UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 30th, 2010, 9:27 pm

viii. Victory
The first victory of the Delano Grape Strike was an NFWA contract with Schenley Liquors, a corporation which owned vineyards in the strike zone. A nationwide boycott of Schenley products- broadly supported by labor and religious communities- had the potential to be far more damaging to the company than the cost of a union contract in its small vineyards.

Teamsters from a San Francisco Local also played a key role in the Schenley victory by tying up a distribution center by refusing to handle the boycotted products. In June 1966, Schenley signed a contract which included a 40% wage increase and a union hiring hall.
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 30th, 2010, 9:29 pm

SECTION I: First Engagements

June 1966-June 1967, Delano


The NFWA and the AWOC had earned national attention with their strike and boycott, and proven that they could challenge growers and win. Growers were putting in place plans to deal with this new threat.

Grower coalitions were already in place. In addition to the multiple injunctions which had been secured against labor action, and the creation of “citizen’s committees” against the union, the growers had been attempting to get their employees to join a grower-sponsored union, whose leadership was all foremen and contractors.

The Position of the IBT

The changes sought by the unions were a threat to growers, but they also created problems for the IBT. In the short term, strikes and boycott tactics had the potential to idle IBT workers- who depended on the steady flow of agricultural products for their jobs.

In the longer term, a more insidious threat to the Teamsters' position was that greater compensation for field laborers- who outnumbered Teamster agricultural workers by more than 3-to-1- would inevitably disrupt the "prosperity in agriculture" which had given the Teamsters over a decade of relatively easy negotiations with growers over packinghouse and cannery contracts.

The UFW Organizing Committee (UFWOC), the precursor organization to the UFW, was formed in opposition to the Teamsters.
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 30th, 2010, 9:30 pm

1. Teamster William Grami
Image
To Bill Grami, an ambitious organizer in the Teamsters’ Western Conference, the shifting power dynamics in agriculture looked like opportunity. Grami hoped to rise to a position of power in the IBT by means of a simple proposition to the growers: sign contracts with us, avoid having to negotiate with the NFWA.
Delano, John Dunne (2007) wrote:Grami himself, choosing his words fastidiously,
always referred to the NFWA as the "Vietcong."
These contracts, negotiated directly with the employer, by the sheer number of workers involved, also meant significant dues-money for the Teamsters. Even better if the contract could follow in the footsteps of the one negotiated with Bud Antle, in which the Teamster Local collected “per head” for Mexican contract workers, but conferred no rights or even membership in the Teamsters union (see Background: Teamsters).

By securing these dues, Grami hoped he could win a position in the Teamster organization. He would be the main architect of the IBT’s Farmworker program, although he would ultimately be removed from the project.

The Teamster organization was undergoing a period of shifting power dynamics as well. The prolonged public campaign against Jimmy Hoffa was forcing him out of the seat of power. He promoted as his replacement a weak leader, named Frank Fitzsimmons, who he hoped would "keep his seat warm."

The aging director of the Teamster’s Western Conference was also due for replacement. Grami hoped to take his seat.

The growers had negotiated with the IBT for many years.
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 30th, 2010, 9:34 pm


Foremen
2. Elections
Soon after the Schenley victory, the largest grower in the Delano area- who had been targeted for the next union campaign- contacted the union saying they were willing to hold elections. Once again, the growers wanted a run-off against their company union made up of Labor Contractors and foremen. Soon enough, it became clear that the growers wanted the Teamsters on the ballot as well.
No sooner had the NFWA negotiators agreed in principle to joint elections with the IBT, the growers broke off negotiations and held unilateral elections according to rules which prevented striking workers the chance to vote. The NFWA and AWOC boycotted the elections, and sued to have their names taken off the ballot. Even though the Teamsters won the tilted election, the NFWA/AWOC gambit paid off- they were able to pressure the governor (who was running for re-election) to pressure the grower (who was sensitive to bad publicity), to hold another, mutually agreeable, election. The date was set for August 30, 1967.

The electoral rivalry with the IBT would test the strength of the NFWA and the AWOC. The inclusion of striking workers, some of whom had not worked at the farm for over a year,meant that a massive effort was necessary to collect every last vote.
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 30th, 2010, 9:38 pm

3. The UFWOC
The rivalry with the IBT had rallied the support of the AFL-CIO, which had a history of bad blood with the Teamsters, who had been expelled the federation in 1959.
The Reuther brothers quickly came to the support of the NFWA, and in part spurred by his rivalry of the formerly-CIO pair, Meany offered to merge the NFWA and the AWOC, and promised his funding of the merged group.

Under the pressure of the new election, Chavez agreed to the merger. The new group would be called the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC), with Chavez as President, Filipino Larry Itliong as Vice President, etc.
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 30th, 2010, 9:39 pm

4. A victory in Delano
The election was ugly. The Teamsters red-baited, the UFWOC called the Teamsters criminals. When Teamsters beat up two UFWOC organizers, the Seafarers union sent a dozen "bully boys" to keep the peace.
After an all-out effort for the election- including finding strikers who had gone as far as Texas, Arizona, and Mexico- the UFWOC staff waited to hear the results. Cesar read them out: “Teamsters-97, UFW-45” they had lost! Wait, hush, there’s more: "...in the packinghouses"! “UFW-530, Teamsters-331” They had won in the fields!

This victory translated into card-check agreements at other vineyards.
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 30th, 2010, 9:53 pm

4. The IBT second line
The Teamsters, after their electoral defeats, took a hard stand at the vineyards of a well-established agri-business family.
A strike lead by UFWOC members working at one large farm was broken when the Teamsters escorted buses full of scabs across the UFWOC picket line. All of the “replacement workers” were signed to the Teamsters.

The Teamsters' Bill Grami proceeded to join the owners in the claim that there "was no strike."

During the year that the Teamsters held the stolen contract, Bill Grami also negotiated a deal to acquire an independent farmworkers' union, which he merged into the IBT as a new local. Although the IBT failed to support the organizing drives that the independent union had already under way- in fact, Teamster members repeatedly crossed the new Local's picket lines- but Grami didn't hesitate to use the group's legitimacy to establish the claim that the IBT was sincere in its efforts to organize farmworkers.
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 30th, 2010, 9:54 pm

5. Resolution: The 1967 Teamster-UFW pact
The AFL-CIO, in collaboration with the newly-formed Catholic Bishop's Committee on Farm Labor, stepped in to mediate negotiations between the two unions, but for nearly a year there was no break in the employer-Teamster line.
As the 1967 harvest began to get under way, however, the growers signaled that they were increasingly unwilling to withstand the UFWOC's boycott.

The Teamsters organization was also being upended- Jimmy Hoffa was being sent to prison and thus removed from office, and the IBT presidency fell to Frank Fitzsimmons, a comparatively weak leader who was eager to re-join the AFL-CIO.

Fitzsimmons moved quickly to settle the contentious issue-the Teamsters would withdraw from their remaining fieldworker contracts, and Fitzsimmons would sign a "no-raiding" and jurisdictional agreement reaffirming the Teamsters' claim to packinghouse and support workers, and the UFW franchise to organize field laborer.
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 31st, 2010, 9:03 pm

SECTION II. The Teamster Shield

July-September, 1970, Salinas


Following the jurisdictional pact with the Teamsters in June 1967, the UFWOC continued the grape strike and boycott- with help, once again, from IBT Locals across the country- finally generalizing the strike and boycott on table grapes, which continued until it brought the last of the large vineyard-owners to the negotiating table in July 1970.

Even as these ground-breaking contracts in grapes were being finalized, agri-businessmen in other parts of the state were making plans to shield themselves from the UFWOC, and the IBT's Bill Grami was once again more than willing to help growers as part of his bid for power in the Teamsters.

On July 29, 1970, a group of 30 growers with farms in the coastal valleys of Salinas and Santa Maria announced that they had signed 5-year contracts with the IBT covering field labor, reportedly signed during a short IBT strike of packinghouse and field-truck workers. Teamster organizers began to circulate through the farms with authorization cards, and- even though the details of their new IBT contracts had not yet been released- workers who refused to sign IBT cards risked losing their jobs.
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 31st, 2010, 9:08 pm


Chavez in front of the crowd
1. Walk-outs and first rally in Salinas
The UFWOC already had strong supporters among the coastal workers- the lettuce cutters in Salinas and the berry pickers in Santa Maria were both very receptive to the UFW, and strongly self-organized. In fact, in the months before the resolution of the grape strike, the “lechugeros” (lettuce cutters) had sent two delegations to petition the UFWOC for strike support. At the announcement of the IBT contracts, a series of walk-outs supported by the UFWOC built over the next three days- culminating in a march and rally in the town of Salinas.

Private grower guard

A rally held in the college football stadium drew over 3,000 supporters, where Chavez called on farmworkers to authorize a UFWOC strike. In the meantime, Chavez told them, they should go back to the farms and strengthen the ranch committees; refuse to sign Teamster cards, but continue to show up for work.

After a short strike of nearly 1,000 berry pickers, 150 of whom had been fired for refusing to sign IBT cards, IBT President Fitzsimmons and William Grami entered negotiations and signed another "no-raiding" and jurisdictional pact. Fitzsimmons further agrees to sign recissions, formally withdrawing from almost all Teamster claims to field-worker contracts. William Grami, after stalling, refused to sign.
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