In Chicago, in the early 1970s, the UFW effort was “Boycott Lettuce” ! In addition to standing in front of grocery stores—week-ends mostly—some of us accepted a different type of challenge. Have you seen people standing on overpasses over expressways in various cities holding a sign or at least waving ? Well, we arose quite early those January mornings in order to stand on a specific overpass. By 7 a.m. week-days, four or five UFW supporters, including me, stood on an overpass over the Kennedy Expressway heading from the northwest suburbs to downtown. OUR signs said, “Boycott A & P” and “Boycott Lettuce.” They were HUGE ! Several pieces of canvas were used; we painted those words on them (one on each) in large, red letters. We held the canvases OVER the overpass for the greatest visibility.
Our target with those canvases was not only Chicago shoppers but the CEO of A & P who drove that route to work every a.m. ! He had previously refused to come to the bargaining table…lettuce was still for sale in his stores.
January in Chicago can be bitterly cold. Sometimes, with the sun shining and providing no warmth, the “wind chill factor” was BELOW ZERO. After a number of mornings of this UFW support, bundled up in boots, scarf, hat and wool gloves, I realized that several of my fingertips were NUMB ! They eventually warmed up after I arrived at my job but left a lasting legacy.
I now live in sunny California but visited family in Chicago for many Christmas vacations in the 1980s. Yep, you guessed it. The frostbite flared up time after time. Fortunately, my fingers didn’t turn black BUT they reminded me often of my commitment to UFW and boycotting lettuce and boycotting grapes before that. I would do it all over again ! VIVA LA CAUSA !