Observations about Lettuce Wars

Z Magazine (pg 50) -- A review of Lettuce Wars by Seth Sandronskyy 

In Lettuce Wars: Ten Years of Work and Struggle in the Fields of California, Bruce Neuburger explores a central question: “Isn’t there something seriously wrong with a society that treats the people who produce our food as inferior?” And in a highly effective combination of stark images, compelling personal narratives and historical and political data, Neuburger answers this query with an irrevocable, Yes! A society is inherently wrong when it places corporations and profits above people. The Lettuce Wars gives voice to the struggles of the “agachados”—workers in the vegetable fields of California physically and socio-economically bent down by a system of human exploitation which, according to Neuburger, “is the very beating heart of capitalism.” In the noble tradition of narratives of protest and witness, this historical work is relevant and timely. It forces us to cast a critical eye on our American democracy, where the rights of countless workers are trampled upon by those with political and economic power and where the interests of the few carry much more weight and value than the interest and well-being of those most vulnerable among us.
—Alba Cruz-Hacker, author of No Honey for Wild Beasts

In these stirring pages you will find exquisite descriptions of the work, lovely accounts of the people who do it, and a unique view of farm worker politics, all delivered in a straight forward, good humored prose.   Most of all, Neuburger reminds us of what it felt like to be young and believe in Revolution.
---Frank Bardacke, author of Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the UFW

It is not easy today to find a memoir with a such sharp sense of social justice and an appreciation of manual labor. This is exactly what you find in the memoir written by Bruce Neuburger who spent 10 long years of his life working and living in the Lettuce Fields of the 1970's. Bruce lives what he is preaching -- social justice, equality, and brotherhood, and he is such a talented, humorous, sophisticated storyteller. I read this book in two sittings unable to put it down because I got deeply involved in the heavily populated narrative. By the way, you cannot help but learn a great deal while enjoying this book. Actually the book could serve as a valuable reference for any researcher or novelist interested in its subject.
---Elena Kanevsky, Author of a book of poetry, The Devious Route

Bruce Neuburger has given us an extraordinary book.  On one level, it is a political memoir of a young radical's decade of immersion in farmworkers' world -- their work, their lives, and their struggles for union representation.  On another level, he offers a history of the successes of the Farm Workers Union and its later degeneration.  Finally, the book offers a case study of the impossibility of building a progressive movement on the basis of conventional trade unionism and political parties.  Finally, the book is a fascinating story of a young man successfully adapting to an unfamiliar culture.
---Michael Perelman,  Author of Hidden Handcuffs of Capitalism How Market Tyranny Stifles the Economy by Stunting Workers.

Bruce Neuburger's Lettuce Wars adds a new and carefully observed chapter to the farm labor saga in Steinbeck country during the Chavez years. The author details the exhausting work, low pay, strikes, and setbacks as well as his encounters with key union leaders and the friendships that sustained him. But don't mistake Lettuce Wars for an ethnography or regional history. It's the story of Neuburger's real life in a notoriously hardscrabble labor market, one that seemed like a vestige a generation ago but now serves as the default model in a new era of global neoliberalism. If you've ever felt that we're all "casual labor" now, Lettuce Wars is the book for you.  
---Peter Richardson, author of A Bomb in Every Issue: How the Short, Unruly Life of Ramparts Magazine Changed America and American Prophet: The Life and Work of Carey McWilliams.  

Inspired by the worldwide movements of his time, college educated Bruce Neuburger in concert with his beliefs lived a decade of commitment as an anti-Vietnam War participant  and as a "lechuguero" in the agricultural fields of the Pajaro and Salinas valleys ... highly recommend reading his memoir.
  ---Sid A. Valledor,  Author of The Original Writings of Philip Vera Cruz

A very useful source on the 1970s farm worker movement as seen from the experience of a revolutionary minded participant. The author casts the personal stories he encounters against the backdrop of the United Farm Workers’ political and economic activities, as well as the larger struggles of the Viet Nam War, civil rights movement, and revolutionary upsurges world wide. Over the ten years he worked in the Salinas and Imperial Valleys in the vegetable crops, Neuburger and a few others attempted to link the lives of the farm workers to the struggles of the global oppressed and to clearly point the finger at the real oppressors, and how we should know them. This book serves as a record of the many battles that the mass of farm workers waged against the growers, the police, the immigration patrol, and the UFW itself.
—Mickey Hewitt, political activist and former farm worker in the Salinas and the Imperial Valleys
Relates an important period in the history of the farm worker movement in the U.S. in a real and direct fashion. It is written in a lively and informative way by the author who is also a protagonist in the events therein. The story that is told will without a doubt be an important reference point for all those interested in the real history of the farm workers’ movement, in the development of their labor organization as well as an account of people who in the 1970s threw their lot into bringing about social change with an eye on building of a society free of oppression—just and equal.
—Francisco Jimenez, immigrant rights and homeless activist
Brings to light the little known history of the vegetable fields of California in the era of the 1970s. It was an era defined by its political activism and the struggle for workers’ rights. This book offers a look into a world little known outside those who have endured the conditions there first hand. It’s a book that gives voice to the workers of the fields, a voice that most often goes unheard. 
—Mario Ayala, photographer and videographer

Having finished reading the manuscript of Lettuce Wars I was most impressed! It does an outstanding, exceptional job of providing the reader with an inside, on-the-ground view of the industrial farm labor experience in California and elsewhere.  It speaks to the struggle during the ten-year time period on at least three different levels: struggles with relationships, being branded as a “Communist,” etc., the union struggles with growers, as well as the civil rights’ struggles occurring all over the country.
     The writing is so lucid and descriptive that the reader has the experience of actually being in the field with a crew of workers who are physically pained, exhausted and exploited by the grower or farm labor contractor; with little remuneration as a result of wage theft and/or low wages. Laborers are thus forced to live a life circumscribed by poverty.
     As a white person who worked for years in the fields and lived to write about the experience, this work is surely one of the most important contributions to the social justice literature exposing farmworker injustice at all levels. The threats that were faced with and somehow escaped are an indication of courage and desire to inform farmworkers verbally and with a newspaper about the extent of their exploitation.
      The work is very well researched, but the manuscript’s greatest strength is its appeal to and readability by the general reader, and not exclusively by academics.  Public education about the labor abuses inherent in the “factory food system” has to be one of the most important avenues for fomenting change in the farm labor system; change that is long overdue.
     I looked forward to reading the manuscript every day and found the content to be compelling and often spell-binding. I also appreciate the presentation of a very different Cesar Chavez narrative and overall UFW contribution to the struggles in the field.   Experiences such as yours probably account for some of the unfortunate waning trust in the UFW; both among farmworkers and among members of the general public.
-- Ann Aurelia Lopez, author of A Farmworkers Journey, University of California Press, 2007