California Judge Throws Out Anti-Union Election

By David Bacon
Working In These Times, 9/25/15


A California farm worker picking peaches.

FRESNO, CA — The strategy by one of the nation’s largest growers to shed its obligation to sign a contract with the United Farm Workers was dealt a key setback last week.  An administrative law judge not only threw out one of the dirtiest decertification elections in recent labor history, but did so because California growers had given tens of thousands of dollars to set the union-busting scheme in motion.

That election, at Gerawan Farming, has a key role in an even broader grower strategy to invalidate the enforcement mechanism of the state’s farm worker labor law.  Last week’s ruling seriously undermines their case, now before the state’s Supreme Court, in which they claim to be protecting workers’ democratic rights.  Instead, they have been exposed using obviously illegal methods to deny workers union representation. Continue reading

The Radical Labor Roots of the Great Delano Grape Strike

David Bacon
September 20, 2015

This is an expanded version of an article in the Insight section of the San Francisco Chronicle:

LarryLarry Itliong.  Photo:  Bob Fitch Photo Archive © Stanford University Libraries

Fifty years ago the great grape strike started in Delano, when Filipino pickers walked out of the fields on September 8, 1965.  Mexican workers joined them two weeks later.  The strike went on for five years, until all California table grape growers were forced to sign contracts in 1970.

The strike was a watershed struggle for civil and labor rights, supported by millions of people across the country.  It helped breathe new life into the labor movement, opening doors for immigrants and people of color.  Beyond the fields, Chicano and Asian American communities were inspired to demand rights, and many activists in those communities became organizers and leaders themselves.

California’s politics have changed profoundly in 50 years.  Delano’s mayor today is a Filipino.  That would have been unthinkable in 1965, when growers treated the town as a plantation.

But a mythology has hidden the true history of how and why the strike started, especially its connection to some of the most radical movements in the country’s labor history.  Writer Peter Matthiessen, for instance, claimed in his famous two-part 1969 profile of Cesar Chavez in The New Yorker: “Until Chavez appeared, union leaders had considered it impossible to organize seasonal farm labor, which is in large part illiterate and indigent…” Continue reading

Cesar Chavez, the UFW, and Why Unions are Needed

by Duane E. Campbell

On March 31, 2015, Eleven states and numerous cities will hold holidays celebrating labor and Latino leader Cesar Chavez. ChavezConferences, marches and celebrations will occur in numerous cities and particularly in rural areas of the nation. A recent film Cesar Chavez: An American Hero, starring Michael Peña as Cesar Chavez and Rosario Dawson as Dolores Huerta presents important parts of this union story.

The current UFW leadership, as well as former UFW leaders and current DSA Honorary Chairs Eliseo Medina and Dolores Huerta are recognized leaders in the ongoing efforts to achieve comprehensive immigration reform in the nation.

ArturoUFW President Arturo Rodriquez says, “We urge Republicans to abandon their political games that hurt millions of hard-working, taxpaying immigrants and their families, and help us finish the job by passing legislation such as the comprehensive reform bill that was approved by the Senate on a bipartisan vote in June 2013,” Rodriguez said.  Similar compromise proposals, negotiated by the UFW and the nation’s major agricultural employer associations, have passed the U.S. Senate multiple times over the last decade. The same proposal has won majority support in the House of Representatives, even though House GOP leaders have refused to permit a vote on the measure. “The UFW will not rest until the President’s deferred relief is enacted and a permanent immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants, is signed into law.” Continue reading

Fred Ross, Cesar Chavez, and Lessons for Ferguson

By Kenneth C. Burt   September 24, 2014

FredRossThe police stop a young man. An officer shoots, killing him. The officer claims self-defense, that the killing was warranted. The community, having endured years of unequal treatment at the hands of law enforcement and other municipal agencies, responds in anger. Protests ensue. Hard feelings persist, as do demands for law-enforcement accountability. Sound familiar? No, this is not the case of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The young man in question was Augustin Salcido, 17, and the incident occurred in Los Angeles more than six decades earlier. The Internet did not exist at that time and local television audiences were miniscule, so the Civil Rights Congress of Los Angeles produced a pamphlet, Justice for Salcido. In its introduction, author and civil rights advocate Carey McWilliams described the killing as part of a historical pattern of “continued suppression of the Mexican minority.” Fred Ross, organizer for a new group known as the Community Service Organization (CSO), recognized the all-too-prevalent problem of police brutality—and the familiar, ineffective community response. The pattern practiced by groups such as the Civil Rights Congress included protests that failed to address the underlying powerlessness of the community. Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,583 other followers