“The Grape Strike”; “The Grapes: Communist Wrath in Delano”


A grape worker sprays plants near Fresno, California

Courtesy of the National Archives

One of the first major labor disruptions in the movement toward farm labor unionization in California began in 1965, when the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee called for a strike against table grape growers in the Delano area.

This was not an insignificant event due to the importance of grapes in the area’s economy. The National Advisory Committee on Farm Labor’s “The Grape Strike” report of 1966, presented here, detailed the strike from the beginning, with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) demanding higher wages from Delano growers. When these demands were ignored, the AWOC, and later the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) began to strike in September 1965. Growers retaliated by cutting off necessities such as water and electricity, evicted workers from their homes, and even physically harassed strikers. The report ends by arguing that “support for the strike continues to spread across the country” and urged the public to support the workers through contributions, writing their congressional representatives to pass protections for workers, and to respect the grape boycott.


"The Grape Strike"
Courtesy of ACUA


In contrast to the National Advisory Committee, Gary Allen, a writer in American Opinion, argued that those striking in Delano were not the workers at all, but “outside revolutionaries,” and that the workers were still working. The AWOC and NFWA were, according to Allen, made up of these “outsiders,” and called the workers still in the fields “strikebreakers and scabs.”  In essence, Allen calls the strike a Communist plot to disrupt the grower-labor relationship, an effective tool at a time when Cold War worries were near or at their apex.




1. How did the ending of the bracero program lead to the grape strike in Delano?

2. What is the goal/intent/purpose of The Grape Strike?

3. Why does Allen attempt to tie Chavez to the counterculture and Communism?

4. Does The Grape Strike live up to the hysteria described by Allen?

Grapes Wrath.pdf

"The Grapes: Communist Wrath in Delano"
Courtesy of ACUA