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The UFW, La Lucha, and Michigan The United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC) worked to carry the farmworkers’ struggle in Michigan across the United States (and as far even as Puerto Rico and Europe) to gain support for La Causa (The Cause), or La Lucha (The Struggle), a key aspect of the Chicano Movement. Organizers rented office facilities and made valuable contacts for the formation of boycott committees with outlets of the AFL-CIO while trying to gain the participation of independent unions. Beginning in the 1960s, they sought to inform the public about the problems of the farmworkers in the United States, forming task forces and distributing materials, including everything from buttons to bumper stickers. Letter-writing campaigns targeted the large supermarket chains, and issues eventually expanded from labor representation to the safety of workers and their families (primarily from the dangerous pesticides used). Cultural groups supporting the farm workers, such as California-based Luis Valdez and El Teatro Campesino, served both to inform and to entertain people in Michigan, especially Mexican Americans, as to the circumstances of their brethren in the Southwest. César Chávez, along with UFW first vice-president Dolores Huerta and other union organizers, led a campaign to organize all agricultural workers within the UFW. A large concrete building near Delano, California, in the fertile San Joaquin Valley, served as its headquarters. The first target was the California grape industry . Chávez appealed to a wide array of groups and individual workers and began a national boycott that spread quickly. Farm workers were on strike against more than thirty California companies by 1968. In early 1970 the major grocery chains told the growers that they would buy only those California grapes labeled “UFWOC,” and growers, in turn, required their workers to join the union. Chávez, a believer in the tactic of nonviolence adopted by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., later used boycotts to recruit melon and lettuce workers. Michigan activists stood in solidarity with the Delano strikers and looked forward to their visits to open up new channels and garner public support. They petitioned prominent local individuals, as well as secular and religious organizations, to support what soon became a controversial national campaign. Many notable local and national leaders of the Roman Catholic Church spoke out against alleged instances of exploitation, greed, and injustice, urging people not to buy any grape products until California growers signed contracts with the UFW. Protestant groups, too, backed La Lucha in its opposition to nonunion growers of table grapes, head lettuce, and wine. These combined efforts sparked considerable opposition from agri-business, which spent large sums of money to discredit the efforts of farm workers. The UFW called upon the California state legislature and the U.S. Congress to enact legislation that would guarantee farm workers the right to organize and bargain collectively through a union of their choice. One campaign, coordinated with the National Farm Worker Ministry of the National Council of Churches, encouraged churches and synagogues to set aside 4–10 May 1975 as Farm Worker Week. During this week congregations were asked to remember the contributions of farm workers and to call attention to their struggle for social justice. During the 1960s and 1970s numerous rallies and protests occurred among Michigan Chicanos in support of UFW boycotts and fund-raising. News of organizers having been arrested or physically accosted while attempting to talk with workers in the fields exacerbated existing tensions, as did battles over union elections for the country’s hundreds of thousands of farm workers. The UFW, in its Second Constitutional Convention, held in Fresno, California, in August 1975, attracted over five hundred delegates representing farm workers and boycott offices nationally, including those in Michigan. The guest speakers included Leonard Woodcock, international president of the United Automobile Workers; the Canadian director and vice-president of the UAW; and representatives of the U.S. Catholic Conference and the Board of Homeland Ministries. Plans were made for future elections, boycotts, legislation, and other aspects of organizing. Resolutions passed calling for amnesty, citizenship, and the organizing of undocumented workers and for reaffirming the importance of nonviolence in supporting labor struggles around the world. Despite the successful passage of a law in California soon after that finally forcing the growers to hold union recognition elections, La Causa continued as a movement for workers’ rights and civil rights. To some extent it paralleled earlier efforts of organized labor in industry and other sectors, but its...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780870138881
Related ISBN
9780870136450
MARC Record
OCLC
606038479
Pages
80
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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