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Straight Talk On The Lettuce Strike

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					                       Straight Talk On The Lettuce Strike
                                (Revised August 1, 1972)

                                                    —by the Rev. Wayne C. Hartmire, Jr.


How did the lettuce strike get started?        For years lettuce workers quietly organized
local UFW committees and waited for the successful completion of the Delano grape
strike. In July of 1970 as the grape struggle was ending, the United Farm Workers (UFW)
petitioned lettuce growers for secret ballot union representation elections. The growers
ignored the request, sought out the Teamsters union and signed back door contracts. The
workers were not consulted. Denied elections, they went out on strike on August 24, 1970
 o e osa h t w n d o ee e ne y e r hvzU W. , 0 okr
            re a e             e          ps d
t dm nttt thy at t b r r et b C s C ae’ F 7 0 w re         a                  0          s
                                              ae: T e
                                               l
walked off the job in what the L.A. Times cld “ h Largest Farm Labor Strike in the
  . ioy
    . t .
USHs r”

If the strike was so successful why is there a boycott of lettuce?   As a result of the
                                                       a s Fe p t
                                                         vt s c
successful strike large lettuce companies (Inter-H re , r hi & DAro Bo.        i
                                                                           ’rg rs       )
rescinded their contracts with the Teamsters and signed contracts with UFW (later on Mel
Finnerman Co. also signed with UFW; approximately 10-15% of California-Arizona lettuce
is now UFW lettuce). Other growers continued to resist even though the Teamsters were
                              e F si to e e n fl okr n et br 7
                                          g        ps e
(and are) willing to recogniz U W’rh t r r etidw re .O Sp m e 1,    s          e
1970 a local Salinas judge outlawed all strike activity. The workers chose to appeal that
court order and to continue their struggle by launching a boycott of Calif-Arizona head
lettuce.

The growers argue that the workers were forced out of the fields by violence.        That
is not true. There were isolated incidents on both sides but the farm workers continued to
work non-violently. The growers admitted that production was cut by over 66% by the
strike. They never challenged the newspaper accounts of 7,000 workers on strike. Now
because the strike has shown that the workers want Chavez, the growers want people to
  eeehth e a eog ie e n n md i y F o f c 7 0 pole
    i          e                  on           t ao
blv tat r w s nuhv l c adiii t nb U W t “ r ” , 0 ep                    oe 0
to go on strike. Reporters from the major California newspapers, the wire services, the TV
  e rs e ln ans hy e r d m sv tk y ok s
    w         el
ntok w r a i Sla T e r ot a a i si b w r r Wh w s’te
                        i .           p e          s e re             e . y a th     n
  m sv ie e e rd t a te r d eas t i ’ ap
      se o n          p e              n p e
“ a i v l c”r ot ? I w s’r ot bcueid n hpen. The lettuce         dt
workers went on strike to protest the back door contracts and to demand a union of their
own choice.

                                                      y i ’ F e h em t s
                                                          dt
Why are these lettuce contracts so important? Wh d n U W l t T a s r    t e         e
represent the lettuce workers?        The most important reason is that the lettuce
  ok s o’ ato e e e n d yh em t s hy r a n i s n m k g
      e       t
w r rdn w n t b r r et b t Ta s r T e a t i rk ad ai
                            ps e           e       e.          e kg s               n
sacrifices to have a union that they believe in –a union of their own, the United Farm
Workers.
In 1966 DiGiorgio Corp. was under pressure form their workers and they ran to the
Teamsters and tried to make a sweetheart deal. In 1966 Perelli-Minetti tried the same tactic
to thwart the will of the workers. In 1970, 200 lettuce growers signed back door
agreements with the Teamsters. Unless the farm workers make a stand in the lettuce fields,
growers all over the country will make deals with unions of their choice and farm workers
will never have a strong democratic union of their own.

What evidence is there that lettuce workers want to be represented by the United Farm
Workers?       The strike in August of 1970 is the most powerful evidence. It is not easy
for farm workers to go on strike during the harvest season. When they do, it is because
they feel strongly about the issues involved. During the strike a number of growers
 o m ne soo s “ h Ta s rhv orot c u U WO aor ok s
           d      l                 e
cm et aflw: T e em t s ae u cnr tbt F Chs u w r r      as                            e”
         a e )“ ne 0 ok s oa; y em t cnr t ur t sht wl
          vt                      e
(Inter-H r s; I ed70w r r tdym T a s r otc ga n e ta I i e     a       ae               l
                                                           s (rw & iR nh r r
have those workers but I only have 100 workers in the field”Bo n Hl ac)Pil        . o
                                       a s DAro
                                         vt          i       r hi & i e n s d
                                                              s c
to signing contracts with UFW, Inter-hre , ’rg & Fe p t F nr a a e       n m          k
the Catholic Bishops Committee to supervise card check elections to determine the will of
the workers. This was done for ranches in California and Arizona. In every case the
  i p e i tate ok s oe o ee e ne y e r hvzU W.
   h s ti      e               e      d
Bso’crfd hth w r rvt t b r r et b C s C ae’ F   ps d           a

The Farm Bureau and the lettuce growers discount the evidence of card check elections
and say that UFW is afraid of secret ballot elections.       Card check elections along
with secret ballot elections and strikes are approved ways under the National Labor
Relations Act to determine the will of the workers. Freshpict agreed to the card check
                          aev t ’rg & i e i        n
procedure, as did Inter-H r s&DAro F nrman. In the grapes, some companies
wanted secret ballot elections (e.g., DiGiorgio & Larson Bros.); they were held and UFW
won all of them. Other companies wanted card check or ratification elections; they were
held and UFW won all of those also. If lettuce growers are genuinely concerned about the
democratic rights of their workers they should begin serious negotiations and work out an
acceptable representation procedure at the bargaining table.

Did workers have a chance to vote for the Teamsters before the growers signed contracts
in July of 1970?       UFW repeatedly asked for secret ballot elections before the lettuce
strike and boycott got underway. The growers ignored that offer and signed with the
Teamsters. There were no elections of any kind in relation to the 200 Teamster contracts.
If the lettuce growers and the Farm Bureau are so concerned about the rights of the
  ok s h d n h poe te f c n n m fh em t -grower alliance
      e,         dt e
w r r w y i ’t y rt th “ r dui i ”o t T a s r
                                s      oe       os             e        e
when it occurred in July of 1970?

                g e r ea n ni t em t s vr hvzui ?
                  o s f           o k e
Why would the rw rpe r ui leh T a s roeC ae’n n    e                   o         The
 r e ae en ut a s n U W s o a n n i s m vm n … C ae
  o s                  e      yg
g w rhv be qo d sai :“ F int ui , ia oe et “ hvz     o t                  ”
s r c ” t ei hs s t n s o e osos r nososa s h
       da c           n         am s
ia ai le .Bh dtoe te etism cnc u o ucnc u r i :t      i               i     cm e
predominantly affluent, white growers prefer doing business with affluent, white union
officials. It is also one way of avoiding sticky issues like blatant discrimination in
employment and advancement practices (Anglo farm workers tend to get the supervisory,
non-field work jobs).

UFW derives its strength from the will of the workers and must therefore represent the
true grievances of the workers. Farm workers, elected from each ranch, are directly
involved in UFW negotiations. As a result UFW makes harder demands and organizes
strong, democratic ranch committees to see to it that contracts are enforced. Growers
  a rlpe r di bs e ” i ui ht os o dr et t nt r h
   ul f             n      ns h            o
nt ay r e “o g ui s wt a n nta de nt ev i seg f m t            i sr h o e
          a
workers – union that can collect dues and go softer on demands and enforcement.

   i t eeu g e t n t ar t ngtt i F
    n t tc o s                     m
Dd’ h lt e rw raoeie g eo eoa wt U W?    e          ie h                    Yes!       In
March of 1971 the lettuce boycott was suspended after the Teamsters agreed to withdraw
from organizing farm workers. In May of 1971 the lettuce growers started to negotiate
with UFW. There were over a dozen meetings. Everyone was hopeful about a settlement.
But after the Salinas harvest was completed in the fall of 1971 the growers got more and
more unyielding. They refused all compromise on issues important to the workers (e.g.,
the hiring hall) and the negotiations broke off in November of 1971. In retrospect it is
apparent that the lettuce growers were stalling to get past the 1971 harvest while at the
same time forming alliances to enact legislation in Arizona and California that would
eliminate the boycott.

Are the Teamsters still involved in the lettuce struggle?  No! On March 26, 1971,
Frank Fitzsimmons, General Vice President of the Teamsters and George Meany,
President of the AFL-CIO countersigned an agreement between UFW and the Teamsters.
 n htel eth em t s g e o oo U W’rh t r i fl okr
          te         e
I ta s tm n t Ta s r ar dt hnr F s i toogn e idw re .
                               e      e                   g         az e                s
The Teamsters have withdrawn from the lettuce fields and are not enforcing their
contracts. In the July 22, 1972 issue of Business Week, Wm. Grami, director of
organization for the Western Conference of Teamsters is quoted as saying he is willing to
 ocd hr sn oko h F hee in u s co vrod rcsn “f
            v tg               e            l tn g rd t n
cnee a e i w r t t U W w i r a i j i ii oefo poe i . I                         sg
                                            t i sw wl e hm” r sd n h
                                            s h           lt
the growers want to rescind the contrac wt u, e i l te , G a ia i te     m i
Business Week interview.

If the Teamsters are no longer involved why do the lettuce growers keep talking about the
Teamster contracts?             h r e ae i e f ae hy a cnr t .
                                     o s            e
                              T eg w r hv p cso pprte cl“otc ”              l      as
  hs cnr t ae o en g o h okr n rv e o rt i s o te
     e       as
T e “otc ”hv n m ai t t w re adpoi n poet n fr h
                                  n       e        s           d           co
workers but the growers have discovered that it confused the issue for the public if they
 ep e rn o h r cn at wt h Ta s r
        frg        e       r s h
ke r e i t t i“ot c ” i te em t s                e.

If the Teamsters are no longer involved why do the farm workers and their supporters
keep talking about them?      The growers in their attacks on the boycott continue to
 e r ak o hi ar m n ” i h T a s r ht rvks uso i ep ’
  f              r e          s h                e;
r e bc t te “g e et wt te em t sta pooe qe i snpols                  tn            e
minds and we have an obligation to answer those questions.
What is the role of legislation in the current lettuce struggle?      The lettuce growers,
the Farm Bureau and other grower interests want to destroy the boycott and make strikes
impossible for farm workers. If growers can accomplish that result they will have robbed
farm workers of their only non-violent means of putting pressure on employers. Without
organized pressure growers will never have to sign contracts with their workers.

  n uut 3 17 roa e e i f m a ra
                            z s p sv r b w
O A gs1, 92Ai n’r r s e a l o l goes into effect. It outlaws all
elements of the secondary boycott and even makes it illegal to encourage someone to
 byo eu ” O N vm e717 t ep f af n oe n f m a ra
         t tc
“octlt e. n oe br ,92h polo C l rivto aa l o l e    e        o
                                                           i a                 r b w
                                                 “octlt e ad rv e fr 6-day
                                                          eu
that outlaws the boycott, makes it illegal to say byot t c” n poi so a 0   d
injunction against all strikes and boycotts. (The Arizona and California laws are supposed
to provide for union representation elections for farm workers but both laws make it
impossible for migrant and seasonal workers to vote; the California law contains the
 oo i ha w i at acl d ef nh e a sa hr s ok s t dt
   l g s c o il s a s m
flwn pr e h h u m tay inr cis lotl a e w r r “ e a            l vt           e: h e
of such election shall be set at a time when number of temporary agricultural employees
entitled to vote does not exceed the number of permanent agricultural employees entitled
 o o . os e a y c cs hr r e hs 0 e nn w r s n 0
       e          d         pa e            e o
t vt” C ni r t i l a w e ag w r a 1 pr aet okr ad20             m              e
harvest workers. 190 of the harvest workers would not be allowed to vote.)

In this legislation needed?   No! It is unjust and discriminatory against farm workers.
  h Fr ue ifrt cueh w n t c h h f m okr ui . u w ai
         m        a         b
T e a B r uso i eas t y ato rs tea w re ’n n B t ht
                                    e            u        r        s o                s
so terrible about farm workers organizing non-violently? Why would the whole machinery
of government come down on their efforts? How can any state enact such laws against the
poorest workers of America?

What does the future hold for the lettuce boycott?               The lettuce boycott will
continue no matter what laws are passed. In time (1-2-3 years?) lettuce growers in
California and Arizona will want to sign contracts in order to sell their lettuce (they should
remember the experience of the grape growers). But the Calif. and Arizona laws make it an
unfair labor practice to negotiate on certain subjects (e.g., hiring hall, pesticides,
mechanization). No self-respecting union can negotiate with its hands tied. If and when
the growers want contracts they will first have to repeal their own repressive laws. The
boycott will again bring the agricultural industry into the 20th century. They could avoid
all this trouble and save a lot of money (millions of dollars will be spent by the growers in
the California initiative fight) if they would just sit down with their organized workers and
negotiate contracts.

Is UFW just interested in more and more wage increases for workers?       The average
farm worker family in the USA works hard and earns around $2,500 per year. Wages have
 o em rvd B th n e Fr   e t        m re ae b gr r
                                             s
t b ipoe. u t U id a Wokrhv a i e dem ta t t “ u ga     g                 a
                                                               a hn h . O r ol
is a national union of the poor dedicated to world peace and to serving the needs of all
  e h uf . C s C ae) lay h a
               e”       a               e
m nw osf r (e r hvz Ar d tef m w re ’ n nhst flwn            s o
                                                  r okr ui a h oo i         e l g
programs that serve the whole life needs of the workers and their families: credit
  n n a l onen e l i o p a ti …eoo i ee p et ud
    o      my          lg g d
ui …f i cusi …l a a …c-o gss tn cnmcdvl m n fn     ao                     o
          p, er et os g e .
             te      n c…he a c o
                             g h …L a e e cne r
                                        ta     r t
(more co-os r im n hui , t) ul s ol aPzr r t et …a &
 uua et …nwppr
  t l e
clr cn r e sae     .

Why is the religious community still supporting UFW? What are the moral issues
involved?         Religious leaders are concerned about the suffering of the poor and about
justice for farm workers. The lettuce conflict is a grass roots struggle by workers to gain a
union of their choice. The moral issues are the same as they were in the Delano grape
strike: dignity, self-determination and justice. Will farm workers finally have the right to
build their own union, to experience the dignity of doing it themselves, to negotiate as
  qa i h r m l e n hu ipoe o t c o r
       s h e              o s                            as
eulwt t ie p yr adtr’m rvdcnr tt povide adequately for their
own families. The whole principle of self-determination and self-respect for farm workers
is at stake in the lettuce strike and boycott.

The growers claim that Chavez is just out for money and power.        Cesar Chavez lives
on subsistence like all the strikers and boycotters: room, board & $5.00 per week. He and
his wife and children live in a small, 2-bedroom house at La Paz, Ca. Cesar Chavez and his
family do want organized strength for the workers. They have pledged their lives to
 ud g soga ok s n n hta bi a es e fu i t rr m ra
   ln       r       r
bii at n f mw r r ui tacn r g m a ro j teo uaA ec.
                              e’ o                  n       u       sc         l     i

What can people do who want to help Cesar Chavez & the United Farm Workers? Most
importantly, support the boycott of Calif.-Arizona head (or iceberg) lettuce. Tell friends,
store managers, restaurant employees, airline stewardesses, etc., etc., about the lettuce
boycott. Shop at stores that handle only UFW lettuce. Contact your local boycott office
and offer your assistance. (If you need an address or phone number contact NFWM).
Other ways to help: 1) send money to UFW, P.O. Box 62, Keene, Ca. 93531; 2) For
 e l i r ao n h a
  ga f           i        e r ok s t gl eo e d tbt fr
                                       e’ r e
r u rnom tno t f m w r r sug bcm a ir u ro El Malcriado,       si o
the official paper of the UFW; 3) If you have seen material from Geo. H. Gannon, a
 r ef
  o       o
g w r rm Matn Wa . r a rlrm te“ rt Sud o Ai E u ei l
                  b , s O m ti f
                   o       h                              h
                                       ea o h Tu qa” f r. cm n a            z           c
Council and if you want additional information contact NFWM.

____________________________________
National Farm Worker Ministry (NFWM)
1411 W. Olympic Blvd. Rm. 511, Los Angeles, Ca. 90015           August 1972

				
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