“Now We Work Just as One”

The United Farm Workers in Florida Citrus, 1972–1977

Tourists in jeep watch workers picking fruit in an orange grove in Clermont, Florida, ca. 1960, by Ozzie Sweet. Courtesy of the Florida Memory Project.

ACCESS PURCHASE
Students and scholars can access articles for free via Project Muse.

“Now We Work Just as One”

The United Farm Workers in Florida Citrus, 1972–1977

by Terrell Orr
Southern Cultures, Vol. 25, No. 4 (Here/Away)

“If labor organizers had learned anything from decades of small victories and stubborn failures the U.S. South, it was that interracial unions were hard work.”

“I have your letter of June 1 [1974] and suggest that if you really want to know what is involved in organizing a Union, you should put some time into working to build one.” Mack Lyons seemed impatient, even dismissive. He had other things on his mind. As director of the United Farm Workers (ufw) Union in Florida, he had worked tirelessly for the last two-and-a-half years. Driving an aging 1968 Ford station wagon across the state, from swampy South Florida to the capital of Tallahassee, he gave countless speeches in churches, at local unions, and at political rallies; and, with his wife Diana Lyons and a small team of volunteers, planned, negotiated, and administered the first farmworkers’ collective bargaining agreement in Florida’s history. It was a contract between the black, Mexican American, and white workers in Florida’s citrus groves and one of the most powerful companies in the world, Coca-Cola, which owned the Minute Maid groves and company houses where those workers lived and toiled.