Cesar Chavez

Tell us what you did
to help Cesar's cause

"Inter-Harvest Produce signs up"

Inter-Harvest Produce signs up

In the early 1970s I was working for Inter-Harvest Produce in Salinas, California as a produce inspector.  I would travel with the seasonal vegetable crops to different parts of California and Arizona.  I would check for quality of produce in the field before and during harvesting, as well as, in the packing sheds and vacuum coolers before shipping the produce.  I spent a great deal of time in the fields while the workers were cutting, wrapping and packing the lettuce crop.  I met and made friends with the field workers and their Formans.  I would hear stories of a quiet, gentle man named Cesar Chavez, who did a lot of festings and marched alongside many field workers of the grape vineyards of Delano to protest the harsh treatment of the Growers.  Fair, humane treatment, better wages and medical benefits were at the top of list of demands.  Stories were circulating amongst the field workers of Inter-Harvest as to whether he would come to the lettuce fields of Salinas and do the same for them.  People were confused and uncertained as to the level of their involvement.  The workers needed to work to make ends meet.  Going on strike for an undetermined amount of time could cost them their jobs.  Growers were letting them know that other would quickly be replacing them if they decided to go with UFW but many wanted what Delano workers were already starting to get.  I met Cesar Chavez at one of his first visits to Salinas.  I attended many more rallies at the Union Hall off of Alisal Street and the park close to Hartnell College.  I saw Luis Valdez and Teatro Compesino perform skids on a flat trailer that served as a stage depicting the plight of farm workers and abuse of the growers.  One day as I was getting ready to leave a field site at noon time during the worker’s lunch time a UFW organizer, Danny Maldonado, whom I personally knew drove up and told me he had been trying to sign up some of the workers who wanted to join but the Formans would not let him in.  I walked Danny into the field and asked the Formans to let Danny do his job during the workers lunch time since it wasn’t company time.  The Forman told me that if I signed the sheet first then he could come in.  i did, and Danny went on to sign up the workers.  A few days later my supervisor asked me about the signing up and going against company policy.  I responded that I was in my lunch time as were the field worker and that I believed in the cause and the field worker’s right to better treatment.  My supervisor told me that he would let me know what ever decision would be taken.  Inter-Harvest field workers went on strike and I joined them as they chanted HUELGA, HUELGA, SI SE PUEDE, and sang DE COLORES.  Red flags with the black eagle were all over the place as we marched and demonstrated.  I can still see and feel the excitement and hope in people’s face as the Virgin de Guadalupe led the march.  Soon after Inter-Harvest became the first major produce company in Salinas to sign a contract with UFW to represent the field workers with their demands.  I do not want to presume that my involvement won the contract for UFW, rather show the many obstacles that farm workers had to bare with to get fair representation of their choice.  Oh, I did keep my job, until I decided to go back to college where I would join in boycotting Safe Way Store in Santa Barbara for selling Gallo Wines.