Inventory of the Frank Bardacke Watsonville Canneries Strike Records, 1984-1989

Prepared by Kim Klausner.
Labor Archives and Research Center
J. Paul Leonard Library, Room 460
San Francisco State University
1630 Holloway Ave
San Francisco, CA 94132-1722
(415) 405-5571
larc@sfsu.edu
© 1999, revised 2011
San Francisco State University. All rights reserved.


Descriptive Summary

Title: Frank Bardacke Watsonville canneries strike records
Date (inclusive): 1984-1989
Collection number: larc.ms.0093
Accession number: 1990/034
Creator: Bardacke, Frank
Extent: 1 carton (1.25 cubic feet)
Repository: Labor Archives and Research Center
J. Paul Leonard Library, Room 460
San Francisco State University
1630 Holloway Ave
San Francisco, CA 94132-1722
(415) 405-5571
larc@sfsu.edu
Shelf location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Center's online catalog.
Shelf location: Back Stacks: 02:02:B
Language of Materials: Materials are in English and Spanish.
Abstract: The Frank Bardacke Watsonville Canneries Strike Collection consists of materials collected by Bardacke, one of the founders of the Watsonville chapter of Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) and a resident of that community since the early 1970s, who was actively involved with the support committee for the striking cannery workers. It is largely comprised of newspaper clippings, mainly from the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian, leaflets, and newsletters. Materials date from 1984, the year before the strike, through 1989, although the vast majority of the material is from the strike itself (September 1985 to March 1987).

Administrative Information

Access

Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

Copyright has not been assigned to the Labor Archives & Research Center. All requests for permission to publish or quote from materials must be submitted in writing to the Director of the Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Labor Archives & Research Center as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Frank Bardacke Watsonville Canneries Strike Records, larc.ms.0093, Labor Archives & Research Center, San Francisco State University.

Acquisition Information

Frank Bardacke Watsonville Canneries Strike Records were donated by Frank Bardacke in 1990, accession number 1990/034.

Processing Information

The collection was processed by Kim Klausner in the winter of 1996.

Biography of Frank Bardacke

Frank Bardacke, one of the founders of the Watsonville chapter of Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), was born in San Diego in 1941. He earned a Masters Degree from UC Berkeley, worked for three years in the frozen food industry, and was teaching adult education at the time of the strike.

History of the Watsonville Canneries Strike

Watsonville, a town of nearly 30,000 located in the heart of the agricultural Salinas Valley, is home to numerous canneries that process the majority of frozen food products sold in the United States (Unity 10/85, in Media Coverage series). In September 1985, nearly half of the town's 4,000 cannery workers went out on strike to protest wage cutbacks. In February 1986, R. Shaw Frozen Foods reached a settlement with their 900 employees that included a 17% pay cut. It wasn't until a year later that workers at Watsonville Canning returned to work. The bitter 18-month strike can serve as a case study of the remarkable challenges facing agribusiness workers, whose livelihoods are affected as much by local politics as by the international economy.
The Watsonville strike involved a diversity of interests beyond the usual interplay of union and management. Race and gender dynamics played a central role in the conflict. At the forefront were the strikers who were largely women of Mexican heritage, some recent immigrants, others whose families had lived in the U.S. for years, many were single mothers. Teamsters Local 912, represented the cannery workers; the union had been formed in 1952 and had been under the leadership of Richard King, a white man, since that time. King had achieved close working and personal relationships with many of the cannery owners. Management and labor co-existed relatively peacefully for many years. Wages, benefits, and working conditions were decent; strikes were avoided.
The Watsonville chapter of the renegade Teamsters for a Democratic Union used the strike to challenge the authority of the entrenched union leadership, advocating for more democracy and representation within the union. TDU called on Local 912 to hold weekly union meetings during the strike, to authorize the election of a committee of strikers to administer the strike fund, and to nearly double strike benefits to $100 per week. TDU also ran a reform slate of candidates (all male) for the Local 912 Executive Board.
The Console and Shaw families, both locally based, dominated ownership of the canneries. They enlisted the help of a recognized union-busting law firm and were able to borrow over $18 million from Wells Fargo Bank so they could continue operating during the strike. Lastly, myriad Northern California political, community, and labor organizations provided unflagging support for the strikers.
The strike had a major impact on the small farming community of Watsonville but also attracted widespread attention because of its militancy and longevity. The strike changed economic, political, and social relations in the union, the community, and at the national level. Local 912 spent more than $5 million on strike-related expenses and launched a national boycott of company products. The union's leadership was ousted and replaced by its first Latino Secretary-Treasurer (who was Richard King's protege). Virtually all those who had previously been employed at the canneries refrained from crossing the picket lines which forced the companies to bus in scab labor from outlying areas. Wells Fargo finally refused to extend further credit to Watsonville Canning, which declared bankruptcy and was taken over by a consortium of growers to whom it owed money. Arsonists had destroyed a packing shed and other company property. Watsonville police had been paid over $200,000 in overtime in an attempt to curtail the militancy of the strikers and their supporters ( Register-Pajaronian, March 1987, in Media Coverage series). Shortly after the strike, Watsonville's Latino community managed to become a part of the local political power structure.

Chronological History

The following is a summary of key events taken from an article that appeared in the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian (4 March 1987) and other material from the Status Reports & Chronology series folder.
1982 July Watsonville Canning wins contract with 40-cent wage advantage over other processors. Line workers' pay drops from $7.75 to $6.66 an hour.
1985 July Richard A. Shaw Co. implements wage cut to achieve parity with Watsonville Canning. The latter cuts wages another 30 percent.
1985 September Strike begins at Watsonville Canning, Shaw, J.J. Crosetti and other canneries. Watsonville Strike Support Committee forms. Court injunction limits the number of pickets allowed at each gate to four.
1985 October 2,000 march through Watsonville in support of strikers. Arsonists hit canneries.
1985 December Richard King, local union leader for 33 years retires and is replaced by Sergio Lopez.
1986 February Strikers vote 2-1 to accept 17 percent wage cuts and return to work at Shaw's.
1986 June The Rev. Jesse Jackson focuses national attention on Watsonville when he attends strike rally.
1986 July Union members at J.J. Crosetti accept wage cuts to match Shaw, continuing the trend that establishes $5.85 an hour as the new industry standard.
1986 September The State Department of Food and Agriculture begins investigation into Watsonville Canning's financial stability and the company's refusal to pay growers for products already delivered.
1986 October Wells Fargo Bank acquires a lien against all assets of Watsonville Canning through deeds of trust.
1987 February Norcal, a group of growers, takes over Watsonville Canning. Union and new owners meet.
1987 March Strikers at first reject union-backed Norcal offer because of cut-backs in health insurance coverage. A number of strikers stage a hunger strike to demonstrate their resolve. A contract is finally signed with wages at $5.85 an hour, restoration of health benefits, and slightly reduced pension terms.

Scope and Contents

The Frank Bardacke Watsonville Canneries Strike Collection consists of materials collected by Bardacke, one of the founders of the Watsonville chapter of Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) and a resident of that community since the early 1970s, who was actively involved with the support committee for the striking cannery workers. It is largely comprised of newspaper clippings, mainly from the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian, leaflets, and newsletters. Materials date from 1984, the year before the strike, through 1989, although the vast majority of the material is from the strike itself (September 1985 to March 1987).

Arrangement

The collection is divided into nine series: Teamsters Local 912, Teamsters for a Democratic Union, Community Support for Strike, Media Coverage, Status Reports & Chronology, Legal, Watsonville Canning, Rally Operations Order, and Frank Bardacke. The first four series contain the bulk of the collection.

Indexing Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog:
International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Local 912 (Watsonville, Calif.)
Teamsters Democratic Union.
Cannery workers--California--Watsonville.
Cannery workers--Labor unions.
Strikes and lockouts--Agricultural laborers--California--Watsonville.
Strikes and lockouts--Agricultural processing industries--California--Watsonville.
Watsonville (Calif.)


Series Description

 

Series I:  Teamsters Local 912 1985-1987

Extent: 5 folders

Scope and Contents

Contains the Weekly Bulletin, the official union publication that was published during the strike (starts with the December 23, 1985 issue and continues through September 1986, with several issues missing), other leaflets and notices from Local 912, the Workers Strike Committee, and other ad-hoc groups of striking workers. Also included are a small number of press releases, financial records, and portions of proposed contracts.
Box-folder 1/1

Leaflets 1985-1987

Box-folder 1/2

Weekly Bulletin 1985-1986

Box-folder 1/3

Press Releases 1986

Box-folder 1/4

Proposed Contracts 1985-1987

Box-folder 1/5

Strike Assessment 1985

 

Series II:  Teamsters for a Democratic Union 1985-1987

Extent: 3 folders

Scope and Contents

Contains leaflets, reports, and a press release about the strike as well as non-strike related materials on Local 912 elections, the firing and trial of cannery worker Juan Parra, the United Farm Workers, and other issues. Also contains three issues of the "Convoy Dispatch: Voice of the Teamster Rank and File Since 1975."
Box-folder 1/6

Strike Material 1985-1986, undated

Box-folder 1/7

Non-Strike Material 1985-1987

Box-folder 1/8

Convoy Dispatch 1985-1987

 

Series III:  Community Support for Strike 1985-1987

Extent: 5 folders

Scope and Contents

This series contains material, primarily leaflets, that was published by the Watsonville Strike Support Committee and the various other groups that helped the strike efforts. The latter organizations include Santa Cruz Strike Support Committee, other Teamster Locals, the Communist Party USA, Cannery Workers Organizing Project, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Central Labor Council of Santa Clara County, Northern California Watsonville Strike Support Committee, International Committee Against Racism (ICAR), National Writers Union, AFT Local 1936, Spartacist League, Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship of Santa Cruz County, Progressive Labor Party, and SEIU & AFSCME Locals. Other materials include poems, song sheets, a short interview with Gloria Betancourt, a strike leader, and two essays analyzing the strike ("Fire and Ice: California Frozen Food Workers Battle Takeaways" by Caitlin Manning & Adam Cornford and "Watsonville: Chicano Power vs. California Agribusiness" by William Segal).
Box-folder 1/9

Watsonville Strike Support Committee 1985-1986, undated

Box-folder 1/10

Other Organizations 1985-1987

Box-folder 1/11

Letters to the Editor 1986, undated

Box-folder 1/12

Correspondence 1985-1986

Box-folder 1/13

Essays, Poems & Film Treatment 1986-1987

 

Series IV:  Media Coverage 1984-1987

Extent: 24 folders

Scope and Contents

This series contains hundreds of newspaper clippings (primarily from the local paper, the Register-Pajaronian) about the strike as well as magazine and journal articles. While the material dates from 1984 through 1987 (with a gap from May to July 1985), it centers on the period of the strike (September 1985 to March 1987).
Box-folder 1/14

1984

Box-folder 1/15

1985 January-April

Box-folder 1/16

1985 August

Box-folder 1/17

1985 September

Box-folder 1/18

1985 October

Box-folder 1/19

1985 November

Box-folder 1/20

1985 December

Box-folder 1/21

1986 January

Box-folder 1/22

1986 February

Box-folder 1/23

1986 March

Box-folder 1/24

1986 April

Box-folder 1/25

1986 May

Box-folder 1/26

1986 June

Box-folder 1/27

1986 July

Box-folder 1/28

1986 August

Box-folder 1/29

1986 September

Box-folder 1/30

1986 October

Box-folder 1/31

1986 November

Box-folder 1/32

1986 December

Box-folder 1/33

1987 January

Box-folder 1/34

1987 February

Box-folder 1/35

1987 March

Box-folder 1/36

1987 April-November

Box-folder 1/37

Undated or incomplete 1985-1987

 

Series V:  Status Reports & Chronology 1985-1986

Extent: 1 folder

Scope and Contents

Consists of timetables and handwritten accounts of strike events by the strikers and their supporters.
Box-folder 1/38

Status Reports & Chronology 1985-1986

 

Series VI:  Legal 1985

Extent: 1 folder

Scope and Contents

Contains a legal brief from supporters and a letter from company attorneys.
Box-folder 1/39

Support Committee Brief 1985

 

Series VII:  Watsonville Canning & Crosetti Frozen Foods 1985-1987

Extent: 1 folder

Scope and Contents

Contains miscellaneous communications from canneries.
Box-folder 1/40

Correspondence 1985-1987

 

Series VIII:  Police 1986

Extent: 1 folder

Scope and Contents

Contains the operating order prepared by the police for February 1986 rally.
Box-folder 1/41

Rally Operations Order 1986

 

Series IX:  Frank Bardacke 1986-1989

Extent: 1 folder

Scope and Contents

Contains miscellaneous personal papers.
Box-folder 1/42

Personal Papers 1986-1989