Non-violence has suffered its biggest defeat in the hands of people who most want to talk about it.
Goals and Objectives
The workers had no toilets to use in the fields, and were forced to pay two dollars or more per day to live in metal shacks with no plumbing or electricity. On top of that, grape pickers were paid an average of 90 cents per hour, plus ten cents per basket picked, placing their families well below the poverty line.
His public-relations approach to unionism and aggressive but nonviolent tactics made the farm workers' struggle a moral cause with nationwide support. By the late 1970s, his tactics had forced growers to recognize the UFW as the bargaining agent for 50,000 field workers in California and Florida.
They reached out to Chavez and the NFWA, who gave him their support and expanded the strike's goals to include union contracts signed by the growers and laws allowing farm workers to unionize and engage in collective bargaining.
Message and Audience
Chavez first worked to learn what workers wanted. He drew a map of the Delano valley and pinpointed 86 towns to target, and then his volunteers fanned out across homes and grocery stores to distribute registration cards asking for a name, address, and answer to questions about their wages and lack of Social Security and unemployment benefits. He and other volunteers then went door-to-door to recruit supporters.
Growers smeared Chavez's coalition as a group of dangerous "outside agitators" who were disrupting a peaceful community; they insisted that the workers "are extremely happy. If they weren't, they would not be coming here…These men have chosen this type of work…We think that we have tried to better their lot."
At that point, 25 large growers entered into negotiations and signed contracts. 10,000 workers were now given formal union representation, a higher wage ($1.80 plus 20 cents for each box picked, as compared to the pre-strike wage of $1.10 an hour), a health insurance plan, and safety limits on the use of pesticides in the fields.