While labor organizer Cesar Chavez languished in a Monterey County (California) jail last month, he and Salinas Valley grower-shipper Bud Antle announced that a committee of prominent clergymen had been picked to mediate the nationwide lettuce boycott.

Church involvement in the farm labor movement has been extensive, and Cesar’s latest crusade is no exception. The Reverend Eugene Boyle, chairman of the Commission of Social Justice of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of San Francisco, announced the mediation effort would include representatives of the Catholic Church, the American Hebrew Congregation, and the United Methodist Board of Missions.

Chavez’s ten-day sentence marked the first time the Mexican-American leader has been jailed during his five-year crusade to organize the agricultural workers of the nation. A Monterey County superior judge found him and his United Farm Workers’ Organizing Committee (UFWOC) in contempt of a preliminary injunction enjoining them from boycotting products of Bud Antle, Incorporated, Salinas Valley’s largest independent grower-shipper. Chavez was ordered imprisoned until he ended all UFWOC boycotting. He has also called for a boycott of Dow Chemical.

Chavez’s court appearance and jail stay brought out at least 2,000 supporters. Most of them were Mexican-American field workers, who, led by Catholic priests, stood in silent vigil or knelt in prayer repeating the Rosary in Spanish. Many demonstrators carried the red UFWOC flag emblazoned with the black Aztec eagle. An altar with the emblem of Our Lady of Guadaloupe, surrounded by vigil candles and flowers, was set up in a street near the jail.

A dramatic confrontation occurred when Ethel Kennedy joined a candlelit march to the courthouse, participated ...

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