The Gallo Grapes boycott is a long running fight between agricultural workers in California (and various other states, but mostly situated in California) and the United Farmer Workers that came to a head in 1973. The UFW had fought long and hard with the growers in California to unionize and achieve better work conditions. The UFW went on numerous strikes, walked all the way from Central California to Sacramento, and Cesar Chavez even went on a hunger strike in order to achieve this monumental win of the right to Unionize in California and winning the contract with Delano, and most of the California grape growers in 1970.
But in 1973 Delano walked back on the deal, instead giving a sweetheart deal, which included unsafe working conditions, to the Teamsters Union. This led a months long strike by grape workers that led to 3,500 nonviolent strikers being arrested for picketing. Chavez eventually calls off the strike after hundreds of strikers are beaten, and two are murdered. And begins a second grape boycott. This boycott, the Gallo Grape boycott, includes all table grapes, lettuce and most importantly Gallo Wine, which produced a third of the wine for the United States.
In order for this boycott to be successful the UFW calls for nationwide support. And all the way across the country in Boston, Massachusetts the Boston Teachers Union answered the call.
The Boston Teachers Union (BTU) supported the boycott by running articles, advocating support, and publishing ‘Do Not Buy’ Lists. In 1975, two years after the start of the strike the BTU is still running articles about the strike. Most notably in the February 1975 issue it features an article by Melinda Tuhus, “Grapes and Gallo Have Gotta Go!” explaining the history of the United Farm Workers, the success of the boycott so far, and how BTU members are getting involved. BTU members stood in solidarity by attending pickets, educating themselves on the issues, and helping to educate others to make informed decisions.
Here in Boston, members of the BTU have been active with various local boycott committees, which can always put new members to work picketing, leafletting, fund-raising, store-checking, office-working, or perhaps speaking to classes and showing the UFW film.-Melinda Tuhus
This boycott led to several big wins in 1975, even if the UFW did not win their contract back until 1978. In 1975 response to the strike and boycott the newly elected Governor of California, Jerry Brown, signs into law the Agricultural Labor Relations Act that guarantees the right to unionize, vote in state-supervised secret elections, and bargain with their employers. The success of the boycott would not have been possible without this nationwide support from fellow Unions.
The BTU also supported the boycott by running numerous Do Not Buy List’s in the newspaper for several years. In the June 1976 issue, over a year after the height of the Gallo Grapes boycott they still show up on the Do Not Buy list which goes into extensive detail.
This list is a prominent part of the newspaper, taking up half of a page and goes into detail for the different reasons all these products should be boycotted and which unions they are supporting. Through these lists the BTU does not only just show their support for the UFW, but for numerous other workers across the country.
These Do Not Buy Lists run all the way through 1978 helping BTU members make educated buying decisions even after the Gallo Grape boycott is over.