One of the major obstacles was the Bracero Program, a
guestworker program established in 1942 by the U.S. and México
to meet labor shortages during WWII. Continued after the war,
the program was not ended until 1964.
It was then that César Chávez, Dolores Huerta, Gilbert Padilla,
Larry Itlong, and their supporters began to have successes in
organizing farmworkers and bringing their plight to the American
public with the help of students, religious leaders, civil
rights activists, and labor leaders.
In 1965, invited by Larry Itlong to help Filipino American
farmworkers in their walkout against Delano grape growers, César
and Larry began the five-year Delano Grape strike.
Promoting non-violence, marches, and boycotts, they garnered the
attention of U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy, who participated in
hearings of the Senate Subcommittee on Migratory Labor.
In February-March 1968, César fasted for 25 days at the Delano
headquarters of the United Farm Workers (UFW) in
opposition to the increasing willingness of farmworkers to
resort to violence against grower-paid goons who repeatedly used
violence against them.
Sen. Kennedy joined 8,000 farmworkers and supporters at the
Catholic Mass when Chávez broke his fast, calling him a heroic
figure. In 1970, Chávez and the United Farm Workers signed the
first union contracts with several table grape farmers in
Today, California is the state that has passed legislation
granting farmworkers collective bargaining rights. Despite the
achievements by the United Farm Workers, resistance against and
legislative assaults on labor unions throughout the country have
diminished the gains made by the UFW. His vision was to
transform the farm labor system into one that treats farmworkers
as human beings with dignity and human worth. His vision
remains to be realized.