them to boycott grapes in support of their fight for higher pay and better working conditions. At the height of the boycott, 17 million Americans participated. Boycotters stopped buying grapes, picketed stores that sold nonunion grapes, and spread the word about the cause. ​With the help of consumers, civil rights groups, and labor organizations, the UFW won contracts with most California grape growers by the summer of 1970. The key to the success of the grape boycott was in gaining support for the farmworkers and building a united front.​ If the both Filipino and Mexican workers had not joined forces it would have been easy for the growers to pit them against each other. Secondly, connecting farmworker exploitation to violation of human rights was also important to bring humanity to the people working the fields and elicit compassion from the public.


LETTER TO THE FOOD JUSTICE MOVEMENT Across the country we have seen a rise in direct action for immigrant rights, the struggle for food sovereignty, to assert the importance of Black lives, LGBT rights and justice at the workplace. Communities have taken to the streets to hold corporations and government accountable for violation of people’s rights. Just recently Ben and Jerry’s--famous for their ice cream--agreed to adopt the ​Milk with Dignity Campaign after pressure by dairy farmworkers who are part of ​Migrant Justice​, an organization of dairy farmworkers in Vermont and their allies. But this is nothing new. People have always put their bodies, livelihoods and sometimes their lives at risk to demand justice. Currently, we find ourselves questioning where our food comes from, how the animals are treated, the impact of food production on the environment, whether food is organic, and ultimately, whether or not it’s all together sustainable. But how sustainable is an organic apple if the worker who picked it works under dangerous and hazardous conditions and doesn’t even earn minimum wage? “Even in this day and age, injustice remains an invisible ingredient in much of the food that we eat.” — Cesar Chavez What does this mean for the food movement? How can we learn from the tactics of the past and present in organizing for a just, fair and equal food system for all? The boycott and strikes brought consciousness to the American public about the people who picked their produce and the conditions they faced. The UFW gave a face to a group of people who remained invisible to the American public. In addition, this empowered fellow farmworkers to take action. One of the most inspiring and important parts of the formation of the UFW was the multiracial alliance that was formed.


This played an essential role role in the success of the strikes and the boycott. In addition, the farmworker leadership was key to mobilizing other farmworkers to take action. In our work today to address the injustices of our food system ​we must create a movement that is led by those most affected​. We also must not only stand in solidarity with those who injustices are carried out against but we must take leadership from them. Only then can we truly create the change we seek and win. As the UFW so famously coined “Si se puede”, “Yes we can”!


Food Justice in Action

In Bellingham WA, Community to Community Development (C2C) a food sovereignty organization and self-governing solidarity economy center continues to mobilize support for the Driscoll’s boycott called by Familias Unidas por la Justicia. Familia Unidas por la Justicia is a 2 year old self organized independent farm worker union activating over 70,000 farmworkers in Burlington, Washington and San Quintín, Baja California, who have organized a boycott of Driscoll’s berries. Familias Unidas por la Justicia, C2C and allies have been organizing for or a just contract that guarantees fair wages and improved working conditions, including an end to child labor, sexual harassment and substandard housing at Sakuma Brothers Berry farm, the largest berry grower in the region. This summer, organizers have been leading boycotts and demonstrations to push for a union contract with Sakuma. In spite of continued abuse in the form of poverty level wages, intimidation and poor working conditions, farmworkers and the community have worked to hold Ryan Sakuma and the new CEO Danny Weeden accountable. On July 16, 2015 labor organizers won a victory in a state Supreme Court ruling against Sakuma and the WA State Industry that ruled piece work farmworkers should be paid separately for rest breaks and at the piece rate they are picking at the time. They continue to organize and use the berry boycott to win a better contract, and have also started a call to boycott products and food business that purchase from Sakuma and Driscoll. Learn more about the campaign and how you can support by visiting


INFOSHOP ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ​www.​center​ “Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW, and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century” by Randy Shaw "​The Delano Manongs: Forgotten Heroes of the UFW​" César Chávez and the Forgotten Filipino Farmworkersésar-chávez-and-forgotten-filipino-farmworkers www.​foodchains​