UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 31st, 2010, 9:10 pm

2. A "stab in the back"
The president of the IBT most likely wanted a settlement with the UFWOC, but Bill Grami was also telling growers that he would "be around if the negotiations with the UFW broke down."
Chavez says ”a stab in the back”
Even as the IBT and the UFWOC were negotiating, more growers were signing onto the IBT contracts. Teamster contracts eventually covered as many as 50,000 workers at 170 farms. Unlike the first group of contracts, they extended far beyond areas of UFWOC influence, including vegetables and row-crops all the way to Arizona.
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 31st, 2010, 9:15 pm

3. Reaction of farmworkers to the Teamsters
The presence of Teamster organizers in the fields was galvanizing farmworkers loyalties. Workers in the coastal valleys were given two choices: a union which would support a strike, or one which would not. Farmworkers, particularly in the coastal valleys, were ready for acts of resistance against their employers.
When the details of the new Teamster contracts began to get out the contrast between the two unions grew even more stark. Teamster contracts contained wage increases well below what the UFWOC were demanding, and, unlike Teamster contracts for packinghouse and other workers, these farmworker contracts called for no hiring halls and no ranch committees, two of the key points of the UFWOC's organizing strategy. No ranch committees meant that there was no on-the-job grievance resolution- all grievances would have to be referred to an IBT rep.

The clear "second-class citizenship" the Teamster union offered Mexican and Chicano farmworkers continued to inflame the civil rights sentiments which many Mexican-Americans were feeling. The widely-felt racism of Teamster leadership in the cannery locals, and the more-or-less blatant cooperation between the IBT, growers, and contractors; all these factors created the conditions for an upsurge of support for Chavez and the UFWOC.

The growers announced through a spokesman that they would stand by the IBT contracts, which they claimed were legally binding, and went on to say that, if necessary, they would sue the Teamsters to enforce them.

This was the final straw, a strike was unavoidable.
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 31st, 2010, 9:16 pm

4. The Lettuce Strike
On Sunday August 23rd, three weeks after the first rally, the UFWOC held a second huge strike rally. The next day, a strike of more than 7,000 farmworkers at 140 farms began what the L.A. Times called “the largest farm strike in California history.”
Chavez, who was in the middle of a fast, did not attend, but sent a statement urging UFWOC members to commit themselves to non-violence.

The UFWOC commitment to non-violence would be sorely tested, especially when William Grami brought in a group of IBT "guards." The Teamster guards- in addition to holding sullen picket lines of their own- began a campaign of terrorizing UFWOC leadership and supporters. The second day of the strike, the UFWOC's lead counsel was beaten into a coma which lasted four days. Once again, the Seafarers’ Union sent in their heavies to protect the UFW.

The racial, national, and anti-communist tensions in Salinas were running high, and being heightened by grower-backed "Citizens' Committees." A number of beatings, hospitalizations, and several non-fatal shootings (one, of a Teamster organizer by UFW picketers), and an explosion which blew the front door off a UFWOC field office followed, and highlighted the general tensions.
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 31st, 2010, 9:17 pm

5. UFW boycott strategy
Unable to challenge the Teamster contracts through the courts or the NLRB, the UFWOC leadership focused their pressure on the large corporate growers- who were particularly vulnerable to boycott- among them Inter Harvest, a subsidiary of the giant United Fruit Corporation, whose recognizable “Chaquita” brand bananas accounted for nearly 60% of the company's revenues. A week into the strike, Inter Harvest gave in and signed a contract on far better terms than the IBT contracts.
The other growers were furious- two local vice presidents of Inter Harvest resigned in protest, and the "Citizens' Committees" began a picket of their own, blocking Inter Harvest trucks from leaving with produce for over a week. Teamsters also manned the picket line, although Bill Grami denied it. Increasingly, he was distancing himself from the actions of the IBT guards.

Over the next weeks, 5 more corporate growers broke ranks and signed UFWOC contracts. Together with the Inter Harvest contract, the contracts covered about 7,000 peak-season jobs.
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 31st, 2010, 9:17 pm

6. The Salinas Injunctions
Many growers had already gotten injunctions against the UFWOC, but in mid-September, a Salinas judge handed down the most restrictive injunction yet- which essentially banned all UFWOC picketing in Salinas.
The injunction was based on a California State Law prohibiting "jurisdictional" picketing. The employers, the ruling suggested, were neutral third parties caught in the middle of an inter-union struggle. This unprecedented legal restriction on picketing, combined with a dwindling strike fund and the approaching end of the harvest season, effectively shifted the UFWOC's focus from maintaining the strike towards promoting the boycott, consolidating areas of union strength, and extending unionization outside the rival areas.
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 31st, 2010, 9:18 pm

7. A final gesture of resistance

Chavez supporters outside
Kern County Courthouse
Their final salvo in 1970 was an act by Chavez of symbolic defiance of another injunction against boycotting, for which he was jailed for 21 days, to be finally released on Christmas Eve. During his sentencing, 3,000 farmworkers surrounded the courthouse and filled its halls, kneeling and standing in silent vigil.

Following the virtual cessation of strike activity, the Teamsters announced that although the vegetable contracts would stand, the IBT would not enforce them. Importantly, they would not require exclusive Teamster membership.

Despite Teamster interference, by the end of the 1970 harvest the UFWOC had managed to further extend its membership and influence, building on the 3-year contracts in grapes signed at the beginning of the season. However, the restrictive injunctions against picketing presented an impediment for the UFWOC.
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 31st, 2010, 9:19 pm

8. Resolution: a “de facto” peace
Despite the difficulty of the struggle with the IBT- and the confident predictions of puff theorists that the Teamster organization would overwhelm the upstarts- the UFWOC was for the first time administering tens of thousands of workers through their hiring halls, and collecting regular dues. This new financial stability allowed the UFWOC to become a full-fledged union within the AFL-CIO, changing its name to the United Farm Workers Union (UFW).
For the Teamsters, the deal had been a mixed bag. On the one hand, they had gathered up contracts covering a large number of dues-paying members. On the other, the collaboration with the growers and the violence of the Teamster guards had rebounded negatively both internally and externally. In November, a Teamster cannery local in Modesto conducted a series of meetings in which members accused Teamster leadership of misappropriation of union funds, resulting in the ouster of the local president, who had been a leader of a notorious group of IBT guards. Groups of rank-and-file Teamsters organized to support the UFW.
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 31st, 2010, 9:21 pm

The growers, for their part, were satisfied that the deal with the IBT had slowed the growth of the UFW. They now shifted their strategy, and began organizing- principally through the American Farm Bureau- to pass laws which, though presented as "NLRA-style," were filled with measures to hog-tie farmworker organization. Despite the Farm Bureau's multi-million dollar effort, the UFW defeated anti-farmworker laws in Congress, and in every state where they were introduced, with the exception of Arizona.

In the last days of 1972 the UFW would win another victory: the California Supreme Court struck down the Salinas injunctions against picketing, on the grounds that the UFW's actions could not be considered a "jurisdictional strike," because the growers had not demonstrated support for the IBT among the workers. It was only a partial victory, however- although it eliminated the injunction against the strike, the contracts were still considered legal, and would continue to present a block to the UFW.
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 31st, 2010, 9:22 pm

SECTION III: The State-Wide Struggle

California, 1973-1977



IBT President Frank
Fitzsimmons speaks to
the American Farm
Bureau
Routed in their attempts to politically outflank the UFWOC, at the end of 1972 agri-business turned back to an alliance with the Teamsters. This would be the growers first big move to eliminate the UFW once and for all. The farm valleys of California were the stage for a summer-long showdown of far greater ferocity than had been seen in 1970.

In January, Grami and the growers re-opened the Salinas agreements, which now included 156 growers, to give wage and benefit parity with what the UFW was demanding.

The hiring hall- and the ranch committees- were now the main issues separating the two unions.

In 1973, the UFW's 3-year contracts in grapes- the union's stronghold- were due to expire; beginning in March, and moving with the growing season from South to North, finally reaching Delano- the site of the earliest farmworkers victories- on July 29.

With nothing holding them to bargain with the UFW, the growers simply chose to switch to IBT contracts.
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Re: UFW & IBT (1966-1977)

Postby wes » March 31st, 2010, 9:25 pm

1. Teamster Strategy
The IBT- led once again by Bill Grami- began a two-part campaign against the UFW. In the north, Grami tried to shed- or at least confuse- the “sweetheart” image of the Teamsters. In the South, quite a different kind of campaign was on order.
In Northern California, Grami saw to it that the contracts, in addition to providing wages and benefits equal to those in UFW contracts, looked better than the old ones. The Teamsters set up a network of well-funded service centers, hired a locally-recruited Latino staff, and offered a procedure to resolve grievances (though IBT commitment to this last measure was half-hearted and the grievance procedure was ultimately suspended).

The second part of the IBT strategy was in the South, where the grape season would begin. Bill Grami sent hardened organizer Ralph Cotner to Coachella, to where the first UFW grape contracts expired. There, Cotner would forge thousands of signatures on petitions requesting representation by the IBT as a showing of "worker support." Once again, a goon squad was assembled- to harass and harry UFW picket lines, and to keep scab workers in the fields.
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