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Labor Activism
Digital History ID 587

Author:   Frank C. McDonald

Annotation: One of the largest farmworkers' strikes took place in California's San Joaquín Valley, where thousands of Mexican and Mexican American cotton pickers demanded higher wages and better working and living conditions. In this selection, Frank C. McDonald, California's state labor commissioner, describes the conflict between workers and growers.

Document: On...Sunday, September 17, 1933, representatives of the cotton pickers in the San Joaquín Valley announced that the cotton pickers had decided that they would pick cotton for $1 per hundred pounds....

On September 19, was decided that cotton growers would pay 60 cents per hundred pounds for the picking of cotton....

On Wednesday, October 4, 1933, an extensive strike in which some ten thousand cotton pickers were involved was declared....

On Saturday, October 7, 1933...the growers notified the strikers that they would not permit any further public meetings.

Then the growers went in automobiles throughout the surrounding highway and took away from the pickets their banners and signs and notified the strikers to leave the district within twenty-four hours.

On October 9, 1933, the following paid advertisement was published in the issue of the Tulare Daily Advance Register:

[Paid Advertisement]

Notice to the Citizens of Tulare

We, the Farmers of Your Community, Whom You Are Dependent Upon For Support, Feel That You Have Nursed Too Long the Viper That Is at Our Door.

These Communist Agitators Must Be Driven From Town By You, and Your Harboring Them Further Will Prove to Us Your Non-Cooperation With Us, and Make It Necessary for Us to Give Our Support and Trade to Another Town That Will Support and Cooperate With Us.

Farmer's Protective Association

On the evening of October 10, 1933, press dispatches stated that two strikers had been killed and eight wounded in front of the cotton pickers' strike headquarters in Pixley, Tulare County. Subsequently, eight cotton growers were indicted by the Tulare County Grand Jury for the murder of the two striking cotton pickers. Press dispatches of the same date also stated that one striker had been killed and a number of strikers and cotton growers had been injured during a fight at the E.O. Mitchell Ranch in Kern County. As a result of this fight, seven strikers were arrested on a charge of rioting....

During the strike, the strikers had continuously used what is known as "mass-picketing tactics." On October 23, 1933, a large number of striking pickets, principally Mexican men and women, proceeded along the highway until they came to the Guiberson Ranch near Corcoran, where they found strikebreakers at work, picking cotton. The strikers invaded the ranch, and in the fight which ensued between the strikers and strikebreakers, a number of persons were struck with clubs and fists. It is also reported that the sacks containing cotton were slashed and ripped open.

On that same day...your Fact Finding Commission announced the following decision.

...It is judgment of [the] Commission that upon evidence presented growers can pay for picking at [a] rate of seventy-five cents per hundred pounds and your Commission begs leave, therefore, to advise this rate of payment be established. Without question civil rights of strikers have been violated. We appeal to constituted authorities to see that strikers are protected in rights conferred upon them by laws of State and by Federal and State Constitutions.

Source: Hearings before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Education and Labor, U.S. Senate, 76th Congress, 3rd session. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1940.

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