California Farm Workers of the 1970s: A Story Told from the Fields

 Much has been written over the years about Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers union, how it began, the struggles of the early union movement, the positive advances and more recently, about the internal repression in the latter part of the 1970’s and early 1980’s that choked off democratic life and processes.*  Little has been written about the working conditions in the vegetable fields in those years (where the union movement had its base), and about the struggles that took place on the ground, in the crews – what they looked and felt like – those struggles that, for a time, changed conditions, aroused a broader public and put the growers and the apartheid-like system in California agriculture on the defensive.  Nor has much been written about the radical movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s (including in Mexico) and how it both manifested itself among California farm workers and became a source of tension and struggle in the union.
     The farm worker movement did not arise in a vacuum, but not a lot has been written about the broader social context in which it arose, nor about the broader class struggle of which it was part, and the role of Democratic Party and big labor “allies” of the farm workers in suppressing the more militant and conscious edge of that struggle.   These are some of the issues around which the story in this book unfolds.

      Some will find parts of this book controversial, and in contradiction with the popular image and conception of this extremely important social movement.  I can only say that this was the experience I lived, the conclusions that I drew from that experience, as best as I could represent it.

* See for example  The Union of Their Dreams by Miriam Pawal or Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the Farm Workers  by Frank Bardacke.