Today, March 31st, is the day the US celebrates the legacy of the civil rights and labor movement activist, César Chávez. Chávez was dedicated to improving the lives of farm workers through the use of non-violent practices such as boycotts and strikes. In the 1970s, Chávez and the United Farm Workers of America sought to raise the pay and benefits for migrant field hands who picked lettuce. Inspired by the successful Delano grape strike in 1969, the Salad Bowl strikes began in 1970 and led to the largest farm worker strike in US history.
Originating in California, the movement gained worker and consumer support in several agriculture communities including Colorado’s San Luis Valley. The strike of lettuce pickers and packers in Center, CO, ultimately led to the Mel Finerman Company, Inc. providing Chávez and his allies with ‘their first breakthrough in Colorado,’ according to Denver Post. The company agreed to pay higher wages and provide other services to workers. These materials documenting the Lettuce Strike of 1973 in Colorado are housed in the Center Saguache County Community Council records in the CU Boulder Archives.
The University of Colorado Boulder Libraries will celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Archives on June 6, 2018. This is story #33 in our series: 100 Stories for 100 Years from the Archives!