Lesson
Duration:
One 50-minute class period

California Grape Workers’ Strike: 1965–66

Essential Questions

How can people work together to raise their voices and demand the rights they have been denied?

Learning Objectives

  • Students will reflect on the impact it has when groups are made invisible to the rest of society.
  • Students will explore the events of the first year (1965–66) of the Delano grape strike.
  • Students will analyze the strategies used in the farmworkers’ movement.

Overview

In this lesson, students will learn about the initial phase of the grape workers’ strike that occurred in California’s San Joaquin Valley from 1965 to 1966. The strike lasted until 1970, when most grape growers signed contracts with the United Farm Workers union. After exploring images related to the farmworkers' movement, students will watch a video that explains the events that occurred in the first year of the strike. Then, students will analyze the strategies used during this period of the farmworkers’ movement and reflect on the impact these strategies had.

Context

In 1965, grape workers in the San Joaquin Valley in California went on strike to demand higher wages and better work conditions. Many farmworkers were denied a living wage or basic necessities, such as sufficient housing, healthcare, or education for their children.1 The strike began mainly with workers of Filipino ancestry, organized by Larry Itliong and the union called the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC).2 At the time, César Chávez and Dolores Huerta led another union in the San Joaquin Valley, the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), which was comprised mostly of Mexican-American farmworkers. The NFWA decided to support the strike, and in 1966, the two unions merged into the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (United Farm Workers).3

The grape workers strike lasted from 1965 to 1970. In 1966, César Chávez led a march from Delano in the San Joaquin Valley to Sacramento, to draw attention to the strike. The march succeeded in bringing national attention and the first negotiations between vineyard owners and the union. However, most of the growers continued to refuse to negotiate with the union, and the United Farm Workers organized a national boycott of grapes to place additional pressure on the growers. Many consumers were sympathetic to the strike and refused to buy grapes, and grocery stores followed suit by refusing to stock non-union grapes. By 1969, grape sales in the United States had dropped 30–40% as a result of the strike and boycott.4 In 1970, all the major grape growers in the San Joaquin Valley agreed to negotiate with the United Farm Workers, and the resulting agreement granted workers a 6% wage increase and recognized the right of the union to negotiate on behalf of farmworkers in the future.5

Citations

  • 1 Elizabeth Martínez (ed.), 500 Años del Pueblo Chicano/500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures (Albuquerque: Southwest Community Resources, 1990).
  • 2 Craig Scharlin and Lilia Villanueva, Philip Vera Cruz: A Personal History of Filipino Immigrants and the Farmworkers Movement (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2011).
  • 3 Marc Simon Rodriguez, Rethinking the Chicano Movement (New York: Routledge Press, 2014).
  • 4 Marc Simon Rodriguez, Rethinking the Chicano Movement (New York: Routledge Press, 2014).
  • 5 Marc Simon Rodriguez, Rethinking the Chicano Movement (New York: Routledge Press, 2014).

Notes to Teacher

  1. Set up the Gallery Walk

    Prepare the Gallery Walk (activity 2) in advance by printing the images from the handout Gallery Walk Images: Farmworkers’ Movement and displaying them around the classroom on walls or tables.

  2. Shorten the Lesson if Needed

    If you are unable to complete this lesson’s activities in one class period, skip activity 4 or assign it to students as homework.

Materials

Activities

  1. Warm Up Journal Response
    • Tell students that in this lesson, they will be learning about a strike organized by farmworkers on vineyards in Delano, California. One of the organizers of this strike, Dolores Huerta, gave a speech at a rally in Sacramento, California, on April 10, 1966. Read aloud or project this excerpt from her speech:
      Today our farm workers have come to Sacramento. To the governor and the legislature of California we say you cannot close your eyes and your ears to us any longer. You cannot pretend that we do not exist. You cannot plead ignorance to our problems because we are here and we embody our need for you. And we are not alone.6
    • Explain to students that Huerta was part of a movement protesting the inhumane conditions that farmworkers endured. According to the film Prejudice and Pride, which students will watch a clip of in this lesson, these workers were “invisible” to most Americans.
    • Ask students to reflect in their journals on the following questions:
      • Write about a time you felt invisible to others. What were the circumstances? What made you feel invisible? How did you respond?
      • What might be the consequences if an entire group is made to feel invisible or ignored?
  2. Explore Images of Farmworkers
    • Tell students that in this activity, they will be exploring images related to the farmworkers’ movement in California. 
    • Before viewing the images, briefly go over the events of the strike, using the California Grape Workers’ Strike Timeline to provide students with context.
    • Explain the Gallery Walk and See, Think, Wonder teaching strategies to your students. Ask students to spend 15 minutes examining the five different images that you’ve displayed around the room from Gallery Walk Images: Farmworkers’ Movement. Students should bring a notebook with them and for each image, they should write down answers to the following questions:
      • What do you see? What details stand out?
      • What do you think is going on? What makes you say that?
      • What does this make you wonder? What broader questions does this image raise for you?
    • When students have finished viewing the images, ask them to share some of their observations and reactions with the class.
  3. Watch a Video Clip about the California Grape Workers’ Strike
    • Distribute the handout California Grape Workers’ Strike Viewing Guide to students, and then place them in small groups of three to four.
    • Play the first clip of the film Prejudice and Pride (3:30-7:18). Pause the film and give students time to discuss the corresponding questions on the handout with their groups. 
    • Repeat with the remaining two clips from the film (7:18-12:25 and 12:25-18:30). Pause after each clip to give students time to discuss in their small groups.
  4. Analyze Farmworkers’ Strategies
    • As a class, drawing on what students learned through watching the video, brainstorm a list of the strategies that the farmworkers used during the strike to push for their rights, and write them on the board. 
    • Then, return to the images from Gallery Walk Images: Farmworkers’ Movement that students viewed during the Gallery Walk activity at the beginning of the lesson. 
    • Ask students to select one image that they think represents one of the strategies from the list you generated on the board. Students should write a short reflection on the image, using the following prompts:
      • What strategy do you think this image depicts? 
      • What impact did this strategy have on the farmworkers’ movement?
  5. Final Reflection

    Use the Think, Pair, Share teaching strategy to lead a final discussion on what students learned during the lesson. Ask students to discuss:

    • What strategies did the farmworkers use to call attention to their unjust circumstances? 
    • How effective were those strategies? 
    • What role did individual workers play in the process? What role did leadership play?

Citations

Extensions

Teach about Nonviolent Strategies in Social Movements

Dolores Huerta and César Chávez used nonviolent action in their efforts to push for farmworkers’ rights. Use our lesson Six Steps for Nonviolent Social Change to teach students about the overall strategy of nonviolence by identifying how these steps played out during one important struggle of the civil rights movement: the student protests in Nashville to end segregation.

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