The film covered the following issues:
Delano Strike and Grape Boycott
What was the Delano Strike and Grape Boycott and why was it important?
The Delano Strike was a major turning point in the development of the a farm workers union and for creating solidarity across ethnicities. The ensuing grape (and lettuce) boycotts were key to building awareness, solidarity and support across the whole USA.
Background on Boycott
Origin of the Word
During the Irish ‘Land Wars’ in 1880, an Irish land agent Charles Boycott (on behalf of absentee landlord Lord Erne) decided to evict nonpaying tenants, the Irish Land League called upon people to stop working in the fields, stables and ihousehold; he was shunned by local businesses and the local postman. Local businessmen wouldn’t take his money, and the postman refused to deliver his mail. Boycott imported labor to harvest the crops, but the added expense consumed the revenues generated by the harvest. The term ‘boycott’ became widely used See wikipedia for quick summary or xxx for more details.
Prior U.S. Boycotts
Townshend Acts and Boston Tea Party: In June 1767, Parliament cut British land taxes, and tried to finance its troops in the Colonies by taxing the colonists, passing the Townshend Acts, which taxed items like paper, lead, glass, paint and tea shipped from England. They thought this might be better accepted than the Stamp Act (which taxed printed materials). The Colonists in New York and Boston ‘boycotted’ all British goods in August 1768 and were joined by Philadelphia New Jersey, Rhode Island and North Carolina. These were repealed in March of 1770, except for the taxes on tea. The Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773. (and we all know how well that turned out)
Civil Rights Movement boycotts: bus boycotts in Baton Rouge (1953) Montgomery (1955) and Tallahasse (1956) were directed towards ending segregation on the buses and were key moments in the development of the Civil Rights Movement.
The inspiration of Gandhi
Gandhi’s influence on the adoption of non-violence as a philosopy and method was significant for both the Civil Rights Movement and the farmworkers organization.
What has been Dolores’s relationship to feminism?
From the Interview with Hammer to Nail (part one), Christopher Llewlyn Reed September 27, 2018 (permissions pending)
See also part two
On representation of her family in the film Dolores role in the farm workers’ movement:
HtN: Yes, I agree. Any film (referring to Diego Luna’s 2014 Cesar Chavez) that sheds light on that important period of our history is worth watching, but it did have it’s not-insignificant flaws. But Rosario Dawson, just by virtue of who she is, is going to lend dignity to whatever role she plays. In any case, this new documentary bears your name, and speaking of flaws, you’re up there on the screen, flaws and all. It’s not a hagiography, particularly because of the inclusion of your family, many of whom talk about the difficulties of not having their mother around for parts of their childhood. I’m still amazed that you had 11 children! I’m in awe of that, actually. Did you have any reservations about having your family be a part of this documentary?
DH: Well, that’s what Peter decided to do. (laughs) But the one thing I do want to say is that in the farm workers’ movement, we always did have child care for the children. We had a Montessori school, and the kids were never alone; they always had somebody there with them. And, you know, I think that speaks to a lot of women who want to work, or go to school, and have to leave the children behind. And, of course, that’s one thing we need in our society, to have early childhood centers, especially when it comes to people who participate in civic life, because we need women’s voices, and we need women to be on all of these boards. If you have a bunch of guys there, sitting on boards, making decisions, without women, then they’re going to make the wrong decisions. One of the things we have to fight for is to get early childhood education, so that mothers – and fathers – can get engaged in public life.
HtN: And I think this film makes that case, for sure. It is a double standard, obviously, because men don’t generally think that they have to deal with the problem of children in the same way. Peter, could you describe some of the challenges unique to making this particular film? Did you have any difficulties obtaining archival footage? Were there any people whom you wanted to interview who did not want to be a part of the film?
PB: Yes. Without mentioning names, there were a few people that I reached out to who were not interested in participating. But by and large, most people – including those maintaining the archives – were more than willing to be a part of it. I would say that one of the bigger challenges was with Dolores, herself. What I find with activists, in general, is that their focus is always on the issues on the outside, and they always want to train the lens on what is happening around them. And so I think it was very difficult for her to have the narrative be solely about her.
So, I think that was a difficult process for her, which sometimes made it a difficult process for me. But there was a trust, early on, between her and me, and Carlos, and it’s also a very empowering thing to be able to tell your story, with your children. And they are all alright now; they’re currently all working for social justice in their different careers. And that they learned from their mother, so I thought it was really important to include their stories. And in that process, I think there was some letting go, for them, of some of the past resentment and pain that they may have been carrying. A few shared with me that just telling the story was…
PB: Cathartic. Yeah.
Read the rest of the interview here
Dolores explains the commitment to nonviolence
Watch this clip on how the film captures non-violence (permissions pending)
The NRDC provides a good explainer of environmental justice:
“Environmental justice is an important part of the struggle to improve and maintain a clean and healthful environment, especially for those who have traditionally lived, worked and played closest to the sources of pollution.
Championed primarily by African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and Pacific Islanders and Native Americans, the environmental justice movement addresses a statistical fact: people who live, work and play in America’s most polluted environments are commonly people of color and the poor. Environmental justice advocates have shown that this is no accident. Communities of color, which are often poor, are routinely targeted to host facilities that have negative environmental impacts — say, a landfill, dirty industrial plant or truck depot. The statistics provide clear evidence of what the movement rightly calls “environmental racism.” Communities of color have been battling this injustice for decades.“
The United Farm workers were among the first environmental justice activists in the USA. While their initial organizing focus was on pay and working conditions, by the later 1960s, the impact of pesticides on farm workers’ health became a major issue in their campaigning and negotiations. This article outlines the development of this as a major issue for the UFW in their negotiations and in their advocacy.
Alongside Cesar Chavez, Dolores helped to plan and lead the Delano grape boycott in 1965. This boycott began in sympathy with the Filipino farm workers; the boycott lasted over five years. While the Montgomery bus boycott had taken place a decade earlier, this boycott was different in kind, partly due to the type of consumer goods involved, and nationwide consumption of the goods. We visualize amber waves of grain, without thinking of the backbreaking work that goes into getting a crop from the field to the table.
The UFW called attention to the horrendous birth defects the children of the workers suffered because of exposure to dangerous pesticides. It was acceptable at that time to spray the laborers while they were in the field with no thought to their health. This is still very much a battle with the current EPA overturning pesticides that had been previously banned.
Today we automatically choose the ‘fair trade’ labeled coffee, tea or chocolate when shopping. Large scale tragedies like the death by fire of textile workers in Bangladesh will cause us to pause, for a moment at least in our consumption of ‘fast fashion’.
We can thank Dolores for raising our consciousness about our actions and choices and the consequences for the environment and on other people.
Below are links and sources for more information on the current state of affairs regarding labor and environmentalist, health equity and resources for advocacy on environmental justice policy:
Milman, O. Pesticide that Trump’s EPA refused to ban blamed for sickening farm workers. The Guardian 17 May 2017.
Robinson, D . How Unions and Environmentalists can work together. Scholars Strategy Network. August, 2014.
Dyer, T. Pesticides and the United Farm Workers: An Extension of the Struggle for Social Justice. The University of Puget Sound Fall 2004.
NRDC website Protect the Health of Low-Income Communities, accessed. March 2018
Ahmed, A. We can’t truly protect the environment unless we tackle social justice issues, too. Popular Science 26 February 2018.
Farm worker justice.or. Environmental Health, accessed. March 2018
Buford, T. What It’s Like Inside the Trump Administration’s Regulatory Rollback at the EPA. ProPublica 18 December 2017.
GASP.org. Why Environmental Justice?, accessed. March 2018.
Carmody, T. How The Flint River got so Toxic, 26 February 2016.
What does intersectionality mean and what is its relevance?
Featured Image: Mural painted by Yreina Cervántez. Located in Los Angeles, California at the First Avenue Bridge. The mural depicts the first female Mexican American union leader, Dolores Huerta. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tracemurphy/5689054378/in/photolist-
Author T. Murphy
Disclaimer: The screening of this film does not constitute an endorsement or promotion of the film, nor of any views expressed therein or any association with The Film Committee, DAUK, Democrats Abroad or the Democratic Party. Screenings are solely conceived as educational activities: offering an opportunity for members to discuss issues.
Links to other organizations or publications imply neither endorsement of their policies nor any association with the Democratic Party or Democrats Abroad – UK.