Eliseo Medina


In 1966, Eliseo was a 20-year-old Delano farmworker, paying his union dues each month. Three years later, he ran a boycott operation that was on the verge of shutting down grape sales in Chicago, the third largest market in North America.

Backstage with Chavez at Chicago Coliseum rally, November 1969 Chicago boycotters in front of Lake Michigan , fall 1967 Eliseo’s union ID, 1973 Accepting car donated by UAW members, November 1968
Marching in Chicago , 1971 Eliseo’s first union card, September 1965 Learning to organize on the DiGiorgio campaign, August 1966 Speaking to Lutheran youth group, 1969
With boycotters on a picket line, Chicago 1967 With Gilbert Padilla at La Paz , 1976 At a youth conference, Chicago 1969 Sworn-in as a member of the first UFW board, September 1973

When Chavez held a rally in the Chicago Coliseum, Eliseo stood at the edge of the stage and acknowledged applause from the audience as well as his boycott team on stage.


“Huelga, huelga, huelga,” the crowd chanted, the Spanish word for strike, soon to be emblazoned on picket signs and seared in the collective memory of Delano. The meeting ended with the traditional Mexican tributes to fire up the crowd. The leader called out a viva – “long live” – and the crowd chanted the slogan back. Viva la huelga. Viva Mexico. And viva Cesar Chavez.

Eliseo went home caught up in the fervor, enticed by the hope. He had spent too many Sundays camped outside the office of a labor contractor, wasting his one day off to collect his wages. He had seen his mother and sister work without a single bathroom in the fields, forced to seek a shred of privacy by shielding one another. He had watched his father be fired because he could no longer keep up with the younger men in the fields.

The shy teenager from Zacatecas with a shock of dark hair tended to deliberate carefully before acting. Once he made a decision, Eliseo embraced the path with focused enthusiasm and a big, contagious grin. He went home after the meeting at the church and cracked open his piggy bank. He didn’t know what a contract was, but he counted out ten dollars and fifty cents. The next day, he drove to the headquarters at 102 Albany Street, handed three months dues to Helen Chavez and joined her husband’s union.”

excerpt from The Union Of Their Dreams

Eliseo explains the boycott.pdfEliseo attacked by Teamsters.pdf