UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 31st, 2010, 9:29 pm

2. AFL-CIO Response

George Meany gives press
conference, calling Teamsters
"vicious" and "disgraceful"
The AFL-CIO Executive council's response to the Teamster incursion was decisive. Calling it "vicious" and "disgraceful," AFL-CIO President George Meany pledged the federation's full support to the UFW just days after the April expirations. By mid-May, the AFL-CIO Executive Council had put together $1.6 million in strike support from member unions.
This would allow the UFW, for the first time, to pay full strike benefits to picketers, which meant keeping them on the picket line instead of having to allow them to leave to find work.
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 31st, 2010, 9:31 pm

3. "Fighting for our lives"- the hot summer of 1973
So there were two picket lines in Coachella - one of UFW pickets, the other of Teamster guards - with a line of police in the middle trying to keep the peace. While charged with the task of enforcing injunctions granted to the growers, the police were relatively even-handed in supressing melees, and arrested Teamsters as well as UFW pickets.

The behavior of the Teamster guards was beginning to bring a lot of bad publicity to the IBT - publicity which bothered Fitzsimmons. After a calculated strategy to “escalate the violence” in late June, Teamster assaults on UFW picket lines, not to mention the kidnapping and stabbing of a farmworker, and the arson of a farmworker's home while he and his family slept (though they managed to escape).

Following a number of "embarrassing incidents"- Fitzsimmons sent two fact-finders sent investigate the charges of violence. Amazingly, Cotner's goon squad mauled the investigators- the Teamster “goon squad” was disassembled. But it was too late- the thin edge of the Teamster wedge had been hammered home. Coachella growers had weathered the first assault, and the Teamster contracts stood.

Growers continued to flatly refuse to sign with the UFW - as long as the UFW insisted on the hiring hall.
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 31st, 2010, 9:32 pm

4. UFW strategy: "fill the jails"
The Teamster "guards" had been a good force with which to harass the picket lines, but as the season moved north to Delano, private grower guards and police proved willing to take over the job. Helicopters were brought in low to buzz the picketers, police officers pepper-sprayed and beat picketers with clubs, grower agents waved pistols and shotguns at strikers, a ranch foreman turned over picketer’s car with a bulldozer.

In response to the open collaboration of police forces with the growers, the UFW began a strategy of "filling the jails," challenging the county legal systems by massively, non-violently violating injunctions. In the last nine days of the grape contracts, 2,700 UFW picketers were arrested. When the Delano growers uniformly refused to sign with the UFW anyway, the struggle took on a desperate tone, including the arson of several fields.

Finally, tragically, in mid-August - a series of shootings and violent confrontations culminated in the death of two UFW picketers. Neither were killed by Teamsters- one was shot by a vigilante in a drive-by (who was not imprisoned, on the grounds that he was “scared for his life”), the other was chased down by a policeman and died following a beating (the policeman was not found guilty of negligence or mis-conduct).

In response, Chavez called off the strike indefinitely- “until the government etc etc”. The season was winding down anyway. The union's attention moved, once again, to the boycott and public pressure campaigns.
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 31st, 2010, 9:33 pm

The "hot" summer of 1973 - though it had badly tarnished the IBT's reputation - had been devestating in its consequences to UFW contracts. By the end of 1973, the UFW had lost all but 14 out of 147 contracts, covering not more than 6,500 workers; while the Teamsters could claim contracts covering more than 30,000 field workers. Many observers predicted the end of the UFW.

George Meany, President of the AFL-CIO, considered the strike a failure, because it had yielded no contracts despite the AFL-CIO's large "investment." Meany also disliked the secondary boycott- and recieved significant pressure from the Retail Clerks Union, who did not want to be put in the position of crossing a picket line (which they were compelled to do by Taft-Hartley). Meany agreed to back the boycott only after the UFW agreed to drop the secondary aspect (ie pulling back on the boycott of supermarket chains which carried Teamster lettuce).

Teamsters campaigned against the boycott. Allied with A&P and Safeway, they began a campaign advising consumers to buy Teamster lettuce. Studies suggest that the lettuce boycott was not as effective as the grape boycott had been (because it's a staple?, demand supplemented by large Army purchases of lettuce, though at reduced prices).
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 31st, 2010, 9:36 pm

5. Resolution: Employer “neutrality” under the Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA)
The defeats of 1973 had convinced Chavez and the leadership of the UFW of the necessity of farm labor law.
Without a process to legally challenge the IBT contracts, there was simply no mechanism to force the majority of growers to sign with the UFW. If the growers were capable of standing together (as they had in '73), the majority could simply refuse to sign, and together represented too great a diversity of products to mount an effective boycott.

The UFW campaigned for a farm oversight board, but republicans in the state senate blocked it. Then the political tides began to shift to the UFWs benefit. In November 1973, Jerry Brown, Jr. was elected to replace Ronald Regan as Governor of California. In his inaugural address, Brown highlighted a comprehensive farm labor law as a top priority. Here was the man, finally, who would forge a compromise on farm labor. Over the summer of 1974, Brown worked intensively with each group to craft a bill.
called the Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA). The UFW rallies and pickets the Gov's office.

By 1975 the law passed- and it contained many pro-UFW measures- including the re-voting of all Teamster farmwork contracts, but relying heavily on board appointments. This law, the Agricultural Labor Relations Act, went into effect in September 1975.

The law made it mandatory that all existing representation agreements be ratified by vote, preserved the right to secondary boycott, but not the "hard" secondary boycott, the right to harvest-time strikes, but not recognition strikes, provided for rapid elections, and a controversial "access" rule which allowed union organizers time to approach workers on the farms.

The law was to be overseen by a five-person board to be appointed by the new Governor, with a general counsel who determined the cases to be heard. Gov. Brown assured the parties he would appoint a balanced board, a promise which the growers and Teamsters felt he had reneged on when they learned the composition of the new board: 2 UFW-sympathetic, 1 grower-sympathetic, 1 Teamster-sympathetic, and 1 NLRB veteran who was regarded as neutral.

When the law went into effect in September 1975, the immediate demand for elections was nearly overwhelming - the first five months of the act, 604 election petitions were filed, and 423 elections were held. 40,000 farmworkers voted? 23,000 UFW, 13,000 Teamsters (about)?
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 31st, 2010, 9:38 pm

5. Election Results under the ALRA, September 1975-February 1976
423 elections were held, a total of 47,812 farmworkers voted, and 870 ULPs were filed. The UFW got votes in a 2-to-1 ratio with the IBT, and won elections in a 3-to-2 ratio, with about 7500 workers voting "no union," an approximately 1-to-10 ratio with union votes.
The Teamsters’ still-respectable showing was reflective of the IBT's edge on farms where they already had contracts - the Teamsters filed elections to protect 142 contracts, and won 92 of them. The UFW, on the other hand, filed for elections even where they had done no previous organizing. In elections where the two unions competed on the ballot, "no union" won in only 4 out of 172 elections.

In all, the UFW won 192 elections in the first year of the law, the IBT 115.
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 31st, 2010, 9:39 pm

Then, in February, the ALRB, the agency tasked with supervising the process, ran out of money. Their budget, which had been intended to last a full year, had been used up in just 6 months.

By February 1976, the ALRB ran out of funding. Further funding was blocked by growers and the IBT in an attempt to leverage changes in the law. The UFW effectively blocked the changes, and mounted a campaign for a ballot initiative, Proposition 16, which would provide automatic funding for the board, as well as a number of other changes, including strengthened provisions to access workers on the farms.

Re-funding of the ALRB. It was not possible to withdraw ballot provision. Loss on Proposition 16 despite intensive campaign. Extremely expensive grower campaign focused on “private property” and anti-immigrant imagery.

In the second year, the UFW picked up 33 more contracts, the IBT only 10.

Summary of ALRA Election results. Teamsters defended about 1/2 of their standing contracts, for about 23,000 (check***) jobs under contract.

Teamsters negotiated a new 5-year agreement with the UFW. Signed March 1977, represented an end to the conflict.

Although some feared a re-ignition of the conflict when the IBT refused to renew the pact in 1982, this proved unfounded.
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 31st, 2010, 9:52 pm

This case is interesting in a number of different dimensions. I've tried to narrow the scope by highlighting only the conflict between the two unions, which leaves out a number of interesting and important parts of the story; most notably, the sad, rapid decline of the UFW during the mid '80s.

The first hypothesis I would like to advance is that (1) the conflict between the UFW and the IBT was not the cause of the UFW's decline. While the Teamsters clearly cooperated with the growers, they were only effective at forestalling, not defeating, farmworker unionization. I think this is clearly proven by the fact that the UFW had a second peak of membership after the IBT withdrew from fieldworker organizing.

To those who would argue that slowing the UFW was the key factor in their defeat, I'm not sure I have a fully satisfying answer, except to say that the growers had other methods of fighting the UFW, and that (2) the inclusion of the Teamsters expanded the scope of the farmworker organizing effort, and so- in some ways- actually sped up the growth of the UFW, even though it also clearly played the contradictory role.

(Now, there is the possibility that while the Teamsters did not directly defeat the UFW, they forced the UFW to make compromises that critically weakened them. I'll deal with such claims later in hypotheses 4, 5 and 6)
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 31st, 2010, 9:55 pm

Hypothesis: (3) A conflict between the UFW and the IBT was a necessary and productive part of the organizing process in the agricultural industry. There was no way that the Teamsters could have "just stayed out of it," because workers represented by the Teamsters were in the same industry. A UFW strike was bound to impact the IBT- therefore a relationship between the two unions was necessary. Indeed, key victories in grapes (1967 and 1970) were accomplished with aid from the Teamsters organization. It's insufficient to say that the IBT "should have just united with their union brothers," because some kind of coordination was clearly necessary. Furthermore, the tenor of bargaining in packinghouse, cannery/processing contracts was going to change dramatically as a result of fieldworker organizing. There is no way the relationship was going to be without conflict.

There were three further ways in which the UFW/IBT rivalry majorly shaped the farmworker struggle: a) forcing the pace and specifics of the relationship between the UFW with the AFL-CIO; b) influencing the way in which farm labor law was written; and (to a lesser extent) c) adding to the pressures for a jurisdictional division of the agricultural industry.

A relationship with the AFL-CIO was underway before the involvement of the Teamsters, but clearly (4) the involvement of the IBT sped up the pace of, and strengthened, the connection between the UFW and the AFL-CIO. In particular, it forced Chavez to lean more heavily on the support of the less-radical George Meany and the Executive Council, as over Walther Reuther and the formerly-CIO unions. It's quite likely that such a shift was inevitable because of the shared Catholic unionism of Chavez and Meany.

To those who wish that the UFW's alliances could have remained "pure" and free of the conservativizing influences of the AFL-CIO: I'm not sure what to say to convince you, except that Chavez clearly shared your concerns, but the power of the growers changed his mind. In the end, he got support from the AFL-CIO almost totally on his terms (the only exception to this is that he had to back away somewhat from the secondary boycott from 1973-5 in order to secure Meany's backing).
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 31st, 2010, 9:57 pm

The passage of the ALRA was shaped by the involvement of the IBT, but I would argue that (5) The passage of the ALRA was most necessary, not for the struggle against the Teamsters, but to win against the growers. This was always the position of the UFW (thought that doesn't necessarily make it correct), who fought for inclusion in the NLRA until it became clear that some of the restrictions of the NLRA would hamper them, then they fought for a special labor law, which they got on most of the important points. By the account of William Grami in interviews, the Teamsters did not have a major voice in shaping the law.

There is clearly a difficult question for unionists contained here, i.e. is the power of the state a necessary contributor to union struggles or does it always ultimately represent an impediment? Several important scholars, such as David Montgomery, come down on the "impediment" side. It's my belief, however, that alteration of state structures is necessary in order for unionists to win. At the very least, the offensive weapons of employers- in this case, most pressingly, the bracero program- must be blunted or entirely dismantled before any major victories can be accomplished. This extends to laws regulating union representation, i.e. the legal obligation for employers to recognize and bargain with the collective instruments of their employees. Of course, unionists cannot afford to "rest on their laurels" and lazily expect the law to continue to protect them- inevitably the same laws which once protected unions will be distorted over time to entrap them.

Lastly, I propose that (7) a jurisdictional division of the industry was necessary until farmworker labor was on a roughly equal footing to packinghouse, trucking, and processing workers. One of the arguments the Teamsters made when they were organizing field workers was that they were the bona fide "industrial" union- that Chavez et al would divide and weaken the bargaining power of workers in agriculture. While from a "fundamentalist" position this is clearly correct, I would argue that the actual route there is complicated. Field labor was so disadvantaged in relation to packinghouse and processing labor that a significant force was needed to prevent field workers from being brought in in the manner of "step-children," much as they were in the Antle contract (see Background: Teamsters).

There are three ways I can imagine farmworkers achieving parity with other workers in the agricultural industry: a) a separate field-worker union; b) an organizing committee sponsored by an international with industrial jurisdiction (e.g. the Teamsters) which would defend the newly-organized workers against the contradictory interests of the established cannery locals; c) a rank-and-file strategy of farmworker unionists, who would essentially join the IBT with the understanding that they would face a second struggle to attain equal rights within the organization. Of these strategies, the first (which was taken) seems preferable to me, because the second was impossible, and the third entails difficulties far greater than the first (i.e. getting recognition for a political struggle against the leadership of your own union, likely without the benefit of your best leaders, who would be far more easily singled out and removed).
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