Sunday, September 11
In our worship service, Bishop Martinez will preach about his firsthand recollection of the march and the importance of advocating for justice for marginalized persons.
Bishop Martinez’s faith, life experience, and heritage led him into a ministry of accompaniment of the poorest of workers in our state. As pastor of El Buen Pastor UMC in San Antonio, he helped organize the gathering of food, clothing, and funds for the families of the marchers. Bishop Martinez marched in Kenedy, San Antonio, and Austin on that sunny Labor Day of September 1966 with 15,000 others up Congress Avenue to Capitol.
“What I remember about the workers I met was their faith and hope in the future. Many were grandmothers and grandfathers who wanted a new future for their grandchildren and their future great-grandchildren.”
“I marched in 1966 in honor and remembrance of generations of my family, in faithfulness to the Gospel, and solidarity with humble workers whose faith and hope helped to change me and my generation.”
How You can Participate
March to the Capitol
Meet at 12:30 p.m. in the parking lot to carpool to St. Edwards University. The march is 3.5 miles. Dress appropriately.
Rally at the Capitol
Meet on the South Capitol lawn at 4:00 pm. Speakers, including Bishop Martinez, recall the importance of the march and its relevance today. Dress appropriately.
Host the Water & Rest Station at the FLC
From 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Host a rest station in the Family Life Center for those awaiting a bus/ride or those seeking to cool off from the march and rally. Sign up online at tiny.cc/WaterRest.
About the 1966 Farm Worker March
On June 1, 1966, Rio Grande City farmworkers launched a strike for better pay. They were paid as little as 40 cents an hour, about a third of what sanitation workers of the era made. Strikers bore the brunt of intimidation and abuse from law enforcement, including the Texas Rangers. With little planning, the farm workers launched into a strike that morphed into a 490-mile march, with detours along the way, from Rio Grande City to the Texas Capitol. The goal was a state minimum wage law that would apply to farmworkers. The march began on Independence Day and culminated, cinematically, in a cascade of humanity more than 10,000 strong up Congress Avenue.
Although the goal of a living wage for farm workers has yet to be achieved, the march yielded several other important results. Farm workers eventually won a minimum wage and other protections in Texas. The Supreme Court decision in Medrano vs. Allee effectively ended the use of taxpayer-funded law officers to wage war against labor unions. The anti-picketing laws became a dead letter, cementing First Amendment rights for all of us. The strike and march is recognized by many as the beginnings of the Chicano Movement in Texas.
In 2016, we have more work to do. Fifty years since the march, the fight for a living wage is as pitched as ever, farmworker housing remains atrocious in some quarters, with little enforcement of the law, and Latinos do not exploit their full potential strength at the polls.
-Content by Ed Sills is director of communications at the Texas AFL-CIO
Learn More at www.farmworkers2016.org.