On September 9, 1985, 1,000 mainly Mexican women workers in Watsonville, California, the “frozen food capital of the world,” were forced out on strike in response to an attempt by Watsonville Canning owner Mort Console to break their union. The workers remained out for eighteen months, during which time not one crossed the picket line. Before the strike was over, they had foiled a company attempt to decertify their union, forced Mort Console to sell his plant to avoid bankruptcy, and finally won a settlement from the new owner, despite having been advised by the Teamsters that the strike was formally over and they could no longer count on union support.
In the course of the strike, a virtually moribund local union was revitalized, and Watsonville’s Latino majority emerged as a major force in local politics. Coming at a time when organized labor was in headlong retreat, the strike was a dramatic show of the power by women workers whose struggle became a rallying point for the Chicano movement. They developed their own rank and file leadership, performed remarkable feats of self-organization, and successfully negotiated a complex and often difficult relationship with the Teamsters union.