Delano Grape Strike

Delano Grape Strike

Larry Itliong speaks into a microphone at a picket calling for a Safeway boycott. San Francisco, California, 1968. Photo by John Kouns.


On Wednesday, September 8, 1965, 800 mostly Filipino workers stroke 10 Delano grape growers, demanding to be paid $1.40 an hour plus 25 cents per box. Larry Itliong and Ben Gines, two organizers of the AFL-CIO’s Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), called for workers to strike, following their success of previous strikes in the Coachella Valley. Weeks before, on August 23, Itliong sent registered letters to the Delano growers, asking for a meeting to discuss wages and labor conditions. All but two were returned unopened. On Monday, September 6, Itliong chaired a meeting at the Filipinos Hall to consider options, and on Tuesday, Sept. 7 the workers voted to strike. The decision “became one of the most significant and famous decisions ever made in the entire history of the farmworkers struggles in California,” said Philip Vera Cruz, a third union organizer who pushed for the strike and who would remain, together with Itliong, active in organizing farmworkers for years to come. The workers were reluctant to picket employers they had known for years, and they decided to sit in at their camps, simply refusing to go to work. Meals would be provided at Filipino Hall by AWOC, housing if needed as well, and a $35 per month strike benefit. By Friday, 1,000 workers were reported to be on strike and the growers started to evict strikers from their homes in the camps. That same day, the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) put out a leaflet calling on its members to support the strike. The alliance formed in the days to come by these two unions would transform farm labor in California and the United States.

Philip Vera Cruz. Delano, CA, 1966.

Philip Vera Cruz. Delano, California, 1966. Photo by Emmon Clarke.

Larry Itliong talking on the phone. Delano, CA, 1966.

Larry Itliong talking on the phone. Delano, California, 1966. Photo by Emmon Clarke.


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