“An Open Letter to the Catholic Bishops of the United States”


Cesar Chavez shakes hands with Teamsters representative William Grami following the signing of a pact between the latter and the UFWOC. Monsignor George Higgins stands in the middle.

Courtesy of ACUA

While the Ad Hoc Committee showed an obvious fondness for Chavez and the UFWOC, its intention was not to simply force growers to sign with the union, but to ensure that workers had a choice of the union they wanted to represent them. Since 1967, the UFWOC and the Teamsters had worked under an agreement that the former had jurisdictional rights to farm workers while the latter had rights to other workers in the food production industry.

However, the Teamsters saw an opportunity in 1970 to expand their base and began negotiating contracts with growers eager to work with the Teamsters over the growing UFWOC. Chavez saw this as a betrayal (one that would not be the last between the two unions over the next seven years), thus beginning the Salad Bowl strike, with the tacit support of the Ad Hoc Committee.

Some in the area began to take offense to this involvement by the Church. An organization named the Citizens Committee for Agriculture wrote a letter with accompanying documents to the U.S. bishops and urged them to examine whether the farm workers really want to be unionized, argued the UFWOC provided no assistance to workers, and quoted an unnamed priest as saying the Church “has either become a tool of a labor union (UFWOC) or the labor union had become a tool of the Catholic Church.” In the material sent with the letter, the committee listed ways consumers can fight the lettuce boycott, provided a release on the boycott and how it threatened workers, consumers, and the economy, and a copy of an editorial in the Salinas Californian that said the boycott was unnecessary.

Open Letter Bishops.pdf

"An Open Letter to the Catholic Bishops of the United States"
Courtesy of ACUA

In so many words, the Citizens Committee asserted that the workers already had legitimate representation, and that the UFWOC and the Ad Hoc Committee was simply attempting to bully the workers, growers, and the general public.



1. How does the “What you can do to fight the lettuce boycott” document appeal to the consumer?

2. How is the UFWOC a “radical organization”?

3. Were the Teamsters’ contracts with the growers legitimate?