September 1, 2014

Time Frames: National Farm Workers Association

This image was taken during an undated UFWOC event.

During the early 1960s, the National Farm Workers Association, led by Cesar Chavez, was primarily concerned with the unemployment insurance needs of farm workers, but it would soon expand its focus to include other farm labor issues.

Fair pay was a concern shared by both the NFWA and the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee. Grape pickers, many of them AWOC members, earned 90 cents an hour in 1965, while the average hourly wage in the U.S. at that time was $1.25.

The AWOC, chartered by the AFL-CIO, had a strong presence in the California farm labor movement. By the mid-1960s, Dolores Huerta and Larry Itliong were at the forefront of AWOC, leading the fight for better pay for California grape pickers.

Although Chicanos were heavily represented in the membership of both the NFWA and AWOC, a broad spectrum of ethnic groups was involved. Membership in AWOC, in particular, included Filipino, Anglo and African-American workers.

The NFWA and the AWOC worked together in 1965 to improve the lives of grape pickers. The success of that effort contributed to a formal merger of the two groups the following year and the establishment of the United Farmworkers Organizing Committee. The UFWOC became the United Farmworkers Union when the organization was accepted into the AFL-CIO in 1972.

This image was taken during an undated UFWOC event.

The University of Texas at Arlington Library offers a rich and diverse collection of materials on the history of Texas and the Southwest. Each week in Time Frames, readers get a glimpse of the past with an image from Special Collections. 817-272-3393; uta.edu/library/spco/index.php.

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