In 1903, Mexican and Japanese farm workers join forces and create the Japanese-Mexican Labor Association (JMLA) to protest low wages. After the American Beet Sugar Company and local growers in and around Oxnard, California decide to pay workers less, on Feb. 3, 1903, 500 Japanese and 200 Mexican workers went on strike. By March, the union had grown to 1,200 members and represented about 90 percent of the entire work force. On March 23, violence broke out. One Mexican worker, 21-year-old Luis Vasquez, was killed and four others (two Mexican and two Japanese) were wounded. An inquest into the death blamed the violence and shooting on the strikers, although witness after witness testified that armed Anglo farmers shot into the crowd. After the incident, the company conceded to the union’s demands for better pay and the abolition of an unfair subcontracting system.
The Society recognizes the achievements of the JMLA members. They conquered their fear and refused to let racial tensions (often encouraged by the employers) keep them from diversity and victory.
When the JMLA applied for inclusion into the American Federation of Labor (AFL) they were accepted contingent upon them refusing to allow Chinese or Japanese into their membership. Secretary of the Mexican branch of the JMLA replied, “We are going to stand by the men who stood by us in the long, hard fight that ended in a victory over the enemy.”
Stand strong. Stand together. A lesson in Hispanic Heritage.