Frank Bardacke Speaks About His Book, ‘Trampling out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers’
In this video, which author Bardacke gave at the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, he discusses the two major themes of his book, 'Trampling out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers': farmworker power and the UFW’s structure as an organization. The more interesting part on the UFW’s structure starts at 33:45.
The author gives a clear and often ignored account of how Chavez and the United Farm Workers went from organizing farmworkers to organizing boycotts, with an examination of why the UFW may have made this decision at the cost of those they were charged to serve.
Bardacke is for the most part generous with Chavez, calling him a visionary and a political genius. However, he also paints the picture of a stubborn man who couldn’t handle political dissent amongst the rank and file of the UFW. But as we learn in this discussion, that points back to the fact that very early on Chavez and the founders of the United Farm Workers chose to appoint the union’s leaders.
Internal conflicts that came with the UFW’s non-democrat structure came to a head during in the 1979 lettuce strike of Salinas where a strike committee defied Chavez and decided to go on strike against his will. Chavez never forgave the strike leaders, eventually driving them out of the union.
Chavez who was the grandchild of U.S. citizens may have also never fully related to newly arrived Mexicans who formed the majority of workers in the Salinas Valley where the strike took place. By 1985, the divisions within the UFW cost them their most talented organizers, but most importantly, almost all of their contracts. Today, the UFW is no longer a powerful union, it “transformed itself into a successful cross between a farm worker advertising group and a family mail business,” writes Bardacke in his book. That’s evident with the fact that the UFW is busy promoting the “Cesar Chavez” movie and not organizing workers.
At one point, Bardacke comments, “I’m not even going to begin to talk about the UFW’s attitude toward the undocumented.” Although he writes extensively about it in his book, he shies away from this topic, as do many others. But we won’t. Look for a video and other stories that expose the UFW’s very dark history with criminalizing Mexican migrant workers.
Frank Bardacke was active in the student and anti-war movements in Berkeley in the 1960’s, He moved to California’s Central Coast in 1970, worked for six seasons in the Salinas Valley fields, and taught at Watsonville Adult School for twenty-five years.
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