Texas Farm Workers Union flag
March for Human Rights brings awareness to working conditions of farm laborers
On February 26, 1977, members and supporters of the Texas Farm Workers Union (TFW) began a 420-mile march from San Juan on the Texas/Mexico border, to Austin. TFW organized the March for Human Rights to bring awareness to the working conditions of farm laborers and to garner political support for collective bargaining rights legislation. The walk to Austin took nearly two months and was the first leg of a much longer journey — in June, the group set out from Austin to Washington, D.C. Farmers carried this flag during the March for Human Rights. The black silhouette of a tree represents a shade tree, the only source of comfort for a worker in the field.
Farm worker Antonio Orendain, who had previously worked with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Union, established the TFW in 1975 to advocate for fair wages and better working conditions for agricultural workers in Texas. At the time, farm workers in Texas earned as little as 40 cents an hour and commonly worked 10 to 14 hour days with no access to bathrooms, clean drinking water, or emergency medical services. Workers were also exposed to dangerous pesticides when fields were crop dusted while they worked.
Despite having little funding, the TFW organized strikes in the Rio Grande Valley and the Trans-Pecos and Panhandle regions and published their own newspaper, El Cuhamil. They also fought for legislation that would repeal right-to-work laws and allow them to elect a legally recognized union with collective bargaining rights. The legislation had limited support from elected officials and did not go beyond subcommittee hearings.
Courtesy Texas Farm Workers Union Collection, Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, The University of Texas at Austin
Time Period: 1971 - Present
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