"The first principal of non-violent action is that of non-cooperation with everything humiliating."
Cesar Chavez spoke those words more than 30 years ago while the United Farm Workers was in the midst of the first table grape boycott. It was a hard and bitter struggle. Yet, Cesar was convinced that non-violent action was the only way to insure victory.
He was right. Thanks to that first grape boycott, farm workers won union contracts that ensured decent wages, medical care, a pension plan, even fresh drinking water and clean toilets in the fields.
Labor laws have gone unenforced resulting in miserable working conditions. Men and women are being exploited for poverty wages, young children labor beside their parents, while sexual harassment, racial slurs and other abuses are common.
It was in response to these deteriorating conditions, along with the discovery that toxic pesticides sprayed on grapes threaten farm workers and their children, that in 1984, Cesar Chavez called on consumers to return to the boycott of all non-UFW California table grapes-including "organic" grapes.
Many of the most dangerous chemicals, that the UFW specifically targeted in our current grape boycott, that are used in agriculture have either been banned or are currently being phased out of use.
The UFW recently had a major court victory concerning the grape boycott. As is usually the case with successful boycott efforts, agribusiness tried to fight back in an attempt to stall union victories. Jn 1991 the California Table Grape Commission convinced the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) to file a complaint against the UFW. Through this complaint growers sought to gain monetary awards for damages caused by the boycott. Not surprisingly, the ALRB, dominated by political appointees of former CA Governor George Deukmejian (R), ruled in favor of the grape growers.
The UFW appealed the ruling and in December 1995, the State Appeals Court ruled California table grape growers cannot use government resources to prosecute the UFW over its boycott on grapes. In April 1996, the State Supreme Court refused to hear the growers appeal affirming Cesar Chavez' conviction and keeping the door open for the UFW to participate in grape boycott activities in front of targeted stores.
The farm workers' greatest power continues to lie in the hands of ordinary people, who choose to participate in this simple act of non-cooperation with injustice and indignity. Please continue with the struggle--