5 reasons why the Delano grape strike was so impactful

Senator Robert Kennedy (L) breaks bread with Union Leader Cesar Chavez as Chavez ended a 23-day fast in support of non-violence in the strike against grape growers. (Getty Images)

It might have been more than a half-century ago, but the impact of the Delano grape strike will always be felt -- not only in Hispanic history, but labor history in general.

On Sept. 8, 1965, a group of farmers who worked in grape fields went on strike to protest poor pay and working conditions in Delano, California.

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So, what exactly made the strike so historic?

Here are five ways the Delano grape strike was so unique and instrumental.

1. It brought Hispanics and Filipinos together.

(Photo by © Ted Streshinsky/CORBIS) (Corbis via Getty Images)

The strike began on Sept. 8, 1965, when members of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, which primarily consisted of Filipino-Americans, walked out, according to United Farm Workers.

But the group asked for help in the form of noted Hispanic labor leader Cezar Chavez, who led the National Farm Workers Association, which primarily consisted of Hispanic-Americans.

After taking a vote from his members, Chavez and his union joined the strike on Sept. 16, 1965, Mexican Independence Day.

The two unions worked together, sharing picket lines, food and a union hall.

2. It was strictly nonviolent.

(Photo by © Ted Streshinsky/CORBIS/) (Corbis via Getty Images)

While there was temptation to resort to violence against grape growers that abused workers, Chavez insisted on following the model of nonviolent protests.

3. Chavez became legendary with his methods of protests.

Cesar Chavez (L) shaking hands with John Giumarra Jr., representing 26 of the California's largest table grape growers, ending the five-year boycott of table grapes by Chavez's United Farm Workers. (Getty Images)

Chavez led by example and followed through on his ideas of nonviolent protests, coming up with other ways to get support behind the union.

He led a 300-mile march from Delano to Sacramento, went on a 25-day hunger strike that caused him to lose 35 pounds, organized boycotts of grapes and their distribution centers, and took to the streets of various cities to convey their message throughout the impasse.

4. It was a long strike.

(Photo by © Ted Streshinsky/CORBIS) (Corbis via Getty Images)

This standoff definitely wasn’t in the category of “short." It took nearly five years of being on the picket lines and personal sacrifices before an agreement was finalized in July 1970 after a sizable boycott of grapes.

5. There was a big victory won in the end.

(Photo by © Ted Streshinsky/CORBIS/) (Corbis via Getty Images)

The grape growers ultimately got what they fought so hard for, signing union contracts with higher pay, better benefits and enhanced protections.

The strike not only was a win for those workers in 1970, but it set a standard for the rights of farm workers all across America in future years.

(Photo by © Ted Streshinsky/CORBIS/) (Corbis via Getty Images)

About the Author

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.

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