Melon Strike (1975)

UFW Organizer Antonio Orendain addresses marchers

Newspaper photo of Antonio Orendain addressing a crowd of supporters gathered for a march on June 2, 1975.

Melon Strike (1975)

Seeking collective bargaining and union elections in South Texas, United Farm Workers in Texas (UFW) protested annual cantaloupe melon harvests through a series of strikes of local growers including El Texano Ranch, Griffin & Brand, Farm 1016 and Southwestern Fruit & Vegetable Company among others.

However, on May 26, 1975, a confrontation between union organizers and El Texano Ranch, in Hidalgo, Reynosa, Mexico erupted into violence as ranch supervisor C.L. Miller shot 11 protestors for intentionally damaging his melon fields.

On June 2, 1975, Antonio Orendain organized hundreds of strikers and protestors in a peaceful march from the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge to St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church in McAllen for mass.

In the subsequent days, organizers continued to protest and local law enforcement were called in on behalf of the growers, who sought to drive the interloping union members off their land. These events galvanized protestors and farmworkers throughout the summer of 1975 melon season and spread across Texas to farms in the Trans-Pecos and Panhandle.

The 1975 melon strike resulted in a 50% labor stoppage during the height of the melon harvest season. To keep workers on the job, South Texas melon growers increased wages for melon pickers from $1.80/hour to $2.50/hour. 

Events of the strike, especially its violent beginnings, also resulted in the fracturing of relations between Texas farmworkers, organized by Antonio Orendain, from the United Farm Workers, led by Cesar Chavez.

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