CESAR CHAVEZ IN ACTION
Wrath of Grapes Boycott
It follows the full text transcript of
Cesar Chavez' Wrath of Grapes Boycott
at various times and place from May 1986.
I am speaking to
you about our Wrath of Grapes Boycott.
Because I believe
our greatest court, the court of last resort, is
the American people. And I believe that once you
have taken a few moments to hear this message
you will concur in this verdict along with a
million other North Americans who are already
committed to the largest grape boycott in
The worth of humans is involved here.
I see us as one
family. We cannot turn our backs on each other
and our future. We farm workers are closest to
food production. We were the first to recognize
the serious health hazards of agriculture
pesticides to both consumers and ourselves.
Twenty years ago over
17 million Americans united in a grape boycott
campaign that transformed the simple act of
refusing to buy grapes into a powerful and
effective force against poverty and injustice.
Through the combined strengths of a national
boycott, California farm workers won many of the
same rights as other workers--the right to
organize and negotiate with growers.
But we also won a
critical battle for all Americans. Our first
contracts banned the use of DDT, DDE, Dieldrin
on crops, years before the federal government
Twenty years later,
our contracts still seek to limit the spread of
poison in our food and fields, but we need your
help once again if we are to succeed.
self-serving alliance between the California
governor and the 14 billion dollar agricultural
industry has resulted in a systematic and
reckless poisoning of not only California farm
workers but of grape consumers throughout our
nation and Canada.
The hard won law
enacted in 1975 has been trampled beneath the
feet of self-interest. Blatant violations of
California labor laws are constantly ignored.
And worst of all, the indiscriminate and even
illegal use of dangerous pesticides has
radically increased in the last decade causing
illness, permanent disability and even death.
We must not allow
the Governor of California and the selfish
interests of California grape growers to
threaten lives through-out North America.
We have known for
many years that pesticides used in agriculture
pollute the air, earth and water, contaminate
animals and humans and are found in the tissue
of newborn infants and mothers’ milk. This
March, the New York Times reported that the
Environmental Protection Agency finally
considers pesticide pollution its most urgent
problem noting virtually everyone is exposed to
Protection Agency experts have warned that
residue is being found in a growing number
of food products.
poisons registered for use in the last 30
years cause cancer, mutations and birth
chemicals on the market have insufficient
and sometimes fraudulent test results.
#4--Underground water supplies of 23 states
are already tainted and farm workers suffer
some pesticide induced illness in alarming
Consumers must be alerted now that no one
can actually define or measure so called
safe exposure to residual poison that
accumulates in the human body as
environments differ and each person's
tolerance is unique.
What might be safe statistically for the average
healthy 40 year old male, might irreparably harm
an elderly consumer, a child, or the baby of a
What we do know absolutely is that human lives
are worth more than grapes and that innocent
looking grapes on the table may disguise
poisonous residues hidden deep inside where
washing cannot reach.
Let me share the
frightening facts with you. Last July the New
York Times and national television reported that
nearly 1,000 California, Pacific Northwest,
Alaskan, and Canadian consumers became ill as
the result of eating watermelons tainted with
the powerful insecticide Aldicarb, labeled the
most acutely toxic pesticide registered in the
United States. Yet Aldicarb cannot be legally
used on watermelons.
In June local
agriculture officials quarantined fields in
Delano, California grape ranches because
residues of the pesticide Orthene were found in
the vineyards, yet Orthene cannot be legally
used on table grapes.
And a new study
shows pesticides used in growing may be
responsible for the illness of over 300,000 of
the nation's 4 million farm workers.
But of the 27
legal restricted toxic poisons currently used on
grapes, at least 5 are potentially as dangerous
or more hazardous to consumers and grape workers
than deadly Aldicarb and Orthene.
Here are 5 major
threats to your health that cling to the
California table grapes.
Parathion and Phosdrin--are highly poisonous
insecticides, similar to nerve gas, and are
responsible for the majority of deaths and
serious poisoning of farm workers. They cause
birth defects and are carcinogens.
cancer causing and birth defect producing agent.
Dinoseb--a highly toxic herbicide that has
caused worker deaths.
more potent mutagen (an agent affecting genetic
material) than mustard gas and is highly
poisonous and proven carcinogen.
Statistics and new
articles do not relate the real cost, the human
anguish that originates from poisons on our
food. They do not tell the tragedies I
personally learn of daily.
How can I explain
these chemicals to 3 year old Amalia Larios who
will never walk, born with a spinal defect due
to pesticide exposure of her mother.
are important to Adrian Espinoza 7 years old and
dying of cancer with 8 other children--whose
only source of water was polluted with
What headlines can justify the loss of irrigator
Manuel Anaya's right hand, amputated due to
recurrent infection from powerful herbicides
added to the water he worked with in the fields.
How do we comfort
the mother of maimed and stillborn infants, the
parents who watch their teenage children sicken
What report can be
cited at the hospital beds I visit, at growing
numbers of wakes I attend.
What court will
hear the case of 32 year old Juan Chaboya,
murdered by deadly chemicals in the freshly
sprayed fields outside San Diego. His dead body
dumped by the growers 45 miles away at a Tijuana
clinic. What excuse for justice will we offer
his 4 children and his widow if we do nothing.
Now is the time
for all of us to stand as a family and demand a
response in the name of decency. Too much is at
stake. This is a battle that none of us can
afford to lose because it is a fight for the
future of America. It is a fight we can win and
it is a fight that everyone can join.
Add your voice to
our demands of decency as we call for
#1--A ban on
the 5 most dangerous pesticides used in
grape production--Parathion, Phosdrin,
Dinoseb, Methyl Bromide and Captan.
UFW/grower testing program for poisonous
residues on grapes sold in stores with the
results made public.
fair elections for farm workers to decide
whether to organize and negotiate contracts
limiting the use of dangerous poisons in the
Until these demands of decency are met we will
carry the message of the Wrath of Grapes Boycott
from state to state. 10 years ago, 12% of the
country boycotted grapes and the growers were
forced to accountability. California Governor
Deukmejian and agribusiness cannot withstand the
judgment of outraged consumers who refused to
purchase their tainted products.
Every month over 1
million grape consumers like yourselves receive
our message across North America. State and
federal law makers, mayors and city councils,
religious and labor leaders, students and senior
citizens, mothers and fathers, rich and poor,
concerned individuals in every walk of life have
endorsed the Wrath of Grapes Boycott. With their
commitment and their donations, they in turn
have reached out to their friends and relatives
to help bind the foundation of a growing
coalition of decency.
Now I am reaching
out to you for help because consumers and farm
workers must stand together as one family if we
are to be heard. I am not asking you to give up
wine or raisins. I am asking you to give us your
commitment and valuable support.
I am asking you to join us now and be counted to
join the growing family of individuals who will
boycott grapes until the demands of decency have
And hard as it is for me to ask for money, I am
asking you to contribute to the cause--$100,
$50, $15 whatever you can afford. Whatever you
would have spent on grapes this year. Insure
that every week 1 million more consumers will
know the truth.
You have my
personal pledge that every cent of your
contributions will be spent on the Wrath of
Grapes Campaign bringing this message into every
home in America because this message is the
source of our combined strength.
My friends, the
wrath of grapes is a plague born of selfish men
that is indiscriminately and undeniably
poisoning us all. Our only protection is to
boycott the grapes and our only weapon is the
truth. If we unite we can only triumph for
ourselves, for our children and for their
We look forward to
hearing from you soon.