History of Filipino Americans

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1965 May 3

Delano Grape Strike

Delano, California, USA

Preceding the Delano grape strike was another grape strike organized by Filipino farm workers that occurred in Coachella Valley, California on May 3, 1965. Because the majority of strikers were over 50 years old and did not have families of their own due to anti-miscegenation laws, they were willing to risk what little they had to fight for higher wages. The strike succeeded in granting farm workers a 40-cent-per-hour raise, which resulted in a wage equivalent to the $1.40-per-hour wage that the recently outlawed braceros were paid After the strike in Coachella, farm workers followed the grape-picking season and moved north to Delano The Filipino farm workers who came up from Coachella were led by Larry Itliong, Philip Vera Cruz, Benjamin Gines, and Elasco under the AWOC. Upon arriving in Delano, the farm workers were told by growers that instead of being paid the $1.40-per-hour wage they received in Coachella, they would be paid $1.20-per-hour, which was below the federal minimum wage Despite attempts at negotiation, growers were not willing to raise wages since workers were easily replaceable This pushed Itliong, who was the leader of the AWOC, to organize Filipino farm workers and pressure growers into granting them higher wages and better working conditions On September 7, 1965, Itliong and Filipino farm workers gathered inside Filipino Community Hall, and the AWOC unanimously voted to go on strike the next morning.

The Delano grape strike was a labor strike organized by the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), a predominantly Filipino and AFL-CIO-sponsored labor organization, against table grape growers in Delano, California to fight against the exploitation of farm workersThe strike began on September 8, 1965, and one week later, the predominantly Mexican National Farmworkers Association (NFWA) joined the cause. In August 1966, the AWOC and the NFWA merged to create the United Farm Workers (UFW) Organizing Committee.

The strike lasted for five years and was characterized by its grassroots efforts—consumer boycotts, marches, community organizing and nonviolent resistance—which gained the movement national attention. On July 1970, the strike resulted in a victory for farm workers, due largely to a consumer boycott of non-union grapes, when a collective bargaining agreement was reached with major table grape growers, affecting more than 10,000 farm workers.

The Delano grape strike is most notable for the effective implementation and adaptation of boycotts, the unprecedented partnership between Filipino and Mexican farm workers to unionize farm labor, and the resulting creation of the UFW labor union, all of which revolutionized the farm labor movement in the United States.