First United Farmworkers Headquarters Designated National Historic Landmark

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February 22, 2011
Photo by Stan Yogi
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On February 21, United States Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar joined UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta, union and political leaders, and members of Cesar Chavez's family for a ceremony dedicating Forty Acres, the UFW's original headquarters west of Delano, as a National Historic Landmark.

A 1965 grape strike started by Filipiino workers in the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, was joined within weeks by Mexican grape pickers affiliated with the National Farm Workers Association. Eventually the two unions merged into the United Farm Workers, led by Cesar Chavez.

At the time, farmworkers were specifically excluded from labor laws. A 1969 Senate Labor Committee reported that 95% of farm labor camps had no inside toilets or running water, and 99% were infested with rats and other vermin.

Child labor in the fields was common. Babies born to migrant workers suffered a 25% higher mortality rate than the rest of the population; malnutrition among migrant worker children was ten times higher than the national rate. Farmworkers suffered 250 times the rate of tuberculosis as the general population. A major cause of death was pesticide poisoning.

In 1967, the UFW called for an international boycott of grapes picked by non-union labor. In 1970, growers began signing UFW contracts which banned child labor and established a fair basic wage, as well as safety and pesticide controls.

In the late 1960s, Elaine Elinson, co-author of Wherever There's a Fight (pictured above), organized the grape boycott in Europe. In the early 1970s, she worked for the UFW at Forty Acres.

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