The Radical Labor Roots of the Great Delano Grape Strike

David Bacon
September 20, 2015
http://davidbaconrealitycheck.blogspot.com/2015/09/the-radical-roots-of-great-grape-strike_20.html

This is an expanded version of an article in the Insight section of the San Francisco Chronicle:  http://sfchron.cl/1QHt9Jt

LarryLarry Itliong.  Photo:  Bob Fitch Photo Archive © Stanford University Libraries

Fifty years ago the great grape strike started in Delano, when Filipino pickers walked out of the fields on September 8, 1965.  Mexican workers joined them two weeks later.  The strike went on for five years, until all California table grape growers were forced to sign contracts in 1970.

The strike was a watershed struggle for civil and labor rights, supported by millions of people across the country.  It helped breathe new life into the labor movement, opening doors for immigrants and people of color.  Beyond the fields, Chicano and Asian American communities were inspired to demand rights, and many activists in those communities became organizers and leaders themselves.

California’s politics have changed profoundly in 50 years.  Delano’s mayor today is a Filipino.  That would have been unthinkable in 1965, when growers treated the town as a plantation.

But a mythology has hidden the true history of how and why the strike started, especially its connection to some of the most radical movements in the country’s labor history.  Writer Peter Matthiessen, for instance, claimed in his famous two-part 1969 profile of Cesar Chavez in The New Yorker: “Until Chavez appeared, union leaders had considered it impossible to organize seasonal farm labor, which is in large part illiterate and indigent…” Continue reading

Pushing Unions to Back Bernie

Labor for Bernie Pushing Unions To Back Bernie Sanders, Prevent Early Hillary Clinton Endorsements
http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/18398/bernie-sanders-unions-endorsements-hillary-clinton
BY MARIO VASQUEZ

Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Senator Bernie Sanders hosted a national phone call Wednesday night focused on the labor movement in which organizers say 17,000 people participated. The campaign hopes to drum up support from union members as Sanders inches his way to front-runner status in the early Presidential primary and caucus elections of New Hampshire and Iowa.

Organized by Labor for Bernie, the network for union members aiming to secure endorsements for Sanders, the call featured remarks by Sanders outlining his economic platform.

“How does it happen that we continue to be in a situation where millions of American worker want to join unions, want to be involved in collective bargaining, they want to stand up for their rights, but they can’t join the union because their employers use unfair, illegal tactics to deny them their constitutional rights to form a union?” Sanders asked before announcing that he will be introducing the Workplace Democracy Act into legislation this fall in order to significantly ease up union drive efforts and subsequent first contract implementation. Continue reading

Boeing Workers Take a Stand & Take the Heat

by Carl Finamore

Carl Finamore

Carl Finamore

Local IAM District 751 union leaders in the state of Washington are feeling the fallout of Boeing’s extremely well-orchestrated counteroffensive begun immediately after Nov. 13 when 67% of union members rejected the company’s concessionary contract extension through 2024 of an existing agreement that does not actually expire until 2016.

Everyone expected Boeing would turn up the heat by threatening economic catastrophe for the Puget Sound area and thousands of lost jobs but these unionists were blindsided from a most unexpected source.

The IAM international, overruling local leadership, abruptly announced a Jan. 3 vote of another extension agreement eerily similar to the one that had just been rejected.

District 751’s website reported “International President R. Thomas Buffenbarger ordered the vote over objections of 751’s elected officials… and announced the Jan. 3rd vote to the Seattle Times on Saturday, Dec. 21.” Continue reading

Organizing the jobless

Frances Fox Piven | December 22, 2010. The Nation.

As 2011 begins, nearly 15 million people are officially unemployed in the United States and another 11.5 million have either settled for part-time work or simply given up the search for a job. To regain the 5 percent unemployment level of December 2007, about 300,000 jobs would have to be created each month for several years. There are no signs that this is likely to happen soon. And joblessness now hits people harder because it follows in the wake of decades of stagnating worker earnings, high consumer indebtedness, eviscerated retirement funds and rollbacks of the social safety net.

So where are the angry crowds, the demonstrations, sit-ins and unruly mobs? After all, the injustice is apparent. Working people are losing their homes and their pensions while robber-baron CEOs report renewed profits and windfall bonuses. Shouldn’t the unemployed be on the march? Why aren’t they demanding enhanced safety net protections and big initiatives to generate jobs? Continue reading

Machinists organize an on-line union of the unemployed

by Jake Blumgart

In mid-January, the International Association of Machinists (IAM) announced a new initiative—a union for the unemployed. Below is an excerpt of the press release I was forwarded:

Friday, January 15, 2010, marks the start of a movement.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers will launch Ur Union of Unemployed — or UCubed as we’ve nicknamed it — an online community that aims to unify the unemployed in a unique and useful way.

Ur Union of Unemployed will organize the unemployed into community activist groups known as cubes.They will have at their fingertips a number of employment resources. And, together they will turn up the heat on politicians from the State House to the White House to act swiftly to address this current jobs crisis.

See, there’s strength in numbers. And 31 million unemployed Americans is a pretty big number. Each cube will be organized by zip code. Six activists combine to make a cube. Nine cubes create a neighborhood. Three neighborhoods create a block. Multiply that again and again, and you’ve got a powerful community that can effect real change — one that politicians can’t ignore.

On January 15, 2010, visit UCubed at www.unionofunemployed.com and watch as the nation’s unemployed take back control.

Continue reading