Ann Russell, an IHM Sister from MI organized a “bunch” of Sisters to come to LA in the summer of 1975. Two friends and I [who were knew little of the farm worker situation in CA and were rather inexperienced in activism] came from Iowa and Montana. Our introduction to the UFW included a meeting and a big barbecue with Cesar Chavez and other union leaders at La Paz. One time that summer, I was picketing alone at a Safeway in Highland Park or El Sereno. None of the 14 who had responded positively to my phone calls, came. The owner came out, told me to move and said I was not acting like an American. I had not read my directions for picketing a store, but I said, “Have you heard of the Boston Tea Party?” I stayed, but called the office which told me to read the guidelines.
Ken Fujimoto was the committed and dedicated LA organizer. Conrad [forgot last name. He later ran for public office] organized our smaller area. Our preparation was a bit of a crash course on the history of CA farm labor and the UFW. Ann Russell had written this up for us, so we tried immediately to commit this to memory for the house party presentations, since we had house meetings right away and every day, when we could organize them. I met former farm workers who organized house parties to educate others on the situation of farm workers. We picketed stores on weekends, organized house parties, but we also walked 10 miles through some part of LA carrying the very heavy banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe and listened to taunts of people calling us Communists, etc
I returned in the summer of 1976 to work for the UFW in San Francisco. Since the UFW was organizing to respond the newly established Labor Relations Board recently set up by the CA legislature, we did little UFW work. We resigned from the UFW and instead worked for a political candidate who lost the elections, but I got to know San Francisco in the process. I went door to door with an Oakland man nicknamed “The Tongue” who was someone who really knew labor history.
My experience of these two summer motivated me 20 years later to work with PCUN, a farm worker union in OR, and to make me a life time supporter of the UFW. I always respond to emails from the UFW. I support the cause of the farm worker wherever they are in the USA. We must support farm workers because they put the food on our tables. My two companions and I were committed to justice causes since that summer. We have worked in Peru, Palestine and in the states for causes of workers and other oppressed people. It was a turning point in our lives.
Thank you UFW for a rich experience of peace - non-violence- and justice.