Cesar Chavez

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to help Cesar's cause

"My years on the picket lines"

My years on the picket lines

I was active in the grape, lettuce, and Gallo wine boycotts during my times as an undergraduate student at Michigan State University (1967-71) and as a graduate student at the University of Michigan (1971-76).  As an undergraduate at Michigan State I was part of a movement that eventually succeeded in getting the University to stop serving non-UFW grapes in the residence halls.  As a graduate student at Michigan I spent nearly every Satuday morning for several years picketing grocery stores (A&P, Wrigley) and convenience stores in support of the lettuce and Gallo boycotts.  On one occasion when I was picket captain at a convenience store in Ann Arbor, a youth group from a local Jewish congregation had joined our picket line.  Suddenly two sheriff’s deputies showed up and served us with a lawsuit by the store we were picketing.  Their orders were to serve everyone on the picket line, but the youth group leader and I convinced them to just serve the two of us since all of the youth group members were under 18 and picketing for the first time.  We ended up getting named in the lawsuit.  The store won on the first round, but nothing further ever came of it.  We just felt good that we were able to protect the kids from having to go through the hassle of appearing in court.

Other highlights of my boycott days included meeting Cesar Chavez at what had once been the mayor’s mansion in Detroit (an oddity is that we bowled on the bowling lanes in the mansion’s basement while waiting for him to arrive), singing “Solidarity Forever” at a UFW rally in the Detroit Cathedral, and going to a rural area near Kalamazoo with food and supplies to support a spontaneous farmworkers’ strike that had broken out there.