Labor

First United Farmworkers Headquarters Designated National Historic Landmark

February 22, 2011

On February 21, United States Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar joined UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta, union and political leaders, and members of Cesar Chavez's family for a ceremony dedicating Forty Acres, the UFW's original headquarters west of Delano, as a National Historic Landmark.

A 1965 grape strike started by Filipiino workers in the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, was joined within weeks by Mexican grape pickers affiliated with the National Farm Workers Association. Eventually the two unions merged into the United Farm Workers, led by Cesar Chavez.

At the time, farmworkers were specifically excluded from labor laws. A 1969 Senate Labor Committee reported that 95% of farm labor camps had no inside toilets or running water, and 99% were infested with rats and other vermin.

Child labor in the fields was common. Babies born to migrant workers suffered a 25% higher mortality rate than the rest of the population; malnutrition among migrant worker children was ten times higher than the national rate. Farmworkers suffered 250 times the rate of tuberculosis as the general population. A major cause of death was pesticide poisoning.

In 1967, the UFW called for an international boycott of grapes picked by non-union labor. In 1970, growers began signing UFW contracts which banned child labor and established a fair basic wage, as well as safety and pesticide controls.

In the late 1960s, Elaine Elinson, co-author of Wherever There's a Fight (pictured above), organized the grape boycott in Europe. In the early 1970s, she worked for the UFW at Forty Acres.

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Wherever There's a Fight co-author Elaine Elinson pictured here by a plaque at Forty Acres, the site west of Delano which was the original headquarters of the UFW

Wherever There's a Fight on New America Now Radio Program

November 12, 2009

Wherever There's a Fight co-author, Stan Yogi, spoke with Sandip Roy, host of New America Now: Dispatches from the New Majority.  The interview was broadcast on San Francisco's KALW radio on Friday, November 6, and again on Sunday, November 8.  Listen to the interview by clicking on the button below.

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Listen to Wherever There's a Fight co-author Stan Yogi being interviewed by Sandip Roy of KALW's New America Now.

President Obama Designates Cesar Chavez's Home a National Monument

October 3, 2012

On October 8, President Obama will visit the San Joaquin Valley town of Keene to establish a new National Monument honoring United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez.

The site, known as La Paz, was the national headquarters of the farm labor union, as well as Chavez's home beginning in the early 1970s until Chavez's death in 1993. Chavez is also buried there.

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This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding by Chavez and others of the National Farm Workers, which merged with a Filipino group, the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, to form the United Farm Workers (UFW).

Throughout the 1960s, the UFW fought for the legal rights of agricultural workers. At the time, the sight of children working in the fields was still common. Farmworkers suffered 250 times the rate of tuberculosis as the general population. They had the third highest accident and death rates. A major cause of death was pesticide poisoning. In 1965, farmworkers' life expectancy was 49 years, compared to 73 years for the average American.

That year, the UFW launched a grape strike, which growers met with force. The UFW organized a successful international boycott of grapes which contributed to growers eventually signing contracts with the union banning child labor, establishing a fair basic wage, and safety and pesticide controls.

Labor leader's former home and headquarters of the United Farm Workers will become the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument

Appeals Court Strikes Picketing Law

July 20, 2010

In a dispute between a Sacramento grocery store and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, California's Third District Court of Appeal invalidated a 1975 law which protects the rights of unions to picket on property owned by the business that is the target of the protest. The law allows a judge to bar labor picketing on private and public property only to prevent illegal action that would cause significant property damage that law enforcement officers could not avert.  

The owners of a Foods Co. store in Sacramento had asked the court to strike down the law because union protestors were distributing leaflets five feet from the entrance to the store. Labor organizers began picketing the store when it opened in July 2007.

A  three-judge panel of the appellate court unanimously agreed that the law is unconstitutional because it singles out speech by labor unions for protection.

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In a related case, the United States Supreme Court in 1980 upheld an earlier California Supreme Court ruling in Pruneyard v. Robins that owners of shopping malls cannot prohibit political activists from passing out literature and otherwise exercising their free speech rights within the shopping center.

In the early 20th century, cities throughout California passed laws restricting speech on public streets and in public parks as a means of preventing labor union leaders from organizing workers.

 

 

Justices rule unconstitutional a 1975 law that allows labor picketers to demonstrate on a store's privately-owned parking lot or walkway.

Against The Grain

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Date: 
December 16, 2009

Hear an interview of Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi by C.S. Soong, host of Against the Grain, which aired on KPFA.

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United Farm Workers Leader Richard Chavez Dies

July 31, 2011

Richard Chavez, a leader of the United Farm Workers union and the younger brother of Cesar Chavez, died on July 27, 2011 at the age of 81. He passed away in a Bakersfield hospital after complications from surgery.

Richard Chavez was born in November 1929 on his family's farm in Yuma, Arizona. He was a migrant farm worker as a child. But in 1949, Richard his his older brother Cesar left farm labor and worked for a year in lumber mills near Crescent City, California.

In 1950, Richard moved to San Jose and in 1951 entered a carpenters' union apprentice program. He worked on residential and commercial construction projects in San Jose and Delano, where he helped to form and became President of the local chapter of the Community Service Organization, a Latino civil rights organization. 

In the early 1960s, he helped his brother Cesar organize the United Farm Workers. His varied responsibilities included leading the union's successful boycotts during the 1960s and early 1970s in New York and Detroit of California grapes and other produce picked by non-union labor.

He also oversaw construction and helped to build the union hall and office, health clinic, and coop gas station at "Forty Acres," the United Farm Workers' headquarters outside of Delano.

Chavez retired from the union in 1983 but stayed active in the labor movement. He also served as a board member of the Cesar Chavez Foundation and the Dolores Huerta Foundation, the latter named for another founder and longtime leader of the United Farm Workers.

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The younger brother of Cesar Chavez organized grape boycotts in the 1960s and helped his brother build the United Farm Workers union.

Historic Choice for State Assembly Speaker

December 11, 2009

John A. Perez, a Democrat representing Southeast Los Angeles, is the first openly gay person to be selected as Speaker of the California State Assembly. The Assembly's Democratic Caucus voted unamimously to support the freshman lawmaker to become the legislative body's next leader. A formal floor vote to confirm Perez as Speaker is scheduled for January. Raised in a working class Los Angeles family, Perez worked for 15 years in the labor movement and became a leader in several unions and the California Labor Federation. For a gay former union official to become Assembly Speaker is significant given that the state of California criminalized homosexuality from 1850 until 1975, and given that Southern California civic leaders in the 19th and early 20th centuries were hostile to organized labor. Current Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, who represents the West Los Angeles area, recruited Perez to be her successor. Bass herself made history when she became the first African American woman to named Assembly Speaker.

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Los Angeles legislator John Perez will become the first openly gay Speaker of the California State Assembly.

Inquiries Into Government Employees' Private Lives Constitutional

January 19, 2011

On January 19, the United States Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that the federal government can inquire about the personal finances, mental and emotional stability, and other personal matters of government contractors.

The high court overturned a 2008 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that such inquiries had little connection to security or other government concerns.

The lawsuit was brought by 28 scientists and engineers working for the NASA-funded Jet Propulsion Laboratory who objected to the invasive government background checks. The employees, most of whom have worked for decades for the California Institute of Technology under a contract with NASA, had passed background checks when they were first hired. However, a 2004 Bush administration order compelled them to undergo a second background check in order to meet increased security standards.

Writing for six of the justices, Justice Samuel Alito ruled that such inquiries into the private lives government employees and contractors were "reasonable investigations."

However, he also said that he assumed a federal right to informational privacy exists, but that the background checks in question did not violate that right.

This drew a critical concurring opinion from Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, who lambasted the rest of the court for accepting a federal right to privacy. 

Since 1965, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized a federal right to privacy. In 1972, voters amended the California Constitution to add an explicit right to privacy.

None of the workers who brought the lawsuit were assigned to top-secret projects, but they nevertheless faced investigations, including probes into their medical and financial records, emotional and psychological condition, and other personal matters.

Justice Elena Kagan recused herself because as Solicitor General she was involved in the case.

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United States Supreme Court rules that government investigations of employees' and contractors' personal lives, finances, and emotional health are "reasonable" and do not violate the right to informational privacy.

Elaine and Stan on KPIX's "Bay Sunday"

Date: 
June 12, 2011

Watch an appearance by Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi on KPIX's "Bay Sunday" program with host Sydnie Kohara.

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Dolores Huerta to Receive Medal of Freedom

April 28, 2012

President Obama named longtime civil rights and labor leader Dolores Huerta a recipient of the Medal of Freedom, the United State's highest civilian honor. 

With Cesar Chavez, Huerta co-founded the National Farmworkers Association in 1962 to fight against the exploitation and degredation of farm laborers. Three years later, that union joined a grape strike started by Filipino workers in the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee.  Eventually the two unions merged into the United Farm Workers. 

The United Farm Workers called on people around the world to support the strike by boycotting grapes. Unions, churches, students and millions of consumers answered the call. After 5 long years, the first union contracts were signed, guaranteeing farmworkers basic protections like toilets and drinking water in the fields, overtime pay, and the right to join a union. 

Huerta was influential in securing the passage of California's Agricultural Labor Relations Act in 1975, which requires that farmworkers be allowed to organize unions that their employers are bound to recognize.

Also among this year's awardees is Gordon Hirabayashi, who as a student in Seattle during World War II defied the government's exclusion orders against Japanese Americans. Hirabayashi died earlier this year.

The Medal of Freedom is awarded to individuals who have made especially mertiorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. 

The awards will be presented at the White House in late spring.


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Co-founder of the United Farm Workers union is one of 13 Americans to be awarded the nation's highest civilian honor in 2012
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