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Happy Birthday, Dolores Huerta (April 10, 1930 - present)!

Huerta is a labor & civil rights leader who co-founded the United Farm Workers Union in 1972, and directed the groundbreaking, five-year National grape boycott that won the first-ever contract for a grape grower.

She has been a tireless advocate for women’s rights, organizing against the Welfare Reform Act and California’s Prop 209.

She is also a 101 Changemaker: 101 Changemakers: Rebels and Radical Who Changed US History

For more on the Farmworkers movement check out Fields of Resistance by Silvia Giagnoni: http://bit.ly/11TcrPr

All images on The People’s Record Facebook page for sharing there.

Today in labor history, March 17, 1966:  Nearly 100 striking Mexican and Filipino farm workers begin a march from Delano to Sacramento, California.  By April 11, when they reached the steps of the state capitol, 10,000 supporters had joined them.  A few months later, the two organizations representing the workers – the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee and the National Farm Workers Association – joined to form a single union, out of which the United Farm Workers was born.  

California farm workers fired for leaving fields during wildfire
May 8, 2013

More than a dozen farm workers in Southern California were out of a job after walking out of the fields last week, forced indoors because of heavy smoke from a massive wildfire burning nearby.

“Oh, yeah, the smoke was very bad. That’s no doubt about that,” said Lauro Barrajas, of the United Farm Workers.

As the blaze, dubbed the Springs Fire, continued to grow in Camarillo May 2, farm workers 11 miles south in Oxnard said they started to feel the effects of the smoke in the strawberry fields.

The ashes were falling on top of us, one of them explained, adding “it was hard to breathe.”

Air quality in the region was at dangerously poor levels and 15 workers at Crisalida Farms decided they could not handle it any longer. They left, even though their foreman warned them they would not have a job when they returned.

When they went back to the fields May 3, the farm fired them.

Barrajas, who is a representative of the UFW, said the workers contacted him for help, even though they were not members of the union.

Union representatives met with the farm’s upper management and applied a union rule.

“No worker shall work under conditions where they feel his life or health is in danger,” Barrajas said.

In a statement to Telemundo, the farm representative said the workers left without permission while orders still needed to be filled. The company offered to pay them for the hours they’d worked.

Later, the company settled with the union and offered to rehire all 15 workers. But only one worker returned.

The others took jobs on other farms.

One worker said while it hurts to lose work, one’s health is more important.

Source
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Let’s not forget that what #CesarChavez accomplished he was able to do because of the often unacknowledged work that his wife, #HelenFabelaChavez performed day in and day out.

Por que:
Sin las #mujeres no hay #movimiento.
Sin las mujeres no hay #progreso.
Sin las mujeres no hay #liberación.

#ufw #unitedfarmworkers #womenwarriors #XicanaXingona

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March 31 is Cesar Chavez’s birthday, and three states, including California, officially recognize Cesar Chavez Day as a holiday. Here’s a photographic look at the life and work of the late activist, whose campaign to organize farm workers still inspires.

Top photo: Chavez speaks to members of the United Farm Workers during a rally in the Imperial Valley on Feb. 2, 1979. Credit: Steve Fontanini / Los Angeles Times. Bottom photo: Chavez speaks at the United Farm Workers political endorsement conference in Los Angeles on Sept. 7, 1980. The conference endorsed Jimmy Carter. Credit: Los Angeles Times.

César Chávez and UFW’s Use of Racist Language Against Their Own People

March 31st has been designated as a state holiday in places like California to pay homage to Cesar Chavez, the co-founder of the United Farm Workers. We should take the time to take a close look at the organizing tactics and language used by Chavez and the UFW in the 1960’s and 1970’s to see if we really want to celebrate his legacy.

In studying their newspaper, El Malcriado, from 1965 to 1972 we will see that the UFW, to a certain extent, had a working relationship with border patrol. That was because the UFW wanted border patrol to deport the Mexican migrant farm worker who crossed their picket lines. Another tactic used by the UFW, though not mentioned in El Malcriado that were studied, was their ‘wetline’ tactic. This was a tactic where the UFW would go down to the U.S. and Mexican border to camp out and to notify border patrol where ever they seen our people crossing the border “illegally.”

In regards to the language used in El Malcriado, we see that woven into their articles is the racist term “wetback” (wb) and “illegal immigrants” to describe the Mexican migrants who were brought in some cases by the farm owners to do the work of the strikers. It is definitely shocking and upsetting to see some of the UFW’s leadership embrace racist stereotypes like wb to describe our people. Some of this information might be common knowledge to academics, but to the majority of us Mexicans, Central Americans and beyond, these facts are brand new and extremely disturbing. Read more here.

Dear Filipino organizers erased by the Cesar Chavez movement,

Coming to America in the 1920s was no vacation. Filipinos were “American nationals,” the result of recent colonization, and ironically exempted from the exclusionary Immigration Act of 1924 that precluded the influx of immigrants from “Asiatic Barred Zones.” Saved from the tyranny of Spain, young Filipinos like you were swallowed by an America famished for cheap labor. From Alaska and Hawaii to the West Coast, Filipino men became the bent backbones and the calloused hands of the sunburnt fields, paid a few dollars for long hours of work. And America was not in the heart, not yours, as it was the high tide of anti-miscegenation laws that made it criminal for Filipinos to marry white women. By 1965 when the United Farm Workers was founded, many of you had been in the fields for decades, organizing strikes and making your voices heard in the muted plains.

We immigrants mark our historical presence in America by the names of heroes who gave us a voice, an anodyne to invisibility in a country where documented history keeps some and discards others. It took me a long time to fully grasp Filipino-American history. Like you, I’m an immigrant who began my American voyage in silence. My political education had many twists and turns. In my 20s, I spent my Sundays teaching English to Chinese sweatshop workers in Brooklyn, my first exposure to the complex nexus of immigrant workers’ rights and organizing. I would learn that self-empowerment was moot unless spoken in the language of the oppressor. The workers’ inability to communicate exacerbated their plight. Word by word, my adult students learned the language of the negotiating table, slowly gaining power to address their oppressive working conditions. Workers’ Rights as a Second Language: strategically similar to the organizing methodologies employed by farmworkers like you in the ‘40s and '50s.

I didn’t know about you when I started organizing in the '90s. I had role models, but no Filipino-Americans. In the community organizing world, no one ever mentioned Filipinos next to the apotheosized Cesar Chavez. No Larry Itliong. No Philip Vera Cruz. None of these Filipino men and their Agricultural Worker Organizing Committee that spearheaded the very strike that catapulted Cesar Chavez into American memory and left you in the shadows.

In the words of Philip Vera Cruz:

On September 8, 1965, at the Filipino Hall at 1457 Glenwood St. in Delano, the Filipino members of AWOC held a mass meeting to discuss and decide whether to strike or to accept the reduced wages proposed by the growers. The decision was “to strike” and it became one of the most significant and famous decisions ever made in the entire history of the farmworker struggles in California. It was like an incendiary bomb, exploding out the strike message to the workers in the vineyards, telling them to have sit-ins in the labor camps, and set up picket lines at every grower’s ranch… It was this strike that eventually made the UFW, the farmworkers movement, and Cesar Chavez famous worldwide.

Cesar Chavez has become a holiday, a stamp, a foundation, a national monument and a street and school in Delano. It is not surprising as the Latino community becomes a demographic force in the U.S. that 48 years later, a movie is being shown nationwide about the farmworkers movement, with Cesar Chavez at the romantic helm. Unfortunately, in the Hollywood version of historical dismissal, Filipino farmworkers are once again denied the proper recognition they deserve. In a recent appearance at UCLA, the director Diego Luna told a Chicano studies audience, “We have to send a message to the industry that our stories have to be represented. And with the depth and the complexity they deserve.”

Indeed, in the age of American ethnic diversity, it is all about representation, all about visibility – a spiritual mission to bring you, our fathers, back in the light. History might have worked in favor of Chavez in the past decades, but many Filipino Americans will do what it takes to put your names in the pages of American movements. A new documentary titled, Delano Manongs, interrogates the erasure of Filipinos from the farmworkers movement and presents the story from the point of view of the leader of the movement himself, Larry Itliong. In 2013, the New Haven Unified School District of Union City, CA renamed Alvarado Middle School Itliong-Vera Cruz Middle School. Even a new generation of Filipino Americans on the East coast, the Pilipino American Unity for Progress (Unipro), has made your invisibility part of their discourse.

Sí, se puede: the motto of the farmworkers movement, in Spanish – a language many of you didn’t speak, as if to say the movement was not spoken by your blood. But Cesar Chavez also said that “once social change begins, it cannot be reversed … you cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore." Kaya Natin, we must say, We Can Do This. Kaya Natin: bring back your honor, bring back your light.

Kaya Natin,

Bino A. Realuyo

Source

César Chávez and UFW’s Use of Racist Language Against Their Own People

Editor’s Note: This is a repost of an article first published on March 31, 2013 in the blog End 1492 by its author, Pakal Hatuey. With his permission, we’re sharing it in full.

March 31st has been designated as a state holiday in places like California to pay homage to Cesar Chavez, the co-founder of the United Farm Workers. We should take the time to take a close look at the organizing tactics and language used by Chavez and the UFW in the 1960’s and 1970’s to see if we really want to celebrate his legacy. In studying their newspaper El Malcriado from 1965 to 1972 we will see that the UFW, to a certain extent, had a working relationship with border patrol. That was because the UFW wanted border patrol to deport the Mexican migrant farm worker who crossed their picket lines. Another tactic used by the UFW, though not mentioned in El Malcriado that were studied, was their ‘wetline’ tactic. This was a tactic where the UFW would go down to the U.S. and Mexican border to camp out and to notify border patrol where ever they seen our people crossing the border “illegally”. In regards to the language used in El Malcriado, we see that woven into their articles is the racist term “wetback” (wb) and “illegal immigrants” to describe the Mexican migrants who were brought in some cases by the farm owners to do the work of the strikers. It is definitely shocking and upsetting to see some of the UFW’s leadership embrace racist stereotypes like wb to describe our people. Some of this information might be common knowledge to academics, but to the majority of us Mexicans, Central Americans and beyond, these facts are brand new and extremely disturbing.

In the June 15th, 1968 volume II, number 8 page 16 of El Malcriado there is an article titled “Union Vice President Speaks out : The Union and the Green Carder.” The Vice president was a “documented” Mexican named Julio Hernandez who was asked questions on the stand the UFW had against the Mexican migrant worker who crossed the picket line. One question that he is asked is “Why is the Union cooperating with the Immigration authorities to get Mexican citizens into trouble?” Hernandez responds, “The Immigration authorities have a responsibility to see that the regulations are enforced. Since there are reported to be many illegal green card and wetback scabs working for Giumarra, we are cooperating with the authorities to have these illegal workers removed from the fields.” We can see that Hernandez as vice president of the UFW freely uses the derogatory term of wb to describe our people. He further is pushing for border patrol to carry out their “responsibility” to deport the Mexican migrant and which in this case was a strikebreaker.

Another article from El Malcriado titled “Attention! Important Notice” written in May 15, 1968, before the interview with Julio Hermandez, it becomes apparent that the UFW had already began to take the names down of strike breakers to submit them to border patrol. In the article it stated that “Every day UFWOC is submitting lists of green card strikebreakers to the Immigration Service. The Union is keeping close tabs on every scab and on each man who is investigated to see that justice is done. If a man with a green card visa is working at Giumarra and he wishes to keep his green card and avoid deportation, he need only quit Giumarra and find other employment.” The article also mentions the names of more than forty Mexican migrant workers who were going to be deported.

Before Hernandez was interviewed and the article above was published in 1968, El Malcriado had reported in issue June 7, 1967 p. 6 in an article titled “Scabs Can’t Cross Border” that: “The United States department of Justice ruled this week that green card holders may not enter the United States to work at a ranch where there is a strike. This rule applies immediately to the La Casita Farms strike in Texas…El Malcriado says: We will report on the enforcement of this new rule. If it is enforced by immigration officers, as is their duty it will be a revolutionary development for south Texas and for the Imperial Valley of California. This rule was passed because the Farm workers are becoming a power in Washington. We want to see that power grows and creates true economic and social justice for all people.” Again this article shows how the UFW was cheering for border patrol to do their job, and how the UFW would assist by reporting “on the enforcement of this new rule.”

In Trampling Out the Vintage, Frank Bardacke points out that in 1974 Chavez had sent out a memorandum to all UFW “entities in California, Arizona, and Florida’ announced ‘the beginning of a massive campaign to get the recent flood of illegals out of California…We consider this campaign to be even more important than the strike, second only to the boycott. If we can get the illegals out of California, we will win the strike overnight…we expect all Union entities to cooperate to make it successful.” And so the campaign against “illegals” began in places like the San Joaquin Valley where “field offices tracked down illigals where they worked and lived” informing local INS officials. Bardacke notes that by “mid-July the union reported to the INS the addresses of more than 300 illegals in Arvin-Lamont, more than 500 in Delano, and more than 1,200 in Porterville. By mid-September, the Selma field office had reported 2,641 illegal alliens to the Fresno Border Patrol office, which, the union volunteers complained, resulted in the arrest and removal of only 195 people.” (p. 488-89).

To most academics the actions of Chavez and the UFW is common knowledge. George Mariscal is a historian who documents the working relationship that Chavez and the UFW had with border patrol in his book Brown-Eyed Children of the Sun. He notes that the organizing tactics of the UFW were in opposition to the Chicano movement because the UFW advocated for “strict immigration controls and a closed border policy…”(P. 158) Historians Arnoldo De Leon and Richard Griswald del Castillo, in North To Aztlan second edition, mention that “the UFW relied on a variety of techniques to counter the growers’ importation of strikebreakers. In 1966, for example the union organizers in Texas worked with Mexican unions to gain support among border crossers for their strike. The Mexican union, the Confederacion de Trabajadores Mexicanos, organized a picket on the Mexican side of the border opposite Rio Grande City to discourage Mexican green-card holders from crossing to work as scabs, and several UFW supporters joined them.” (p. 161). The two historians also point out that in 1974 in Yuma Arizona during a citrus strike “the union stationed members and supporters- many of them Mexican immigrants- along the border to convince illegal crossers not to work as escuiroles (scabs).” (p. 162).

In response to what the UFW did in 1974 at the Yuma Arizona border, we should keep in mind what Epifanio Camacho, a former UFW member, said about such actions. Camacho stated “By 1973, Chavez had established what came to be known publicly as the ‘Wet Line’ in the area of Yuma, Arizona. It consisted of a number of army tents along the border with a group of men in each tent. Chavez’s cousin, Manuel Chavez, was in charge of assisting the immigration agents in detaining whoever tried to cross the border into the U.S. illegally. If men like Chavez are the leaders defending the workers, what do we need enemies for?”(p. 46-47 in “The Autobiography of a Communist: Communists Are Made, Not Born”). Camacho could not be more correct in his description of Chavez and by extension the UFW. Bardacke also touches on the “wet line” and mentions that the “County, state, and federal officials gave the UFW a free hand in this wilderness. No judge’s order put any limit on what the union’s night patrol might do to people it caught, nor did Mexican authorities in the cities of San Luis, Sonora, or Mexicali provided any protection to those who tried to cross illegally. If you got picked up by the UFW, you were on your own.” (p. 495).


Picture of Epifanio Camacho

What has been shared with you is information that is not common knowledge amongst most people outside of the institutions of the university. In reading El Malcriado, articles like “The Wetback Game”, “Wetbacks Flood California”, or “La Migra Shapes up…We Hope”, the reader can feel as if they are reading a newspaper belonging to a neo-Nazi or Minutemen organization. It is scary, extremely offensive and unacceptable when we realize that these articles were written by a newspaper that represented an organization that was supposed to be non-violent. Chavez and the UFW’s leadership approved and exercised tactics that only terrorized our communities by relying and pressuring immigration to deport Mexican migrants. The UFW can be respected for going to the border to speak with their brothers and sisters, and convincing them to not cross their picket lines and to honor their demands. But the UFW crossed a bigger line when they called on and submitted names and addresses to border patrol of migrants to be deported. And on top of that for their leadership to use wb to describe Mexican migrants and to have articles in El Malcriado with wb included shows that white supremacists come in brown skin.


Below are two articles that include the racist term wb in its titles:

El Malcriado

El Malcriado, Friday November 15, 1968, Volume II, Number 18.


This article below has the w-word being used in the text.

El Malcriado, Friday November 15, 1968, Volume II, Number 18.


In this article below Cesar Chavez is quoted how as a youth his family was terrified by “La Migra” but then goes on to admit how the UFW has given the names of “illegal strikebreakers” to Border Patrol. And is disappointed with border patrol for not taking action.


Below is the article where the vice president Julio Hernandez was interviewed by El Malcriado, where he uses the w-word to describe our migrant workers. I have also typed out the article so you can read it all.


El Malcriado: The Voice of the Farm Worker

Saturday, June 15, 1968 Volume II, Number 8.

“Union Vice President Speaks Out: The Union and the Green Carder”

El Malcriado has received many questions from farm workers who want to know exactly what is the union’s policy toward “Green Card” worker, Mexican citizens working in this country with form 1-151 permits. El Malcriado presented some of these questions to UFWOC Vice President Julio Hernandez, who is a citizen of Mexico and works in the United States under a green card permit. Here are some of his observations.

Question: Is the United Farm Workers Union opposed to Mexican citizens working in the United States under a “Green Card” permit?

Hernandez: No, definately not. What the Union opposes is scabbing. There is a federal regulation which prohibits the importation of foreign workers for strike-breaking purposes.

I have a green card myself. and so do nearly half of our members. We welcome green card workers who come to work in California as honorable men, but when they come to break our strike, we have no choice but to do everything we can to get them out of Giumarra’s fields and the fields of other struck growers.

Question: Why is the Union cooperating with the Immigration authorities to get Mexican citizens into trouble?

Hernandez: The Immigration authorities have a responsibility to see that the regulations are enforced. Since there are reported to be many illegal green card and wetback scabs working for Giumarra, we are cooperating with the authorities to have these illegal workers removed from the fields.

Question: What happens to green card workers who continue to work for Giumarra?

Hernandez: After we have explained our cause and the laws to the workers, a few will continue to be scabs because of thier own personal greed or other reasons. We consider all farm workers, Anglo, Negro, Filipino, Mexican, to be our brothers. But a scab is a scab, regardless of his race or citizenship. The names of scabs will be turned over to the Department of Labor. We do not like to take this action against someone who should be our brother, but a man who breaks the strike has betrayed his brothers and all farm workers. He has declared war on us, and we must defend ourselves, our families, and our jobs.

Question: How does the Union help green carders?

Hernandez: Well, the most obvious way is through better wages, such as we have won at Schenely, DiGiorgio, and the other ranches where we have contracts. There are many green carders working there.
The Union helps Mexican citizens with immigration problems and helps them arrange to bring their families to this country. We help them on legal problems; we have notary publics to serve them; and we help them get driver licences. We provide assistance with tax returns and other peperwork. These and all the other benefits of Union membership are available to green carders on the same basis as any other members. We do not oppose immigration. We oppose scabbing.

Actually, the Union is the best friend the green carder has in this country. I think all green carders should join the Union. And all green carders working in Kern and Tulare Counties should come into the Union offices at 102 Albany (or 10913 Main St.) and find out how the Union can help you, and where it is legal to work.”

Watch on egana.tumblr.com

So I took a break from studying for my midterm this Thursday and went with Steph to KmB Presents: Voices of Pilipino American History at FACLA in Historic Filipino Town.

Johnny Itliong is the son of an United Farm Workers founder Larry Itliong, and I was fortunate enough to hear him to tell the story about what his father accomplished as a Filipino-American for our community yet he is a forgotten hero unnamed in our history textbooks. Fortunately, I had learned about Larry Itliong, Phillip Vera Cruz, Pete Velasco, Andy Imutan, and more before from my Filipino Heritage class all the way back at James Logan High School. If it was not this newly added class at the time, taught by Ivan Santos, I would be missing a piece of my Filipino-American history. But to hear about it again and to be reminded today of how these forgotten heroes were overshadowed by Cesar Chavez was an enlightening and inspiring experience to say the least.

If you don’t know, there is a reason why there is little information about Filipino-Amercians on the UFW website. There is a reason why there is a holiday to celebrate Cesar Chavez, but not one for Larry Itliong. This reason may upset you. This reason most likely will challenge what you’ve learned in your standard history classes. Cesar Chavez was not as great of a man as you believe for him to be. That knowledge for me was renewed today.

Mexican-Americans were not the only ones behind the UFW movement. It was not solely a Chicano movement, it was also a Filipino movement. Filipino-Americans and Mexican-Americans worked together side-by-side and hand-in-hand. The term United in the “United Farm Workers” is a testament to this, but Cesar Chavez made sure to erase that history. It is time for the forgotten heroes of the UFW to be remembered: Larry Itliong, Phillip Vera Cruz, Pete Velasco, Andy Imutan.

Watch the video.

Do your own research.

No matter how deeply buried it is, the truth will always come to surface.

Thank you, Johnny Itliong, for sharing your story which is something I will carry on for the rest of my life.