Tulare Rent Strike

Tulare Rent Strike

Little girl standing on a road at a labor camp, CA, ca. 1960-1961. Photo by John Kouns.

The housing crisis among farmworkers sparked NFWA efforts to close and reform the camps. One example was the Tulare rent strike organized by Gilbert Padilla and Rev. Jim Drake in March 1965. The Migrant Ministry organizers had learned from the workers about the bad conditions in the Woodville and Linnell camps. These camps were built by the Farm Security Administration (FSA) in 1938 and had 440 small one-room shacks made out of heavy tin or wood siding with tin roofs. The government meant them to last only ten years.

House at a labor camp, CA, ca. 1960-1961. Photo by John Kouns.

In the 1940s the FSA provided shelter in the camps to the farm workers without charging them. By the 1950s the FSA gave the camps to the Tulare County Housing Authority which started charging rents ($18 to $38 a month by 1964). In 1965 the authority wanted to raise the rent by as much as 47 percent.

Three children standing in front of housing at a labor camp, CA, ca. 1960-1961. Photo by John Kouns.

After hearing the residents’ complaints Padilla, David Havens of the Migrant Ministry, and Jim Drake decided to organize a rent strike. The tenants refused to pay the rent hikes and kept paying the old rates. The tenants organized a seven-mile march from Linnell to Visalia on July 16. The march of 350 farmworkers and supporters brought about an investigation into the Tulare County Housing Authority. Before the summer was over, the rent increases were formally rescinded, and new buildings were constructed (the court ruled the rent hike was in bad faith).


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