Farm Workers and the UFW

FARM WORKERS AND THE UFW….The United Farm Workers union isn’t something I’ve ever paid deep attention to, but I’ve been reading bits and pieces for years suggesting that the UFW has basically betrayed Cesar Chavez’s legacy by abandoning the fieldworkers themselves and focusing its attention mostly on bits of occasional lobbying combined with a healthy chunk of self-promotion. Today, the LA Times publishes way more than just a few bits and pieces about this:

Thirty-five years after Chavez riveted the nation, the strikes and fasts are just history, the organizers who packed jails and prayed over produce in supermarket aisles are gone, their righteous pleas reduced to plaintive laments.

What remains is the name, the eagle and the trademark chant of “S? se puede” (“Yes, it can be done”) ? a slogan that rings hollow as UFW leaders make excuses for their failure to organize California farmworkers.

Today, a Times investigation has found, Chavez’s heirs run a web of tax-exempt organizations that exploit his legacy and invoke the harsh lives of farmworkers to raise millions of dollars in public and private money.

The money does little to improve the lives of California farmworkers, who still struggle with the most basic health and housing needs and try to get by on seasonal, minimum-wage jobs.

Most of the funds go to burnish the Chavez image and expand the family business, a multimillion-dollar enterprise with an annual payroll of $12 million that includes a dozen Chavez relatives.

The whole story weighs in at 5,000 words and it’s worth reading. Parts 2-4 will run later this week.