Eliseo Medina

Eliseo Medina

Eliseo Medina writing on a chalkboard, Delano, ca. 1966. Photo by Emmon Clarke.

Eliseo Medina joined the Delano grape strike when he was a 19-year-old and quickly became one of the closest aides to César Chávez. He was born in 1946 in the Mexican city of Huanusco, Zacatecas, and moved to Delano, California, with his family when he was 10. At 15, he quit school and joined his family, his parents, and his two sisters, to work in the fields picking crops.

Eliseo Medina (right) lying on the grass, Delano, ca. 1966. Photo by Emmon Clarke.

When the grape strike broke out in Delano in 1965, Medina joined the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) and quickly became a charismatic organizer. He led the boycotting efforts in Chicago in 1967, organizing rallies, fundraisers, enlisting student and women’s groups, churches, and other civic organizations. In Florida, he successfully organized a lobbying effort against an agribusiness bill to ban hiring halls. He was elected to the United Farm Workers (UFW) Board of Directors in 1973 and defended the right of the union to bargain collectively against the growers’ effort to evade the policies of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA).

He became the second vice president of the UFW but left the union in 1978, after disagreeing with Chávez on the direction of the union, with Medina more focused on organizing and reaching for new contracts and Chávez more involved in other social and political activities. After leaving the UFW, he worked for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), where he served as the international executive vice president and as international secretary-treasurer, pressing to guarantee equal labor and civil rights protections for workers through immigration reform.

Eliseo Medina attending a meeting, Delano, ca. 1966. Photo by Emmon Clarke.

Eliseo Medina on why he joined the grape strike, 1965 (video)

Eliseo Medina tells the story of attending the union meeting on Sept. 16, 1965. Using crutches and afraid of what might happen, Medina went to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church community hall in Delano.  He recalls the excitement among workers and seeing Gilbert Padilla and César Chavez speak to the farmworkers.  At that meeting, workers of the National Farm Worker Association, including Medina, decided to join the grape strike that Filipino workers started on Sept. 8.

Eliseo Medina’s Oral History Videos (Playlist)


Tom & Ethel Bradley Center
California State University, Northridge

18111 Nordhoff Street, Northridge, CA 91330
Phone: (818) 677-1200 / Contact Us