Archive | farmworkers

Staring into History

The 27-year-old just stared at the photo of the young girl. Jose Barreto’s mother is 50; he had never seen a picture of her as a child. Now through a combination of chance and history and complicated threads, he sat in an El Centro kitchen, looking back four decades at a picture of a 10-year-old girl. […]

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Chavez at the Commonwealth Club

Thirty years ago next week, Cesar Chavez delivered one of his most memorable addresses, a speech to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco. Ronald Ronald Reagan had just been re-elected president in a landslide. The United Farm Workers union that Chavez had founded two decades earlier had lost most of its contracts and was in […]

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An Historic Day for Labor

Labor Day falls this year on the anniversary of a truly historic labor victory. Forty-eight years ago today, workers gathered in a hall in Delano, California, nervously awaiting the results of the first election in the fields: The fight to represent farmworkers who picked grapes at giant DiGiorgio Company. It was an election, Cesar Chavez later said, that […]

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Health Care for Farmworkers, or an infusion for an ailing union?

  The Robert F. Kennedy health insurance plan illustrates two extremes of Cesar Chavez’s legacy for farmworkers. In the early 1970s, the UFW-sponsored plan provided much-needed health care for farmworkers and epitomized the audacious triumphs that grew from Chavez’s soaring vision. But within a decade, the insurance program came crashing to earth in a bureaucratic mess. Staffed […]

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The Drought and Farmworkers

With the entire state of California now on a severe drought watch, there’s lots of attention and hand-wringing about the impact on consumers, what the drought means for lawns and golf courses, and the increased fire danger. But in California’s San Joaquin Valley, home to several of the highest-producing agricultural counties in the country, the […]

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Braceros, redux

A California strawberry grower illegally employed guest workers without offering jobs to locals, required kickbacks, housed the workers in substandard conditions, and cheated them of wages. Sounds like the stories from the 1950s, when labor, religious and civic groups fought to end the Mexican guest worker program, which enabled growers to bypass local workers in […]

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