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Texas farm workers begin 420-mile march to Austin

February
26
1977

On this day in 1977, members and supporters of the Texas Farm Workers Union set out on a 420-mile march from San Juan, Texas, to Austin to lobby for passage of a state law granting fieldworkers the right to vote on union representation. TFWU had faced an uphill battle since its founding two years before. Its leader, Antonio Orendain, had worked for the rival United Farm Workers, but had grown frustrated with what he perceived as UFW's lack of enthusiasm for organizing Texas workers. Growers in the Rio Grande valley opposed unionization and claimed that the union did not represent a majority of their employees. In addition, TFWU could not count on the support of the AFL-CIO, which was officially allied with UFW. TFWU carried out nonviolent strikes in the Valley and pressed the farmworker cause in the media. The marchers reached the Capitol on April 2, but the legislation died in subcommittee. Though TFWU, which ceased to exist in the 1980s, did not achieve its goal of winning collective-bargaining rights for farmworkers in Texas, it did force public attention on the substandard conditions under which farmworkers lived.

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