Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Movement

Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Movement

Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Movement

Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Movement

Synopsis

"Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Movement" chronicles the drive for a union of one of American society's most exploited groups. It is a story of courage and determination, set against the backdrop of the 1960s, a time of assassinations, war protests, civil rights battles, and reform efforts for poor and minority citizens.

American farm workers were men and women on labor's last rung, living in desperate and inhumane conditions, poisoned by pesticides, and making a pittance for back-breaking work. The book shows how these migrant workers found a champion in Chavez and the United Farm Workers Union. With the help of quotes from documentary material only recently made available, it tells the story of the boycotts, marches, and strikes--including hunger strikes--used to force concessions for better conditions and pay. It also shows how the farm workers movement helped set the stage for growing Latino cultural awareness and political power.

Excerpt

Revered leaders and their deeds often spring from improbable roots and circumstances. Today across America there are streets, buildings, monuments, and many educational programs that carry the name of Cesar Chavez. His picture hangs on the walls of many households; his name is invoked in speeches and testimonials that talk about accomplishing the impossible against enormous odds, about standing up to injustice, about fighting for equal rights, and about making a difference.

For Chavez it was, indeed, an unlikely road. Born into a supportive but poor family of Mexican Americans in a small town outside Yuma, Arizona, burdened with an early life doing hard labor as a migrant farm worker in the harvest fields across California, without money or influence, Chavez took on a personal crusade that seemed a foregone failure. He would attempt to organize a labor union of farm workers.

Mostly Mexican American, the men, women, and children in those fruit and vegetable fields faced grueling days in the heat, worked in painful positions with inferior tools that made back injuries routine and lasting, were paid little in wages, had no benefits such as health insurance, often had no toilet facilities or access to running water, and lived mostly in shacks and other makeshift accommodations. They were American society’s misfits and throwaways.

This is the story of how one of those young workers, Chavez, with little more than steely determination and uncommon instincts of leadership, took on American agribusiness and formidable political enemies, and, with the help of extraordinary allies such as Dolores Huerta, made real what seemed to most observers a fanciful dream—the United Farm Workers of America.

It is a story that springs from the profound upheaval and discontent of the 1960s—from the searing protests of the Vietnam War, political assassination, the civil rights movement, and the drive of Mexican Americans and other Latinos to gain equality and respect.

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