Food Fights, Chapter 2 The Lettuce Strike of 1936 remains a dark stain on the history of Salinas


By Joe Livernois

The labor troubles of 1934 showed that powerful business interests in Salinas could coordinate an effective campaign against common enemies. In 1934 the enemies were Filipino farmworkers who organized a union in an effort to improve their wages and their conditions. The racial divide was clear, but two years later Filipino and Anglo workers recognized the strength of their combined numbers in the fields and their unions joined forces to renew their demands.

By 1936, the farmers and the chamber of commerce types weren’t so concerned about the race of their antagonists. To them, anyone audacious enough to seek livable wages was a troublemaker, probably a Communist deserving of a good beating by a mob in a back alley.

And if Monterey County Sheriff Carl Abbott turned a blind eye to the rogues that burned Ruben Canete’s labor camp in 1934, he tripled down in 1936 with brutish tactics and a suspension of due process. To help him stomp down union agitators, he and the city of Salinas turned over law enforcement duties to an out-of-town firebrand, a strike-breaking specialists who deputized thousands of willing locals, including a troop of local Boy Scouts, to create vigilante justice on the streets of Salinas. 

The Lettuce Bowl Strike of 1936 remains a dark stain on the history of Salinas. 

Read the rest of this forgotten story and catch up with Chapter 1 of Food Fights at Where the Bodies Are Buried, an online subscription publication devoted to Monterey County’s forgotten history. Proceeds from Where the Bodies Are Buried benefit the mission of Voices of Monterey Bay.

| PHOTO: Skirmish on the streets of Salinas in September 1936 (Salinas Valley Post)

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Joe Livernois

About Joe Livernois

Joe Livernois has been a reporter, editor and columnist in Monterey County for 35 years.

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