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

Matt Garcia
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    From the Jaws of Victory
    Book Description:

    From the Jaws of Victory:The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movementis 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 Victorydelves 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95366-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    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 thatmovesmiddle-class, English-speaking consumers to care? More important, how do you...

  7. ONE Birth of a Movement
    (pp. 12-43)

    Farm worker advocates have often contrasted visions of rural California as the land of milk and honey with the gritty reality of farm workers’ lives. This, in part, was the approach that novelist John Steinbeck, photographer Dorothea Lange, and other agrarian partisans used in the 1930s to arouse the nation’s appetite for reform. Their ability to undermine growers’ idyllic impressions of the California countryside led to the creation of programs that brought temporary relief to field hands. Although the New Deal ultimately fell short, artists and union organizers proved that they could counter advertisements celebrating the bounty of nature and,...

  8. TWO Capitalism in Reverse
    (pp. 44-74)

    As jerry brown headed for a meeting of the National Executive Board (NEB) of the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee in 1968, he pondered a future without the union. Accompanied by his wife, Juanita, Brown (no relation to the future California governor of the same name) had arrived in Delano in 1966 as a twenty-one-year-old graduate student in anthropology from Cornell University. Within a matter of minutes of their meeting, Cesar Chavez temporarily derailed Brown’s dream of writing a dissertation on farm worker communities. Brown recalled Chavez’s first words to him: “He said, ‘Jerry, do you know who we hate...

  9. THREE Workers of the World, Unite!
    (pp. 75-112)

    Elaine elinson had never visited the headquarters of the United Farm Workers union, nor had she ever met the president of the organization, Cesar Chavez, despite having served in the movement for more than a year. Yet in 1969, as soon as she stepped onto the stage at Filipino Hall in Delano, California, the mostly Mexican and Filipino audience greeted her as a long-lost sister. Farm workers and activists alike honored her with the traditional farm worker “clap” that started slowly and built rapidly to a crescendo and cheers of “Viva la Huelga.” Elinson, like many boycott workers, had skipped...

  10. FOUR Stuck in the Middle
    (pp. 113-144)

    On march 30, 1972, the president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Frank E. Fitzsimmons, entered the Oval Office to meet with President Richard Nixon. In a meeting arranged by the White House assistant Charles Colson, who would later do time in prison for his part in the Watergate scandal, the two men fell quickly into a freewheeling conversation lasting more than an hour. Captured on Nixon’s now famous running recorder, the conversation included discussions of the president’s pardon of Fitzsimmons’s predecessor, James “Jimmy” Hoffa, the economy, and a shared philosophy of governance. Offering his vision of effective leadership, Fitzsimmons...

  11. FIVE A Bitter Harvest
    (pp. 145-177)

    The regional office of the new Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) in Salinas, California, opened on a typically cool morning, September 2, 1975. The union had planned for this day for months, collecting membership cards and preparing petitions for elections on farms. The Salinas office covered farms over a wide swath of the state, from the coastal growing regions just north of Los Angeles to the fertile lands of Monterey County. Union organizer, Jesus “Chui” Villegas, and a law student interning for the farm workers had driven all night from Oxnard, nearly 300 miles away, carrying seven petitions to file...

  12. SIX Busy Dying
    (pp. 178-214)

    On july 24, 1976, Nick Jones sat down with his old friend Bill Taylor to reminisce about the early days of the movement and reflect on the future ahead for the United Farm Workers. Taylor had worked for the union in 1967 and 1968, participating with Jones in the establishment of the boycott house in Portland, Oregon, until personal issues and differences with Jerry and Juanita Brown compelled him to leave. “I would have played it a whole hell of a lot different[ly],” Taylor admitted. “I was tired, frankly, and I used to runoff at the fucking mouth and call...

  13. SEVEN Rotting from the Inside Out
    (pp. 215-255)

    The united farm workers’ defeat in Proposition 14 came largely by way of urban voters who understood the question of access to private property in much different terms than those who earned their living harvesting crops. While the campaign produced the regretful tactic of withdrawing the boycott from cities, it also enabled organizers like Eliseo Medina and Marshall Ganz to invest more time and resources into building strong ranch committees that formed the foundation of what the union referred to as “Ranch Nation.” Ganz described the concept: “The Ranch Nation was like a little metaphor for describing the situation where...

  14. EIGHT Some Were More Equal Than Others
    (pp. 256-291)

    Among the many topics that divide former members of the United Farm Workers, the Game and the influence of Synanon remain the most controversial. Although it is difficult to pinpoint the moment at which Chavez became convinced of its value to the union, by mid-1977 he had committed to the Game’s integration into La Paz and made plans to extend it to the legal department in Salinas and the field offices throughout California. At the executive board meeting in June–July 1977, he revealed that the Game constituted the cornerstone of his “little cultural revolution” and speculated, “It may lead...

  15. Epilogue: BEYOND THE LEGEND
    (pp. 292-298)

    In john ford’s classic western film,The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, audiences are challenged to reconsider the meaning and importance of heroes in the development of the American West. Although Jimmy Stewart’s character, Ransom Stoddard, did not kill the fearsome Liberty Valance, a man who had terrorized the townspeople of Shinbone, Arizona, in the name of protecting the land and interest of cattle barons, he received credit for it, rising to the level of U.S. senator for his supposed act of courage. Years later, when Valance’s real murderer, John Wayne’s Tom Doniphon, dies, Stoddard tries to set the record...

  16. NOTES
    (pp. 299-330)
    (pp. 331-338)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 339-350)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 351-352)