BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) – This month marks the 53rd anniversary of a farm labor strike that spanned the country and reached across oceans.
The Delano Grape Strike of 1965 was a watershed struggle for labor and civil rights. It was a David vs. Goliath type story that changed history.
Carolina Franco of Delano was 13 when she started working in the fields in the 1960’s.
“They didn’t have toilets. It was so embarrassing because we would have to find trees, canals, weeds, plants whatever to hide,” she remembered.
The pay was low, the hours were long. There were no benefits and conditions were deplorable.
“I was working with Shanley and I kept hearing this about ‘huelga!’ And ‘huelga!’ And I didn’t know what the word meant, “she said.
Franco would soon learn, huelga! meant strike.
In September 1965, Filipino farm workers were the first to walk out on strike against the grape growers.
A week later, they were joined by Mexican farm workers under the leadership of Cesar Chaves and Dolores Huerta.
Chaves called for a march from Delano to Sacramento to draw attention to the farm workers struggle.
Roberto Bustos was the captain of that march.
Despite a three-week treacherous journey through the backroads, some 10,000 farm workers reached the governor’s office in Sacrament on Easter Sunday, April 10, 1966.
The first labor contracts was eventually signed years later.