AAPA APRIL-MAY ISSUE 1970
For the first time since the taking of the land and the forced exodus of Japanese-Americans from the arms of Ca1ifornia, a group of Asian-American students became involved in the reality of the agricultural workers’ plight. A weekend spent at Delano, California, the center of the grape workers’ three year old strike, brought to these Asian-American students a greater consciousness of the need for worker— student unity in the struggle for survival..
Our visit to Delano brought to us a greater sense of reality. Many of up have the aura of academic success, but in this experience with basic human relations, we were painfully inadequate. We found that we could only communicate in a very limited way with fellow Asians, Asians who are risking starvation because their rights to demand better working conditions and better wages are denied. Luckily, the able labor organizers of the Chicano and Filipino Communities understood our weakness and we found that we were able to learn about the problems through them.
The story is not new to us. The struggle for life and human dignity by the workers of America has been a sad epic. It is a struggle that some of our relatives waged not too long ago in the past. Today there is a new and serious problem added, Chemical sprays are being used in the fields without enough protection for the workers. Many workers have become poisoned by these chemicals, but the irresponsible use of these chemicals has not stopped. Medical care is a luxury these farm workers cannot afford. Even the hospitals discriminate against non-white people. The few people in the medical profession can do very little because there are many colleagues who would ostracize them for helping.
The effects of racial discrimination is very noticeable in Delano. There are clear signs of differing levels of prosperity among the townspeople. The run-down older section of town is inhabited by Asians of Philippine Island ancestry, Chicanos, and Black-Americans, while the well-kept more prosperous section of town is white. Some of us went to a new shopping center near the Filipino Hall. The customers were of all races. We looked at the prices and noticed the discrepancy in buying power that the farm workers and their families are faced with.
There is much to be done at Delano. The people are beginning to develop a cooperative store, but money to build is scarce. There are plans for a farm workers’ hospital which is very badly needed. The land for building has been purchased through the will and the foresight of the people who very often are forced to subsist on fifty or sixty dollars a month.
Some of us have returned many times to Delano. The evidence of the need for worker-student unity is clear. The welfare of all of us is involved.