Farmworker Solidarity action in Grand Rapids – 1983

Last week we posted a piece on efforts in Grand Rapids in the late 1970’s to provide support and solidarity with migrant farmworkers across the country. These efforts were organized through the group, Western Michigan Friends of the Farm Workers.

We obtained archival documents of this movement work from the Walter Reuther Library at Wayne State University. There were a few other documents that we found, documents from the same group, the Western Michigan Friends of the Farm Workers.

These documents are from their newsletter in 1983.

On page 1 it states that those supporting the national boycott from the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) will be holding “human billboard” action on July 28th in Grand Rapids in front of Monroe Plaza at noon.

This action was in conjunction with a 527 mile march that FLOC organized, a march that was ending at the Campbell Soup Company headquarters in New Jersey.

On page 2 of the document, it states that FLOC has been on strike since 1978 in the tomato fields of northwest Ohio, because of low wages and working conditions. In 1983, wages for those picking tomatoes in Ohio were $1.96 an hour, with poor housing and constant exposure to pesticides. It was also documented that child labor was being used.

The United Farm Workers endorsed the boycott, as did the AFL-CIO and other labor groups, including the Grand Rapids Education Association. There were also peace and justice organizations in Grand Rapids that supported the Campbell boycott, like the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the Institute for Global Education.

The boycott ended in 1986, with a victory for farmworkers, who were able to get a $4.50 an hour wage for hundreds of farmworkers beginning in 1987.

A big thank you to Kaitlin Popielarz, for taking pictures of these documents and sending them to us!!!




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