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We the Farm Workers of America, have tilled the soil, sown the seeds and harvested the crops. We have provided food in abundance for the people in the cities, and the nation and world but have not had sufficient food to feed our own children."
Preamble to the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) constitution
In 1962, the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), a predecessor of the United Farm Workers (UFW), was founded in Delano, California. Cesar Chávez, alongside Dolores Huerta and other Chicano activists within this organization, defended the rights of farmworkers by employing nonviolent organizing tactics rooted in Catholic social teaching, Chicano identity, and civil rights rhetoric. Through a series of marches, national consumer boycotts, and fasts, the United Farm Workers union attracted national headlines, gained labor contracts with higher wages and improved working conditions, galvanizing the Chicano movement.
California’s agribusiness depended on a corporatized system of farm production supported by political allies that hired low-wage workers from Asian, Native, and/or Mexican populations. Farmworkers worked in dire conditions, including exposure to deadly chemicals, inadequate food and shelter, and sexual harassment, while receiving meager wages. Those who protested were replaced by Mexican braceros under the Bracero Program. The Bracero Program’s termination in 1964 led to labor union mobilization among farmworkers.
The United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC) was formed in 1966 as a collaboration between the Filipino Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee and the National Farm Workers Association. The union built partnerships with religious organizations, student and civil rights activists, and politicians, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy.
From 1966 to 1970, the UFWOC carried out a successful international consumer boycott on grapes by picketing outside of grocery stores across the U.S. and Canada and spreading awareness about the movement in Europe. Subsequent boycotts and strikes against lettuce and strawberry growers occurred during the following years. Strikes often led to law enforcement intervention, where farmworkers were beaten, jailed, or replaced by non-citizen laborers. Dolores Huerta is credited with negotiating thousands of labor contracts providing farmworkers with improved wages and working conditions.
In 1972, the UFWOC renamed itself the United Farm Workers. By then, communities of farmworkers had been established across the U.S. In California, the UFW’s newspaper El Malcriado (“The Unruly One”) informed the community and provided them with job openings, and Luis Valdes’ El Teatro Campesino (“The Farmer’s Theatre”) offered short comedic skits performed by farmworkers. The UFW also established a federal credit union and union centers with medical care, pension, and voter registration services to its union members.
Although the UFW is still operating, internal union strife, short-term labor contracts, and lack of federal legislation concerning farmworker rights have affected the progress of the union.
|September 30, 1962||Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta establish The National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) in Fresno California. They adopt the motto “Viva la Causa!” or “Long Live the Cause”.|
|January 21, 1963||The National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) holds a constitutional convention in Fresno California, naming Chávez president and Dolores Huerta, Julio Hernandez, and Gilbert Padilla vice presidents.|
|1965||The US Government terminates the Bracero Program, and the grape boycott begins on September 16, 1965.|
|August 22, 1966||The Fillipino Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) and The National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) are consolidated and become the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC).|
|1966-1970||The UFWOC mobilizes the first grape boycott. Organizers picket outside grocery stores across the nation and Canada and spread awareness of the movement in Europe.|
|March 17, 1966||Chávez and about 100 farm workers commence a 300 mile pilgrimage from Delano to California’s capitol in Sacramento broadcasted on television, passing by vineyards where they had previously worked. The march ends on April 11, 1966 (Easter Sunday) with over 10,000 protesters ascending the UFW flag and images of the Virgen de Guadalupe.|
|April 3, 1966||Schenley Industries recognizes Chávez’ union, marking the first time a major corporation acknowledges a farm union. Schenley agrees to provide the farmworkers with better working conditions and wages.|
|1967||UFWOC and Teamsters, another labor union, sign an agreement recognizing the right of UFWOC to organize farmworkers and the authorization of the Teamsters to organize among truck drivers, canary workers, and other agricultural laborers.|
|January 1968||UFWOC declares a national boycott of California grapes to bring awareness to the farm workers' struggle against unfair working conditions.|
|February 14, 1968||César Chávez begins to fast in protest of farmworker exploitations. He receives the support of Martin Luther King Jr. and ends his 25 day fast with Robert Kennedy sitting next to him on March 10, 1968.|
|December 1970||About 150 grape growers in California, including Giumarra Vineyards, the largest grape grower, sign labor contracts with the UFWOC, granting farmworkers a rise of wages, healthcare benefits, and protections on pesticide exposure.|
August 27, 1970
|Farm workers from the Salinas Valley protest unfair contracts with Teamsters and mobilize a strike against 40 Salinas Valley growers, who suffered a US $2.2 million loss.|
|August 31, 1970||InterHarvest signs a two-year labor contract with UFWOC contract benefiting 1,000 Salinas Valley field workers who had contracts under Teamsters.|
|November 1970||The UFWOC signs contracts with Freshpict, Pic-N-Pac, and the D’Arrigo company. The UFWOC keeps on mobilizing strikes and boycotts across the Salinas Valley.|
|December 4, 1970||A California court finds Chávez guilty of contempt of court and sentences him to a fine of $1,000 and imprisonment until UFWOC terminates all strikes. He receives visits from Coretta Scott King and Ethel Kennedy. After three weeks, the California Supreme Court orders his release and allows the strikes and boycotts to continue.|
|March 26, 1971||Teamsters signs a three-year contract with UFWOC, transferring all Salinas Valley labor contracts to UFW. This ends the lettuce strike and boycott.|
|1972||The United Farm Workers Organizing Committee UFWOC renames itself to the United Farm Workers (UFW) and organized to defeat Proposition 22, also known as Agricultural Labor Relations Initiative, which would have limited the farmworkers’ right to protest.|
|1973||Union farm workers march through California’s Coachella and Imperial Valleys to protest non-citizen farm labor.|
|June 1975||The Agricultural Labor Relations Act enables farmworkers to elect their union representatives.|
|1979||UFW contracts expire and an upsurge in strikes and boycotts leads to 30,000 new contracts with higher wages, prevention of pesticide exposure, better healthcare plans, and paid vacations.|
|April 23, 1993||César Chávez dies and his son-in-law, Arturo Rodriguez takes over the UFW.|
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