From the Jaws of Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement

From the Jaws of Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement

From the Jaws of Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement

From the Jaws of Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement

Synopsis

From the Jaws of Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement is the most comprehensive history ever written on the meteoric rise and precipitous decline of the United Farm Workers, the most successful farm labor union in United States history. Based on little-known sources and one-of-a-kind oral histories with many veterans of the farm worker movement, this book revises much of what we know about the UFW. Matt Garcia's gripping account of the expansion of the union's grape boycott reveals how the boycott, which UFW leader Cesar Chavez initially resisted, became the defining feature of the movement and drove the growers to sign labor contracts in 1970. Garcia vividly relates how, as the union expanded and the boycott spread across the United States, Canada, and Europe, Chavez found it more difficult to organize workers and fend off rival unions. Ultimately, the union was a victim of its own success and Chavez's growing instability.

From the Jaws of Victory delves deeply into Chavez's attitudes and beliefs, and how they changed over time. Garcia also presents in-depth studies of other leaders in the UFW, including Gilbert Padilla, Marshall Ganz, Dolores Huerta, and Jerry Cohen. He introduces figures such as the co-coordinator of the boycott, Jerry Brown; the undisputed leader of the international boycott, Elaine Elinson; and Harry Kubo, the Japanese American farmer who led a successful campaign against the UFW in the mid-1970s.

Excerpt

[The role of the] organizer [is to] work with the people where
they are, not where you are, or where you think they ought to be.

FRED ROSS

“Book Outline (Bell Town and Casa Blanca),” from his unpublished
autobiography, Fred Ross Papers, Stanford University Library

An organizer is an outsider in many cases—there’s nothing
wrong in that. But then he assumes a sort of special position in
that program. If you organize a good group, pretty soon you find
yourself hoping, “I wish I had a vote in this outfit.”

CESAR CHAVEZ

“What Is an Organizer?,” in Cesar Chavez, An Organizer’s Tale

I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the
stomach.

UPTON SINCLAIR

The Jungle

BEFORE PUBLISHING HIS PROVOCATIVE NOVEL, The Jungle, On the meatpacking industry in 1906, Upton Sinclair embedded himself in the Chicago stockyards as a worker and an investigative reporter. Dedicated to the plight of immigrant workers, he sought to produce sympathy for the less fortunate producers of meat products from those who consumed the fruits of their labor. Like so many issues involving food, his was a cultural problem as much as a political one. How do you communicate the experience of working-class, Lithuanian immigrant laborers in a way that moves middleclass, English-speaking consumers to care? More important, how do you get . . .

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