Remember the UFW Boycott Actions in New Haven?

14 Sep 2010 4:07 PM | Posted by GNHLHA

By Mary Johnson

The Greater New Haven Labor History Association (GNHLHA) hopes that you will share your memories.

In the 1960s, the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) launched a grape boycott that inspired New Haven area residents (as well as people throughout the world) to join and help win good contracts in most of California’s vineyards. In the mid to late 1970s, a UFW Boycott staff person came to New Haven to organize boycott committees in Connecticut.

Almost immediately, the New Haven committee began picketing and leafleting at supermarkets urging customers to boycott fruits and vegetables grown by producers who refused to negotiate contracts with the UFW. All of these were successful.

Most memorable was the Gallo Boycott. The efforts of the New Haven Committee not only attracted a great deal of community support but received a very negative response, including physical violence, unfortunately initiated by some members of a rival union.

The California Agricultural Labor Relations Act, which became law in 1975, guaranteed farm-workers the right to bargain collectively. Gallo Wineries decided that it preferred its known adversary, the Teamsters, to the more militant, independent United Farm Workers’ Union. Gallo collaborated with the Teamsters to suppress the UFW.

The UFW called for a nationwide boycott of Gallo Wines. The New Haven UFW Boycott Committee, after months of picketing liquor stores on Orange Street, convinced three owners to remove Gallo Wines from their shelves.

When the picket lines moved to a liquor store on Whitney Avenue, Gallo salesmen as well as groups of men wearing  jackets identifying themselves as supporters of  a Teamsters Local, began observing us for several weeks. This culminated in the brutal beating of a 16 year UFW advocate. That incident and a tremendous show of community support for the boycott resulted in nationwide news coverage.

If you remember any of these and later activities, please call Mary at (203) 387-7858, or send your stories to info@laborhistory.org. GNHLHA would like to share them on its website. New Haven’s UFW boycott activities were part of a powerful and inspirational social change movement and we cannot afford to lose that history.

Greater New Haven Labor History Association  •  267 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT 06513 •  info@laborhistory.org •

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