1960 UC Berkeley students associated with Stiles Hall investigate farm labor conditions in the San Joaquin Valley

 

Stiles Hall, the University area Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), is  a social center that was founded in 1892, and is located a stone's throw from the Bancroft and Telegraph entrance to the UC Berkeley campus.  It is self-described as "a mix of student-services center, cauldron of social causes, incubator for campus and community initiatives, and an important contributor to diversity on campus." Stiles participants "take part in its many community-outreach projects, mentor educationally disadvantaged schoolkids and use Stiles as a safe space to talk freely about sensitive issues away from campus."

Beginning in the 1950s, "Stiles," as it is informally known, hosted speakers who found it difficult to get permission to appear on campus.  Such speakers included Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Communist Party theoretician Herbert Aptheker, Communist Party leader Gus Hall and others.

As a Stiles Hall member, I participated in a 1960 Stiles project to visit the San Joaquin Valley and see the conditions in which farm workers lived and worked.  We met with organizers of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO (AWOC), a predecessor to Cesar Chavez's United Farm Workers Union. We also worked on a local community cleanup project organized by a local Catholic priest, father John Duggan, who was working in the community to support the AWOC's efforts to organize farm workers  In addition, We visited asparagus. strawberry and cotton fields and experienced first hand the difficult work done there.  We also visited farm worker housing and met farm workers' wives and children.

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1960.  UC students from Stiles Hall on the bus to Stockton, California

Stiles Hall staff member Cecil Thomas briefs UC student volunteers before they meet with local union and community organizers

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Hank Anderson, AWOC Research Director, meets with students at AWOC headquarters in Stockton

We met with a number of AWOC organizers at their Stockton headquarters. 

Student volunteers meet with Cecil Thomas, Associate Secretary of Stiles Hall, Quaker and political activist.

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Students visit the Stockton Community Service Organization, which worked with AWOC, helping  organize a farm workers union.

This Filipino AWOC organizer may be Larry Itliong, a leading union activist who successfully organized 2,000 Filipino farm workers and then convinced union leader Cesar Chavez to combine forces and organize Filipino and Hispanic farm workers into one union.  This coalition led to the establishment of the United Farm Workers Union and the successful Delano grape strike.

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Relaxation time for the student volunteers

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UC student volunteers at dinner time.

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Stiles Hall student volunteers cleaning up a vacant lot.

Father John Dugann, a local Catholic priest, leading a service at his church.  Father Dugann supported the AWOC and organized community projects like the one we worked ona cleanup of a neglected parcel of land.

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UC students load a bus with salvaged bricks.

Salvaging bricks from a community cleanup project.

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Student volunteers eat dinner in a farmworker dining hall.

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Relaxation time after dinner.

Farm worker wife and child at their home in Lever Village in Stockton

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Lever Village, Stockton. 

A farm worker's wife and her child.

Home is an old trailer

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Home is an old trailer.

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Lever Village.  Another farm worker's wife and children.

Retired Filipino farmworkers meet up in downtown Stockton.

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Lever Village.  Two sons of a farm worker.

Two sons of farmworkers.

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A group of farm workers is picked up by a labor contractors and taken by truck to the fields.

Downtown Stockton.  A Single-room-occupancy  (SRO) hotel.

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 A large group of farm workers assemble in downtown Stockton, hoping to be picked by labor contractors for work in the fields.

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Farm workers' hands.

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Riding in silence.

Farm worker headed for the fields

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Farm workers' hands.

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Farm workers walk from the labor contractor's truck to the fields.

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Cutting the last asparagus spears of the season, using the infamous "short hoe," which required painful stooping and often caused serious long-term back problems.  The "short hoe" was finally banned in 1975.

  Strawberry fields being picked.

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Farmworker/union organizer working a strawberry field.

Cecil Thomas, using the short hoe on asparagus

Zuckerman Farms, Stockton.   "Keep Out" sign.  The volunteers weren't totally compliant.

Zuckerman Farms, Stockton.  Stiles Hall volunteers resting before heading back to the bus.