In its heyday, the United Farm Workers was an embodiment of its slogan “Yes, we can”—in the form “¡Sí, Se Puede!”—winning many labor victories, securing collective bargaining rights for farm workers, and becoming a major voice for the Latino community. Today, it is a mere shadow of its former self.
Trampling Out the Vintage is the authoritative and award-winning account of the rise and fall of the United Farm Workers and its most famous and controversial leader, Cesar Chavez. Based interviews conducted over many years—with farm workers, organizers, and the opponents and friends of the UFW—the book tells a story of collective action and empowerment rich in evocative detail and stirring human interest. Beginning with the influence of the ideas of Saul Alinsky and Catholic Social Action at the union’s founding, through the UFW’s thrilling triumphs in the California fields, the drama concludes with the debilitating internal struggles that effectively crippled the union.
A vivid rendering of farm work and the world of the farm worker, Trampling Out the Vintage is a dramatic reappraisal of the political trajectory of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers and an essential re-evaluation of their most tumultuous years.
Winner of the 2012 Hillman Prize in Book Journalism.
The 1st of May marks International Workers' Day, a festival of working-class self-organization stretching back over 130 years. It was originally inaugurated to commemorate the Haymarket Massacre of 1886 in Chicago, where a bomb thrown during a worker's strike kicked off a period of anti-labor hysteria.
In 1890, the first internationally coordinated demonstration for an 8-hour day was held, in commemoration of those killed in the massacre. Eight anarchists were executed on trumped-up charges after the event.
Here, Verso staff present an updated reading list for May Day. Since first posting the list a few years back, we've added some of our recent titles that trace the changing nature of work and the labor movements in the U.S. and around the world.
All books listed are available for direct purchase from our site at discounts of 40% off paperbacks, 30% off hardcovers, and 50% off ebooks, with free shipping, and ebooks bundled with your print purchase where available.
"The political clout that Chavez managed to mobilize for farm workers came from linking up the farm worker movement...with the national boycott movement." Before that time, the farm workers had really been "without allies in the United States," says Bardacke.Visit The Take Away to hear the interview in full.
"The guest worker program, which had been in place for 25 years — a whole generation of people — brought contracted Mexican farm workers — to California and Texas primarily — to work on farms, and was designed to prevent them from building unions, and to keep wages artificially low." When the program ended in 1964, there was a new space to build a union for farm workers.
John Womack Jr., writing in the newest installment of the Monthly Review, identified Trampling Out the Vintage as a "great piece of U.S. history," and a "brilliantly composed study" of Cesar Chaves and the United Farm Workers. Verso will publish the title in paperback this fall.
The review details author Frank Bardacke's unique trajectory as a historian. As an activist in and around Southern California through the '60s, Bardacke organized G.I.s against the Vietnam war and founded the Bay Area Revolutionary Union. Later, it was his work for six seasons with the UFW in the fields of the Salinas Vallery that solidified his interest in further researching the union.
"The author's critical and analytical powers are remarkable," writes Womack, "undoctored by any academic department."