Previously published in Examiner
Part 1 of the United Farm Workers series
United Farm Workers Rights
We have visited many times, the plight of women and low pay in this women’s issues series, but not only women were affected in certain sectors of the population. The 1960’s and 1970’s as I said before was a time of revolution, a time of standing up for one’s rights and letting the world know of the injustices permeated in our society. This examiner remembers as a young girl in CEGEP here in Montreal, how she was very caught up in the struggle for equal pay and rights for the United Farm Workers Union of America. She wore the power sign and she followed Cesar Chavez and boycotted iceburg lettuce. It completely disgusted her how people could labour so long in the hot fields to pick these crops for pennies a day. Hence she began my life long pursuit of defending the underdog commencing with the United Farm Workers Union.
The plight of American Farm Workers
Though the fights for farmers rights in the 1960’s and 1970’s was such an important contribution to history and to women’s rights in general, the problems dated back to the early 1900’s. Picking fields is backbreaking work; in the heat, for long hours and low pay. The workers are exposed to pesticides which we all know causes cancer. The Montreal Protocol which is an international agreement to reduce the use of pesticides and other toxic substances did not exist at that time.
What did exist was the fact that poor immigrants new to America, and California in particular, would be forced to work the fields for a living or starve. There was not much in the way of work available to them. There were several attempts to make the working conditions a little more bearable, though they all failed. The early agricultural workers were primarily Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, and of course Mexican.
Struggling for a union
In 1903, the sugar beet strike in Oxnard, California by the Japanese Mexican Labor Association , failed. Then again in 1913, in Wheatland, California, organized by the Industrial Workers of the World, AKA the Wobblies also failed.
to be continued