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Inventory of the Frank Bardacke Watsonville Canneries Strike Records, 1984-1989
larc.ms.0093  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography of Frank Bardacke
  • History of the Watsonville Canneries Strike
  • Chronological History
  • Scope and Contents
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • 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.)