You’d see the people on the picket lines at four in the morning, at the camp fires, heating up beans and coffee and tortillas. It gave me a sense of belonging. These were my own people and they wanted change. I knew this is what I was looking for. I just didn’t know it before. My mom had always wanted me to better myself. I wanted to better myself because of her. Now when the strikes started, I told her I was going to join the union and the whole movement. I told her I was going to work without pay. She said she was proud of me. (His eyes glisten. A long, long pause.) See, I told her I wanted to be with my people. If I were a company man, no one would like me anymore. I had to belong to somebody and this was it right here. She said, “I pushed you in your early years to try to better yourself and get a social position. But I see that’s not the answer. I know I’ll be proud of you.” All kinds of people are farm workers, not just Chicanos. Filipinos started the strike. We have Puerto Ricans and Appalachians too, Arabs, some Japanese, some Chinese. At one time they used us against each other. But now they can’t and they’re scared, the growers. They can organize conglomerates. Yet when we try organization to better our lives, they are afraid. Suffering people never dreamed it could be different. Cesar Chavez tells them this and they grasp the idea—and this is what scares the growers. Now the machines are coming in. It takes skill to operate them. But anybody can be taught. We feel migrant workers should be given the chance. They got one for grapes. They got one for lettuce. They have cotton machines that took jobs away from thousands of farm workers. The people wind up in the ghettos of the cities, their culture, their families, their unity destroyed. We’re trying to stipulate 6 it in our contract that the company will not use any machinery without the consent of the farm workers. So we can make sure the people being replaced by the machines will know how to operate the machines. Working in the fields is not in itself a degrading job. It’s hard, but if you’re given regular hours, better pay, decent housing, unemployment, and medical compensation, pension plans—we have a very relaxed way of living. But growers don’t recognize us as persons. That’s the worst thing, the way they treat you. Like we have no brains. Now we see they have no brains. They have only a wallet in their head. The more you squeeze it the more they cry out. My Notes 3 denounce ( v. ): publicly declare to be wrong 4 Mexicali (mek ' si kal ' ē): Capital of the Mexican state of Baja California Norte 5 Salinis (suni04D9 lē’nuni04D9s): City in west central California 6 stipulate ( v. ): demand or specify a condition KEY IDEAS AND DETAILS Work is clearly important to Acuna, but respect is equally important. How is respect for work and workers shown by employers?
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