Skip to main content

tv   Reel America The Land is Rich - 1966  CSPAN  February 12, 2021 2:04pm-2:35pm EST

2:04 pm
eastern and watch american history tv on c-span 3. >> american history tv on c-span 3, exploring the people and events that tell the american story every weekend. coming up this president's day weekend, saturday at 6:00 p.m. eastern on the civil war, author edward acorn talks about his book "every drop of blood" about abraham lincoln's second inaugural speech considered one of the greatest speeches in american political history. sunday at 2:00 p.m. history on oral histories virginia coleman describes her experiences as a chemist for the manhattan project at oak ridge to build the atomic bomb. and monday at 7:30 p.m. eastern on american artifacts photographer and storyteller john on the 42 giant busts of american presidents created by a sculptor decaying on a private
2:05 pm
property in virginia. watch american history tv this weekend on c-span 3. >> on st. patrick's day, thursday, march 17, 1966, they began a 300 mile pilgrimage northward to the state capitol in sacramento. the march was more than a means of dramatizing a strike, more than a plea for laws for workers, more than a demand for recognition of their union. it was a symbol of the long, long struggle of california farm workers for a more equitable share of the wealth they have helped to produce. the road that led to this easter pilgrimage goes back many years. it's a long road that crosses a
2:06 pm
big land. everything is big in california. the land is big and rich. the men and the corporations who own the land are big and rich. the people who work the land are poor, very poor. the how and the why of this is not a pretty story. it doesn't have a happy ending. at least not yet. agriculture is california's biggest industry. it's a $3 billion a year business. farming in california has always been big. many farms in california started big. some of the old spanish and mexican land grants compromising thousands of acres have never
2:07 pm
been broken up. more than three quarters of all farmland in california is owned by 6% of the industry. to put it another way more than one-third of all farmland in the state is owned by less than 1% of the owners. this then is the story of monopoly and what monopoly does to people. there's a manufactured word for this particular monopoly, agri business. some farms are owned by individuals, but many are corporations. many are listed on the stock exchange. some are also in the packing and processing business. and they're among the giants of the u.s. food industry. agribusiness has ruled its domain of california with absolute power, economic and political. the southern pacific railroad
2:08 pm
once ran the state of california. a famous novel is written about that. it's still one of the state's biggest landowners. it's a part of agribusiness. the land company miller and lux, henderson and clayton, the california packing corporation. the power of this corporate wealth has not gone unchallenged. in a place called muscle slew in what is now king's county seven men lost their lives on may 11, 1880 in a dispute over land titles between settlers and the railroad. the tree under which they died is called tragedy oak. that struggle is now history perpetuated by an official state marker. new struggles have replaced men many of them. other names and other dates follow.
2:09 pm
fresno 1917, vacaville 1932, corcoran 1933, pixly 1933. santa rosa 1935. los angeles 1935. solinas 1936. stockton 1937. bakersfield 1938. bakersfield again in 1947. stockton 1948. el centro 1961.
2:10 pm
♪♪ ♪♪
2:11 pm
♪♪ >>landlereds and exorbitant rents force large numbers of migrant farm families to live on riverbanks and under bridges. children and parents spend their
2:12 pm
day picking fruit and then return to the riverbank to prepare food and to sleep. growers and local police often conspired to drive families to another area. what about the single farm worker? because of low income he is exiled to cheap hotels. he can escape the winter cold and rain for about 50 cents a night. social life in the community is closed to him. if he is lucky he has money for food. if he cannot buy his food then perhaps soup and bread is available from a local church operated bread line. the growers in local communities have over the years tolerated church financed soup kitchens as a way of avoiding hunger protests and cheap labor would be guaranteed to them when needed. many of the valley towns have a special kind of check room, a
2:13 pm
place to put a bundle when you arrive in town looking for a job, a place where you can receive your mail or buy old clothing. a bundle for the single farm worker is usually everything he owns. historically the farm family whether migrant or local has lived either on the edge of town or in a labor camp. for decades the prevailing water supply has been from a central faucet. for thousands of farm families over the many decades there has been no indoor water supply, no indoor toilets. water has had to be transported and stored for drinking, washing and bathing. here in the heart of rich agricultural country farm families transport their water and some of them live where electricity is not available.
2:14 pm
♪♪ ♪♪ >> california farm workers nearly half a million of them produced more crops than grown in any other state. the profits of their labor show up in the dividends of yñ in stock quotations, in then'knlyafffluef the owners. for the farm workers the return is poverty. the organization of agricultural workers has been called the greatest unfinished task facing
2:15 pm
the american labor movement. and to add to his other woes the farm worker faces the increasing threat of killer chemicals. >> take me to the hospital in the ambulance unconscious. stayed there nine days and brought me home. two weeks after i got home i was sick in bed, couldn't do any work. >> i was in the hospital for nine days with poisoning, and when i come home i wasn't able to do any housework for four months. >> i contracted poisoning while picking lemons in an orchard. i became dizzy, sick to my stomach and passed out and the
2:16 pm
ambulance picked me up, took me to the hospital. and i was in the hospital for nine days. it left me with a dizziness and a bad balance. and i haven't been able to work at anything since. >> school history books do not record the struggles of farm workers to organize unions. wheatland is a small town in california near marysville. in 1932 they held a meeting to protest low wages and unsanitary living conditions. sheriffs deputies fired into the crowd, two men were killed and many injured. two leaders of the workers went to prison. the imperial valley an old battleground was the seen in 1961 of what until then was the most successful field strike since the stockton asparagus strike of 1948. the cry was a dollar and a quarter in power.
2:17 pm
these pictures of field workers putting down their tools and coming out on strike were unprecedented in the valley for three decades. in the end of the struggle again there was not clear-cut victory for there was momentum. and those who could detect the signs saw a new day coming. in fact, el sentro in 1961 marks a long point in the long road.
2:18 pm
♪♪ >> meet the new tomato harvesting machine. in 1963 there were 25 of these in operation. two years later there were 260. it is estimated 800 were operating in california during the 1966 harvest. the percentage of the crop harvest by machine in 1964 was only 3.5%. a year later 25%. in 1966 about 75%. at this rate the new tomato harvesting machine will eliminate some 30,000 jobs during the first five years of
2:19 pm
its use. in california cotton is a $330 million crop. almost all of the cotton is grown on large corporation owned farms. during the last 25 years the cotton growing industry has increased production nearly 500% and is rapidly approaching the total elimination of field hand labor. the value of the cotton increased from around 25 million in 1940 to 330 million in 1965. during this same 25-year period wages for picking cotton remained stationary, varying from 2.5 to 3.5 per hundred weight. theester eliminated 50,000 farm workers during the peak season. today only around 5% of cotton is harvested by hand.
2:20 pm
traditionally cotton thinning and weeding was an important source of wages for farm workers. a new machine, the precision plantar plus chemical control of weeds may eliminate all hand labor from cotton by 1970. over the decades many thousands of farm families in the san joaquin valley were able to buy food during the winter months if they could find work in cotton. today they are brushed aside by the land owning banks and corporations. today the landowners need only chemicals and huge machines. with rich soil, chemicals and water the yield in california is twice the national average. protesting a 40% increase in rent farm families living in county operated labor camps march toward california. these residents of woodville and
2:21 pm
lanel farm labor centers march to publicize their protest to the county housing authority. in the summer of 1965 and in the heart of rich california farmland, these workers signal a growing protest movement. ♪♪ ♪♪
2:22 pm
>> an operating engineer working under a union contract earns $5.19 an hour with an additional 54 cents in fringe benefits. an unorganized farm worker in california operating the same size equipment is paid an average of $1.50 an hour. the farm worker has no fringe benefits and no provisions for over time pay. for this member of the organized labor movement a total of $5.73 an hour. for this farm working about $1.50 an hour. the construction trades earn $5.60 an hour. unorganized stoop labor and agriculture was paid from $1.10
2:23 pm
to $1.40 an hour. the iron worker earned $5.70. the farm worker $1.50. the pattern is clear. now in the '60s farm working is getting some attention from the top leadership of the american labor movement. but it is still less than the job requires. never in the long history of the struggle has farm labor been given the immense amounts of money and organizational support needed to ensure success. the same effort has not been put into organizing farm labor that went into organizing the auto industry, the steel industry, the rubber industry and oil industry in the '30s. small scale organizer drives have done little more than create the illusion of helping farm workers. the well padded official has for the most part kept its back turned on the most poverty stricken group in the nation. for half a century the
2:24 pm
agribusiness lobby has been a constant roadblock in the path of legislation for farm workers. they have denied unemployment insurance to farm workers. they denied farm workers the benefits of minimum wage legislation until the summer of 1966 when the first small break through was made in the federal congress. they even blocked legislation to provide sanitation facilities for field workers. it was only in the 1960s that a law was passed finally in california requiring field toilets for women. in 1962 in fresno, california, the national farm workers association was formed. the association recognized some essential comb denominators. a substantial segment of california's farm workers are of mexican ancestry, tied together by a proud culture, a common religion and the bond of a great and lyrical language.
2:25 pm
a new demand was made for an end to ancient injustices, a contagion was in the air. slowly farm wage rates began to reflect the pressures. they started to creep upward. people were on the march. two organizations, the national farm workers association independent and the agricultureal workers organizing committee entity were in the field. in december of 1964 the treaty importation of mexican field workers came to an end. the closing of this traffic removed a major weapon from the hands of agribusiness and equalized somewhat the odds endeavoring organized farm workers. some returned almost immediately as legal immigrants, green card workers, permit workers. but the relative position of the domestic work force had grown
2:26 pm
beyond question and strengthened. from this base came the national farm workers association under caesar chavez. in alliance with the committee it began a new chapter in the history in the little valley in december 1965. the grape strike began for union recognition on a pay scale of $1.40 an hour became much more than that as the strikers themselves were to declare in their own manifesto the plan of delino. >> we're conscience of the significance of our pilgrimage. we knowáa!bty all of these soun becauseé
2:27 pm
road in this very same valley the mexican race to sacrifice itself for the last 100 years. our sweat and our blood have fallen on this land to make other men rich. this pilgrimage is a witness to the suffering we have seen for generations. the penance we accept symbolizes a suffering which we'll have in order to bring justice to these same towns, to this same valley. the pilgrimage we make symbolizes the long, historic road we have traveled in this valley alone and the long road we have yet to travel with much penance in order to bring about the revolution we need. >> the delino strike again protected the plight to farm workers and to the consciousness of the nation. the strike brought the two unions into direct confrontation with one of the giants of
2:28 pm
agribusiness, di giorgo. congressional demonstrators came to delino. such investigations are not new. the plight to farm labor in california is probably one of the most studied and investigated subjects in the annals of human suffering. report has been piled upon report. but proposed remedies have been frustrated or ignored. this was true in the '30s. it's just as true today. perhaps the spotlight of investigation helped the cause of the delino strikers as it helped strikers in the '30s. but other tactics were of equal if not greater importance. traditionally the labor movement in california and others
2:29 pm
sympathetic to the cause of farm workers have responded generously to the calls for food and money. this was true in the '30s, and it's just as true today. tons of food and clothing and thousands of dollars have gone into the valley from all over california and the nation. the grape strikers of delino proclaim the names of unfair brands to the nation. and back the boycott with picket lines. then on easter weekend 1966 the strikers completed their 25-day 300-mile trek to sacramento. on a gray easter sunday april 10, 1966, the strikers and their supporters 10,000 strong came swinging up the capitol mall to the steps of the state capitol building. it was beyond question the largest, the broadest and the most significant public gathering on behalf of farm
2:30 pm
workers in california history. a moment of victory was at hand. the second largest of the grape growers agreed after seven months of strike to recognize the union and to negotiate a contract. shortly afterwards the di gorgeo corporation agreed to recognize the workers. a victory confirmed subsequently by hard won election victories on a number of di giorgio properties. in august 1966 the national farm workers association and the agriculture organizing committee were merged to form the united farm workers organizing committee afl cio. chavez is its director.
2:31 pm
>> if the establishment is powerful. the organized farm worker and his family is forced to fight on every field and in every orchard. they have to live with this. man has learned he cannot fight machines. they fight to improve their substandard way of life within a system that so far has given every advantage to those for whom they are forced to work. and they have learned the fight is part of the work. to the farm workers their wives and children and to all those who have joined them in their struggle, this film is dedicated. >> you're watching american history tv. every weekend on c-span 3 explore our nation's past. american history tv on c-span 3 created by america's cable television companies. and today we're brought to you by these television companies
2:32 pm
who provide american history tv to viewers as a public service. >> weeknights this month we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span 3. and tonight we take a look at african-american history. since the 1970s david pilgrim has collected every day objects that mock and dehumanize african-americans. the founder and director of the jim crow museum of racist memorabilia argues that although the artifacts are offensive they can be used as teaching tools to promote conversation and understanding. via zoom we visited the museum in big rapids, michigan, to see a selection of their artifacts. watch tonight beginning at 8:00 eastern. and enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span 3. >> american history tv on c-span 3. exploring the people and events that tell the american story
2:33 pm
every weekend. coming up this president's day weekend saturday at 6:00 p.m. eastern on the civil war author edward achorn talks about his book "every drop of blood" considered one of the greatest speeches in american political history. sunday 2:00 p.m. history on oral histories virginia coleman describes her experiences as a chemist for the manhattan project at oak ridge to build the atomic monday. and monday at 7:30 p.m. eastern on american artifacts, totographer and storyteller john -- on the 42 giant busts of american presidents created by sculptor david addicks decaying on a property in virginia. watch american history tv this weekend on c-span 3. >> up next, a supreme court oral
2:34 pm
argument in the case of fcc vs. prometheus radio project. the fcc is tasked with rules that implement the sale of broadcast media stations and they'ring whether changes are needed. legal challenges appear before the u.s. court of appeals for the third circuit which ruled that the fcc did not properly analyze the impact on women and minority leadership. the justices have through june to issue a ruling. >> we will hear argument first this morning in case 191231, federal communications commission vs. prometheus radio project and the consolidated case. mr. stewart. >> mr. chief justice and may it please the court. section 202h of the telom


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on