Chavez and the Farm Workers

By Ronald B. Taylor | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER SIX : LA CAUSA

The United Farm Workers of America was born in an era of protest and civil disobedience that began when Mrs. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.The prolonged civil rights controversy of the sixties introduced Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to the cause of ethnic minorities. Bobby Kennedy went into the urban slums and into rural Appalachia.He was moved by what he saw, and it was this concern that led him to La Causa. The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Migratory Labor began a series of hearings that gave voice to the plight of seasonal farm workers; Ed Murrow produced the TV documentary Harvest of Shame, and once more the nation was shocked by the living and working conditions down on the farm.Organized labor, liberal church groups, and Mexican American organizations like cso began to pressure Congress to let the Bracero program die when Public Law 78 expired December 31, 1963.

As expected, the farmers argued labor shortages required the extension of the law authorizing Braceros, but tough old Al Green summed up the prevailing sentiment: "There is no job Americans won't do if they get paid.... How many Braceros do you find working as roofers? What is worse than working with that hot tar stinking in your face all day? But you find Americans doing that work because they get paid well."

While the political climate was improving for farm workers, they were not in a position to capitalize on it. Chavez told Los Angeles Times reporter Ruben Salazar,

Let's face it, most agriculture workers are in the lowest educational levels and don't even understand what unioniza

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