- Many lived in poverty as they work seasonally (134 days a year during the harvest) - lived in low quality rented acoommodation or makeshift farm camps with v basic facilities. Chicano families accounted for 80% of california welfare cases.
- No legal protection- difficult to organise and fight injustice.
- League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) - 1960s won important local victories on segregation, police brutality and voter registration.
- Organisations = no real support, many hispanics poorly educated, were not US citizens and hoped for eventual return to Mexico so avoided organisations because fearful they would be sent back to Mexico and even greater poverty.
WORK OF CESAR CHAVEZ
- Set up National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), first union for farmers and Mexican Americans.
1. Wanted union to provide welfare support for Chicano workers- set up credit union allowed workers to borrow money and established insurance scheme. Trad banks and insurance firms no interest in providing services to people living below the poverty line. NFWA membership grew from 200 in 1962, to more than 1200 in 1965.
2. Organise nat campaign to gain greater economic rights for farm workers - La Huelga = lasted 5 years and involved over 10,000 farm workers agaisnt grape growers. United Farm Workers formed. Chavesz organised non-violent demonstrations inc 340 mile march called the Pilgrimage to the offices of the Governor of California. UFW organised a national boycott of table grapes, supported at its peak by 17 mill Americans.
HOW SUCCESSFUL WAS THE CAMPAIGN?
- Strikes + boycotts were effective BUT took time, 1st success came in 1966 Schenley Vineyards negotiated a fair contract with farm workers.
- By 1970, UFW's activism forced the Delano grape producers to introduce wage increase, pay now nat minimum wage. Boycott + strike came to an end.
- California Agricultural Labor Relations Act 1975, gave agricultural unions legal rights, argicultural firms were required to neotiate with them by law.
- Helped galvanise Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants into activism - greater ethnic pride & purposefulness. Led local and nat gov to pay greater attention to mexican-american needs.
- SHORT LIVED - grower opposition, mechanisation and rising immigration weakened the UFW, 1980s members harvested 10% of grapes.
- Fed gov less sympathtic towards Hispanic Americans - had less voting power than the black population, so less political influence.