organizing drive in South Texas \(which of the sentiment for a strike in Starr County and of Sanchez’ statement to Brown that there would be one this summer. He went then to Rio Grande City and became the central figure in the strike that followed. BEING “AN OUTSIDER,” with experience in the Delano strike, an Anglo married to a ‘Mexican girl, Nelson has stirred up a lot of curiosity. One might expect him to be a professional organizer, or at least a militant from way back, but he describes himself rather as a writer of novels he hasn’t been able to get published who has worked at almost every kind of job just long enough to get to Mexico to write still another novel. He says he was not active in politics of union work until he was invited by Chavez into the Delano strike, to help with the writing. In Houston he debated whether to do a novel about the Delano strike or go to the Valley and start a new strike there. He’d written two pages of his fifth novel when he set out for Harlingen. A native Californian, he’s worked as a dishwasher, in a drug store, a bowling alley, a brick yard, a grocery store; drove a caterpillar on a farm; went to junior college in Long Beach two years; worked on a tuna boat and did a novelette about 2 The Texas Observer Incorporating the State Observer and the East Texas Democrat, which in turn incorported the State Week and Austin ForumAdvocate. We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of man as the foundation of democracy; we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit. Editor and General Manager, Ronnie Dugger. Partner, Mrs. R. D. Randolph. Associate Editor, Larry Lee. Business Manager, Sarah Payne. Contributing Editors, Elroy Bode, Bill Brammer, Larry Goodwyn, Harris Green, Franklin Jones, Lyman Jones, Larry L. King, Georgia Earnest Klipple, Al Melinger, Robert L. Montgomery, Willie Morris, Greg Olds, James Presley, Charles Ramsdell, Roger Shattuck, Robert Sherrill, Dan Strawn, Tom Sutherland, Charles Alan Wright. Staff Artist, Charles Erickson. Contributing Photographer, Russell Lee. The editor has exclusive control over the editorial policies and contents of the Observer. None of the other people who are associated with the enterprise shares this responsibility with him. Writers are responsible for their own work, but not for anything they have not themselves written, and in publishing them the editor does not necessarily imply that he agrees with them, because this is a journal of free voices. that; was a police reporter in Santa Monica ; studied at a writer’s colony in Illinois; between retreats in Chapala, Guadalajara, and Barra de Navidad, worked as a typist, an accountant, a shipping clerk. He says he did not accept Chavez’ invitation to help in the Delano strike at first, but later, when he needed the work, he did. He drives a 1955 Buick that once was two-toned, yellow and maroon, but now has many shades. The roof is dented because strikers in California stood on it and shouted from it into the fields to workers who were not striking. The front left side window is broken out. The valves miss so badly, Nelson started up a slight rise on a rutted gravel road on the bank of the Rio Grande, only to have the car run out of power; he let it coast back downhill, smiling slightly and saying, “How humiliating.” “Actually,” he said, driving along in the Buick late one night after a rally, “we’re striking all the farms in Starr County. We’re trying to get the small farms interested in a cooperative shed so they can compete with the big ones.” He spoke of one small farmer who got $3,000 for his crop, only to have the man who owned the shed and bought the crop re-sell it for $10,000. The strikers say that eleven small farmers have agreed to pay $1.25 an hour and employ union members \(they are all Mexican-American farmers; together they The Observer publishes articles, essays, and creative work of the shorter forms having to do in various ways with this area. The pay depends; at present it is token. Unsolicited manuscripts must be accompanied by return postage. Subscription Representatives: Austin, Mrs. Helen C. Spear, 2615 Pecos, HO 5-1805; Dallas, Mrs. Cordye Hall, 5835 Ellsworth, TA 1-1205; Denton, Fred Lusk, Box 8134 NTS; Fort Worth, Dolores Jacobsen, 3025 Greene Ave., WA 4-9655; Houston, Mrs. Shirley Jay, 10306 Clifford Dr., PA 3-8682; Huntsville, Jessie L. Murphree, Box 2284 SHS; Lubbock, Doris Blaisdell, 2515 24th St.; Midland, Eva Dennis, 4306 Douglas, OX 42825; Odessa, Enid Turner, 1706 Glenwood, EM 6-2269; Rio Grande Valley, Mrs. Jack Butler, 601 Houston, McAllen, MU 6-5675; San Antonio, Mrs. Mae B. Tuggle, 531 Elmhurst, TA 6-3583; Cambridge, Mass., Victor Emanuel, 33 Aberdeen Ave., Apt. 3A. The Observer is published by Texas Observer Co., Ltd., biweekly from Austin, Texas. Entered as second-class matter April 26, 1937, at the Post Office at Austin, Texas, under the Act of March 3, 1879. Second class postage paid at Austin, Texas. Delivered postage prepaid $6.00 a year; two years, $11.00; three years, $15.00. Foreign rates on request. Single copies 25c; prices for ten or more for *students, or bulk orders, on request. Editorial and Business Offices: The Texas Observer, 504 West 24th St., Austin 5, Texas Telephone GR 7-0746. Change of Address: Please give old and new address and allow three weeks. the eleven have agreed to donate land along a railroad for the co-op. The small farmers are fairly free of pressure, he said. Around Delano all the growers were big operators, and larger farmers in the Valley Farm Bureau, regional branch of the Texas Farm Bureau, can be galvanized against the union. Another difference between Delano and Starr that encourages Nelson is the fact that when much of the farm labor force picks up and hits the trail for five or six months local merchants lose business, and therefore these merchants have a personal financial interest in wages being high enough to keep the workers home. Nelson said some merchants have slipped the strikers help with the request they not be identified. In Starr County, about nine-tenths of the population is Latin-American one high school official says 97%and this takes much of the potential ethnic hostility toward a farm workers’ strike out of the question here. Nelson says the field hands around here were ready for some action. “I think any run of the mill organizer could have done it,” he said. If it was this easy why hadn’t someone done it before? “That’s a good question,” Nelson said. Roy Evans, secretary-treasurer of the Texas AFL-CIO, said in Austin that it has been a matter of doctrine in union organizing to start out with workers who have the most legal protection already under the National Labor Relations Act; otherwise, Evans said, all you’re going to do is get workers fired. In practice this generally has meant that the farm workers don’t get organized, since many less vulnerable workers always remain unorganized. The farm workers’ union movement begins with the premise that it’s wrong to insist on organizing from “the top down,” because you never get around to the workers who need unions the most. Nelson was the main speaker at the prestrike rallies. Sanchez and Galvan were convinced that in politics-ridden Starr County, their taking a lead at first would make the movement seem political and foredoom it. Augustin Serrato of the AFLCIO’s Agricultural Workers’ Organizing Cmte. \(which helped in the Delano strike, Speaking in Spanish from a flatbed truck, Nelson addressed the gatheing crowds at San Juan Plaza in Rio Grande City. Waving a magazine from the California strike with a photograph of Emiliano Zapata on the cover, he told them, “You are sons of Zapata. You must be brave.” In California, he said, “They had guns and they tried to run us down with cars. But the Mexicans and Filipinos were not afraid. The grapes started spoiling .. . People came to Delano from all over newspaper people, church people . .. Last month Schenley signed a contract . . . You are many. The ranchers are few. Sign the cards.” On May 29, three days before the strike, Willie Lopez, a broadcaster on a radio station in Reynosa, told one rally that many farmers know they must pay more, but won’t be the first to do it. Two weeks later Gail Sammons, news editor of the THE TEXAS OBSERVER Texas Observer Co., Ltd. 1966 A Journal of Free Voices A Window to the South 60th YEAR ESTABLISHED 1906 Vol. 58, No. 11 June 24, 1966
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.