• 1784-1821: Spain gives about 30 land grants in Alta California
  • 1821: Mexico gains independence from Spain.
  • 1833 – 1846Mexico gives about 270 more land grants (Ranchos) to leading Californios and Mexicans who assisted with the War of Independence.
  • 1835: Mexico secularized Spanish Missions.
  • 1850: Mexico cedes California to the U.S.

Labor Timeline:

  • 1860s: Native Americans, Whites, Californios, and Mexicans are migrant labor force. 
  • 1870s: A series of economic depressions occurred that created opportunities for settlers and speculators with money. 
  • 1880s: Agricultural expansion began on the Central Coast with multiple innovations such as irrigation, Spreckels sugar beet refineries, improved plant varieties, and expansion of the railroads and rail terminals for export of agricultural goods. 
  • 1893: Economic depression hits and 580 banks fail in U.S. Seventy-five banks fail in California.
  • 1903: The Japanese/Mexican Labor Association (JMLA) forms. This is the first farmworkers union and the first time in California that two ethnic groups formed a labor union and won a strike.
  • 1917: Mexican labor begins coming in large numbers.
  • 1927: Cesar Chavez was born in Yuma, AZ.
  • 1928: California unemployment reaches 28%.
  • 1930: Farm Prices fall 50%, wages drop accordingly.
  • 1931: Mexican Repatriation, as many as 3000-4000 Mexicans leave.
  • 1933: Series of Agricultural worker strikes involving more than 47,500 workers in about 30 strikes. 24 of the strikes were organized by the Cannery and Agricultural Workers’ Industrial Union (CAWIU). The cotton strikes involved the largest number of workers, and most of the cotton pickers were mostly Mexican. Two strikers were killed in the Pixley strikes. Public opinion sided with the workers. 
  • 1935: “Okies” begin replacing Mexicans in fields.
  • 1936: National Labor Relations Act passes Congress.
  • 1937: United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing, and Allied Workers of America (UCAPAWA) cannery workers’ strike for better working and housing conditions for black, Mexican and Asian workers.
  • Early- to Mid-1940s: Most Okies preferred to support the war effort than work in the fields and a labor shortage ensued. Bracero program began.
  • 1942: Bracero Program imports two million legal workers from Mexico.
  • 1962: First convention of the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), Cesar Chavez’s organization; later to become the UFW.
  • 1964: Bracero Program ends, illegal immigration from Mexico climbs.
  • 1965: Delano Grape strike begins, starts with Filipino farm workers (AWOC). The NFWA joins on September 16. Lasts five years.
  • 1966: Farmworkers from two unions, one Filipino and the other Mexican-American march on Sacramento.
  • 1967–1969: National Grape Boycott takes place.
  • 1968: Cesar Chavez fasts for 25 days to strengthen workers committee to non-violence. 
  • 1970: Grape strike in Delano ends, Salinas lettuce strike begins in Salinas, Santa Maria, and Imperial.
  • 1970: Teamsters and UFWOC announce new jurisdiction agreement. Teamsters agree to withdraw from lettuce contracts. Growers refuse to sign with the UFWOC. 
  • 1971: Thousands of workers walk out on lettuce growers. Note: The Los Angeles Times calls it the largest farm labor strike in U.S. history.
  • 1971: Teamsters and UFWOC sign 3-year agreement. 
  • 1971: After further negotiations and stalls, the UFWOC announces resumption of the lettuce boycott. 
  • 1972: AFL-CIO grants United Fram Workers Organizing Committee a new charter. The new name is United Farm Workers. 
  • 1972: Teamsters announce new contracts with lettuce growers. 
  • 1973:
    • Majority of Coachella Valley table grape growers refuse to sign with UFW and sign with Teamsters, instead. 
    • Majority of San Joaquin Valley growers also refuse to sign a contract with UFW and sign with Teamsters, instead. 
    • Two UFW members, Nagi Daifullah and Juan De La Cruz, were killed during the grape strike. Cesar Chavez calls off the strike. 
    • Table Grape Boycott continues against non-UFW table grapes and head lettuce and Gallo Wines. 
  • 1975: Agricultural Labor Relations Act creates the Ag Labor Relations Board (ALRB), allows collective bargaining, the right to strike, organize in fields, binding arbitration and other rights.
  • 1975-76: UFW wins twice as many elections as the Teamsters. 
  • 1976: Under threat of Proposition 14, the legislature funds ALRB 
  • 1976: California voters reject Proposition 14.
  • 1977: UFW embarks on an 18-month campaign to organize 100,000 workers in California. 
  • 1979: Rufino Contreras shot and killed by foremen, Imperial Valley lettuce strike.
  • 1982: Watsonville Cannery strike.
  • 1983: Richard A. Shaw Frozen Foods closes. Factories move overseas and to Mexico.
  • 1993: Cesar Chavez dies in San Luis, Arizona.
  • 1994: The U.S. ratifies North American Free Trade Agreement, which phased out tariffs from Mexico and Canada on goods such as agricultural products.
  • 1997: United Farmworkers (UFW) launches a major effort to organize strawberry workers in Watsonville and Salinas.
  • 1999: Majority of farm workers in California are illegal immigrants from Mexico and South America.
  • 2005: UFW moves from AFL-CIO to “Change to Win Federation” a breakaway group of unions intent on reform.
  • 2005: 120,000 illegal immigrants from Central America deported. 
  • 2006: Congress proposes HR-4437 which would make it a felony to help illegal immigrants. Protests rock nation, over 500,000 people march in cities such as L.A. and New York.
  • Insert post-2008 stats on Mexican agricultural labor on the Central Coast. 

Key Persons and Families

Books and References
Find online source for labor timelines in notes
Anderson, Burton. The Salinas Valley, A History of America’s Salad Bowl. A Monterey County Historical Society Publication. 2000.