Filipino Americans and the Farm Labor Movement

by Angelo Lopez

Recently a movie about Cesar Chavez came out that documents the life of Cesar Chavez and his role in the Delano Grape Strike of 1965. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I’ve read that it’s a good movie. One of the things that the movie does is bring out the important but largely forgotten contributions of Filipino Americans to the farm labor movement. Since the 1920s, when Filipinos first learned to organize into unions in Hawaii, Filipinos were important leaders in organizing farmworkers to fight against unfair working conditions. Here is a cartoon I did for the April 16 edition of the Philippines Today to commemorate those forgotten Filipino leaders.

Alex S. Fabros, Jr. and Daniel P. Gonzales wrote a good article about some of the history of Filipino Americans in farm labor organizing.
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Criticism of Cesar Chavez Film Misses Big Picture

OneStepataTimeWhen I saw a preview of the new Cesar Chavez film and wrote a positive review, I did not foresee that I would be the only author of a book on Chavez and the UFW that viewed it positively. And while I understand the critiques offered by Marshall Ganz, Matt Garcia and others, they missed the bigger picture.
Diego Luna’s new film, Cesar Chavez, has been criticized on two main grounds.

First, it failed to show that the farmworkers were a movement filled with key organizers and volunteers, not simply a showcase for a great man named Cesar Chavez. This is the chief criticism I made in my review. For those like Ganz whose own key roles in the movement the film excised from history, their anger is understandable.

Second, the film ends in 1970, ignoring how Chavez began dismantling the movement he launched by that decade’s end. I thought the film should have ended in 1975, when Governor Brown signed the Agricultural Labor Relations Act. But requiring the film to continue into the 1980’s would have required at least thirty minutes in additional running time, and its unlikely funds were available to create a two-hour film.

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Cesar Chavez, The UFW, and Strategic Racism

by Duane Campbell
Cesar Chavez

On March 31, Eleven states will hold holidays celebrating labor and Latino Leader Cesar Chavez. A new film Cesar Chavez: An American Hero, starring Michael Peña as Cesar Chavez and Rosario Dawson as Dolores Huerta opens in cities across the country on April 4, 2014. It is reviewed in a post by Randy Shaw.

Let us be clear. Chavez was religious, but he was not a saint. Neither were the growers, their Teamster collaborators, nor corporate agribusiness saints. Celebrations should not be about hero worship or uncritical praise, nor should we ignore the present oppression of farm workers in the U.S.

What they did accomplish along with Philip Vera Cruz , Marshall Ganz, LeRoy Chatfield, Gil Padilla, Eliseo Medina and hundreds of others was to organize in California the first successful farm worker union against overwhelming odds.

Each of the prior attempts to organize a farm worker union had been destroyed by racism and corporate power. Chavez, Huerta, Philip Vera Cruz, and the others deliberately created a multiracial union; Mexican, Mexican American, Filipino, African-American, Dominican, Puerto Rican and Arab workers, among others, have been part of the UFW. This cross racial organizing was necessary in order to combat the prior divisions and exploitations of workers based upon race and language. Dividing the workers on racial and language lines, as well as immigration status always left the corporations the winners.

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New Cesar Chavez Film Inspires Activism, Hope for Change

by Randy Shaw

Cesar Chavez, a feature film on the farmworker leader, was previewed in Berkeley on March 5 prior to its March 28 national release. Based on the audience response, the film will help inspire a new generation of young activists to push for social justice, and will particularly resonate with Dreamers and others pushing for immigration reform.

The atmosphere was electric in Berkeley’s California Theater as a full house waited in anticipation for Diego Luna’s new film, Cesar Chavez. A block long line of people were turned away, reflecting an interest in the movie that Luna hoped would return when the film is released in three weeks.

Having spent years researching and thinking about Cesar Chavez for my book, Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW, and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century, I was intrigued by how a feature film would handle the long and complex story of the farmworkers movement. And I think it covered the story of Cesar Chavez himself remarkably well for the years covered in the movie.

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Farm Workers’ Push for Immigration Reform Honors the 28 ‘Deportees’ From 1948

This Labor Day finally brought recognition for the 28 Mexican migrant farm workers who tragically perished when the twin-engine DC-3C charter plane flying them back to Mexico caught fire and crashed on Jan. 28, 1948, near Los Gatos Canyon in west Fresno County, Calif. The Latino community of Fresno buried the 28 unidentified bracero farm workers after funeral services in a mass grave at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery. News reports of the crash didn’t offer any names of the farm worker victims. They were just called “deportees.”

Incensed by how the farm workers were treated on the radio and in the newspapers, famed folk singer and songwriter Woody Guthrie wrote a beautiful poem, later a song, called “Deportee” or “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos.” Many artists, including Joan Baez who sang it at a United Farm Workers benefit last July in San Jose, have performed the ballad. The refrain goes:

Farewell to my Juan, farewell Angelina
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria
You won’t have your names
When you ride the big airplane
All they will call you will be deportee

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Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta recognized for their labor leadership

Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta recognized for their life long contributions to organized labor and social justice.

Cesar Chavez at the Delano UFW rally.

Cesar Chavez at the Delano UFW rally. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cesar Chavez Day is a state holiday in California – one of eight states to recognize the  date, and one of the few holidays  in the nation  dedicated  to a labor leader.   Sacramento and dozens of cities, counties and labor federations will celebrate the life of Cesar Chavez on March 31, 2013.

The  year  2012 was the 50th. anniversary of the founding of the U.F.W.  by Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Philip Vera Cruz and others.  The   celebrations focused  on  the struggle for union rights and justice in the fields of California.

The United Farm Workers  (UFW) was the  first successful union of farm workers in  U.S. history.  There had been more than ten prior attempts to build a farm workers union.   Each of the prior attempts  were destroyed by racism and corporate power. Chávez and Huerta  chose to build a union that incorporated the strategies of social movements and community organizing  and allied itself  with the churches, students,  and organized labor.  The successful creation of the UFW changed the nature of labor organizing  in the Southwest  and contributed significantly to the birth of Latino politics in the U.S. Continue reading

Children’s Books for Solidarity Holiday

by Peg Strobel

It’s sometimes a challenge to find engaging books about work, solidarity or unions that are educational without being didactic. Many of the books listed below have been honored by the Jane Addams Peace Association (JAPA), which, together with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, has presented awards since 1953 to books “that effectively promote the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and the equality of the sexes and all races as well as meeting conventional standards for excellence.”

clickclackmoo Click, Clack, Moo is great for reading to young kids, and pbskids.org identifies it as effective for teaching deaf or hard of hearing students as well. It starts when Farmer Brown’s cows find an old typewriter in the barn and send him a note politely requesting electric blankets because the barn is cold. When Farmer Brown replies, “No way,” the cows go on strike. Soon the chickens join them. Broader solidarity is impeded because not all the animals understand Moo. Duck, “a neutral party” enlisted as go-between, delivers a note indicating the cows and chickens are willing to exchange the typewriter for electric blankets. Thinking he had stopped the insurgency, the farmer provides the blankets, only to be met with a note from the ducks, who want a diving board to quell their boredom. Although the author portrays the farmer as a stereotypical old white man, the story effectively uses humor and engaging illustrations to present a nuanced story of solidarity.

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