California Farm Workers on Strike

Farm Workers on Strike 1959-1966

Harvey Richards photographed farm workers on strike in California agriculture from 1957 to 1966.

farm workers on strike
California Farm Workers on Strike, Dolores Huerta, top, Delano, 1965

In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s farm workers went on strike many times in a seemingly futile effort to win higher wages and better conditions in a labor market dominated by captive, low paid bracero labor.  The first strike efforts came from the United Packinghouse Workers Union who had successfully kept bracero labor away from the packing houses and had increased their wages and the number of contracts.  Harvey photographed and filmed these early actions, including the 1962 lettuce strike for $1.25 per hour centered in the Imperial Valley.

Factory Farms, the Harversters, and Uno Vienticinco were three films made for the UPWA and the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO.  His fourth farm worker film, The Land Is Rich,  told the story of the spring 1966 March to Sacramento by the United Farm Workers and the strike wave that preceded it, including the grape strike of 1965. His films were used as organizing tools and fund raising for the unions. During the filming trips all over the state of California, he also shot still photographs of many strikes which are displayed in this gallery.

Harvey Richards’ photo images of agriculture captured the look and feel of a formative moment in the creation of industrial agriculture in the central valley of California in the period from 1957 to 1966. He began photographing California agriculture while making his first  films for the United Packing House Workers organizers, Factory Farms (1959, 37 min.) and The Harvesters (1960, 18 min). He toured the central valley documenting many crops.  

He followed bracero workers from Mexico to the fields, into their barracks and dining halls. He photographed resident farm workers in the early morning shape-ups where labor contractors were hiring, in the labor camps and in their homes.  He photographed child labor in the fields and the long lines at soup kitchens when there was no work. And he photographed the wave of mechanization that swept over the central valley as growers prepared for the end of the bracero program.

Next, he turned his attention to farm worker strikes led by the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee of the AFL-CIO and later for the United Farm Workers Union in two films, Uno Veinticinco (1962, 15 min.) and The Land Is Rich (1966, 27 min.).  He photographed strikers during the 1962 strike for $1.25 per hour in the lettuce fields of Imperial County and Fresno County (Uno Veintecinco), the grape strike of 1965 and the United Farm Worker’s Union march to Sacramento in 1966 (The Land is Rich).

Buy or License these photos.

MEDIA – For photos & interviews: Paul Richards (510) 967 5577; paulrichards@estuarypress.com

Posted in
Skip to content