Dolores Huerta, a CSO activist joined César Chávez in the early years of the National Farm Workers Association and monumental building of the UFW.
For more than a century, farmworkers had been denied a decent life in the fields and communities of California's agricultural valleys. Essential to the state's biggest industry, but only so long as they remained exploited and submissive farmworkers had tried but failed so many times to organize the giant agribusiness farms that most observers considered it a hopeless task. And yet by the early 1960's things were beginning to change beneath the surface. Within another fifteen years more than 50,000 farmworkers were protected by union contracts.
The Bracero program, an informal arrangement between the United States and Mexican governments, became Public Law 78 in 1951. Started during World War II as a program to provide Mexican agricultural workers to growers, it continued after the war.
Public Law 78 stated that no Bracero --a temporary worker imported from México -- could replace a domestic worker. In reality this provision was rarely enforced. In fact the growers had wanted the Bracero program to continue after the war precisely in order to replace domestic workers.
The small but energetic National Farm Labor Union, led by dynamic organizer Ernesto Galarza, found its efforts to create a lasting California farmworkers union in the 1940's and 50's stymied again and again by the growers' manipulation of Braceros.
Over time, however, farmworkers, led by César Chávez, were able to call upon allies in other unions, in churches and in community groups affiliated with the growing civil rights movement, to put enough pressure on politicians to end the Bracero Program by 1964.
But some things hadn't changed. Grape pickers in 1965 were making an average of $.90/hour, plus ten cents per "lug" (basket) picked. State laws regarding working standards were simply ignored by growers. At one farm the boss made the workers all drink from the same cup "a
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