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As the workers and their sympathizers march, supermarket chains, middle-class consumers, and even the grape growers are choosing sides. Some supermarkets are leaving the choice to the shopper. Others sell only grapes imported from Africa or Israel, and make a point of advertising that they do not carry the California product. On Capitol Hill, diners in the House restaurants have not seen a grape for months, while the Senate refectory has been using 15 lbs. to 20 lbs. a week. When one California Congressman sent large bags of grapes to each of his colleagues, many of the recipients returned them. Within a few hours, the corridor outside the Congressman's office was asquish with trod-upon fruit.
Governor Ronald Reagan calls the strike and boycott "immoral" and "attempted blackmail." Senator George Murphy, like Reagan an old Hollywood union man-turned-conservative, terms the movement "dishonest." The Nixon Administration has seemed ambivalent, putting forward legislation that would ostensibly give farm workers organization rights but would also limit their use of strikes and boycotts. The Pentagon has substantially increased its grape orders for mess-hall tables, a move that Chavez and his followers countered last week by preparing a lawsuit to prevent such purchases on the ground that grapes are the subject of a labor dispute. Some auto-bumper stickers read: NIXON EATS GRAPES. The growers' answering slogan: EAT CALIFORNIA GRAPES,
THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT.
Edward and Ethel Kennedy, following the late Robert Kennedy's example, have embraced Cesar Chavez as a brother. The so-called Beautiful People, from Peter, Paul and Mary to the Ford sisters, Anne Uzielli and Charlotte Niarchos. are helping to raise funds for the strikers. That support is one of the few issues that find Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, iconoclastic Writer Gloria Steinem, and liberal Senators Jacob Javits and George McGovern in total agreement. Ralph Abernathy lends black help to what is becoming the Brown Power movement.
The fact that it is a movement has magnified la huelga far beyond its economic and geographic confines. At stake are not only the interests of 384,100 agricultural workers in California but potentially those of more than 4,000,000 in the U.S. Such workers have never won collective bargaining rights, partially because they have not been highly motivated to organize and partially because their often itinerant lives have made them difficult to weld into a group that would have the clout of an industrial union. By trying to organize the grape pickers, Chavez hopes to inspire militancy among all farm laborers. Because most of the grape pickers are Mexican Americans, he also believes that he is fighting a battle on behalf of the entire Mexican-American community, which as a group constitutes the nation's second biggest deprived minority.
Unlettered and Unshod
Like the blacks, Mexican Americans, who are known as Chicanos, are a varied and diverse people. Only recently have they emerged from a stereotype: the lazy, placid peasant lost in a centuries-long siesta under a sombrero. Unlike the blacks, who were brought to the U.S. involuntarily, the Chicanos have flocked to the U.S. over the past 30 years, legally and illegally, in an attempt to escape the poverty of