Chapter 4 STRIKE
3 years later, early on the morning of September 8, 1965, Cesar Chavez was sitting at his desk in the small National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) office in Delano , California.
Suddenly the door burst open and Manuel and Esther Uranday, friends and union members from the start, came rushing in with urgent news.
The Filipinos were on strike.
Filipino-Americans made up the second-largest group of farmworkers in California. They had their own young union, called the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC). AWOC had gone on strike for a good reason. The Delano growers were paying Delano's field workers leass than they were paying workers at their other vineyards in the valley.
What AWOC did mattered to Cesar and the National farm Workers Association. Cesar knew that the two unions would need to cooperate if they were to survive. If one went on strike, the other must also go on strike. Otherwise, the growers could use one union against the other. But Cesar wondered, was the NFWA ready for a strike?
For three years, the NFWA had been carefully building its strength. Dues had been collected regularly-as regularly as people could pay them. Even children offered to pay what they could, giving up candy or movie money if they had any.
So the NFWA was getting stronger every day. But was it strong enough to strike? No one knew. A strike could empty the treasury in a hury. It could also break the union in a wink. People might give spare change and come to meetings. That was easy. They might talk over sandwhiches and soft drinks as well. That was fun. But would they stay away from work long enough to win a strike? Would they walk the picket lines day in and day out?
'What are we going to do?' asked Esther Vranday.
It was a good question. Cesar did'nt answer right away. He thouht matters over. The decision was'nt up to just him and the other leaders. It was up to the whole union. 'We can't call a strike,' he said. 'We have to take a vote.'
In the mean time he asked Dolores to visit the picket lines of the Filipino stikers. She was to work with the strike leaders and report back to Cesar. Within days she told Cesar that among the Filipino workers the strike was growing. Nearly 2,000 workers wre now on strike, she said. This was good news-great news even.
A week later, on the night of Mexican Independence Day, a general meeting of the NFWA was called at OUR LADY OF GUADELUPE CHURCH in Delano.
First Dolores spoke. She told the union members in the packed hall about the Filipino strikers. She described how the strikers had been locked out of the campos they had lived in for years, and how guards patrolled the fields with guns. The growers, she said, want to slash the workers pay by 40 cents an hour. They want the workers to stoop and pick in the hot sun for .00 an hour. One dollar. Who can feed a family with such a wage?
Those in the audience who remembered earlier attempts at forming a union or calling a strike nodded. They knew about men with guns that growers often 'hired' to protect the fields. Sometimes there was a scuffle or an 'accident.' and a striker was wounded or killed.
from pages 29-33