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Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers

A dramatic new history of Cesar Chavez and the rise and fall of the United Farm Workers

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.

Reviews

  • “Bardacke is a talented writer, burning with rage against injustice, and his subject is one of the most attractive and charismatic figures US politics has produced.”
  • “An...intelligent, thorough history. [Chavez's] truth is marching on.”
  • “[M]agnificent and tragic history… Bardacke’s enormously insightful and nuanced book thus radically reconfigures the social, political, and moral narrative with which most Americans have understood the history of the farm worker movement and its leadership.”
  • “[T]he first comprehensive history of the rise and fall of the UFW, written from the viewpoint of the farmworkers who vitalized the movement known as ‘La Causa.’”
  • “The best history ever written of the United Farm Workers (UFW) and Cesar Chavez. Certain to become a classic of U.S. working class history.”
  • “Frank Bardacke has written the comprehensive history of the United Farm Workers, a definitive biography of Cesar Chavez and a magnificent guide to the politics and sociology of the 1960s-80s. Deserves #1 ranking as best labor history of the year.”
  • “In his superb new book Frank Bardacke reports that by the 1970s, UFW organizing had gotten so strong that wages on some highly skilled farmworker crews earned $12 per hour—'more than 48 dollar in today's money. Even the lowest-paid field workers in the late 1970s made more than one and a half times the minimum wage ”
  • “[A] detailed and impeccably researched history of the UFW...a clear-eyed narrative and analysis of the successes and mistakes made by a group of men and women trying to organize a section of the US working class notoriously difficult to organize. [A]n expansive, readable study of one of the more meaningful struggles of the twentieth century and an instruction book for anyone interested in organizing workers to regain the wealth that they create.”
  • “In the era of so many book-a-year authors, Trampling Out the Vintage has a lifetime-achievement feel...[It] skillfully tells the dramatic story of the rise and fall of the UFW, but what makes this a landmark book is its emphasis on the rank-and-file leaders, who are too often obscured by the long shadow cast by Chavez. It is these workers who are the heroes of Bardacke’s book—workers whose leadership was essential to the union’s success, and whose betrayal contributed to its eventual demise.”
  • “A radically honest, uncompromising and often painful deconstruction of the legend of Cesar Chavez, Trampling Out the Vintage is one of the long-awaited books of our time. Having spent almost a decade as an agricultural worker in California's Pajaro Valley (where he still lives), Bardacke’s account evokes the spirit of Steinbeck, resurrecting the true heroes of La Causa—the rank and file fieldworkers—and reminding us that the grapes of wrath still remain to be harvested for social justice.”

Blog

  • Frank Bardacke on the origins of the United Farm Workers



    Today, President Obama designated Cesar Chavez's home a national monument. The 187-acre site, known as Nuestra Senora Reina de la Paz, acted as the United Farm Worker's central planning and coordination hub starting in 1971.

    Frank Bardacke, whose book Trampling out the Vintage has been widely considered the defining history of Chavez and the iconic union he led, is interviewed today by The Take Away

    "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.

    "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.

    Visit The Take Away to hear the interview in full.
  • The "undoctored" brilliance of Trampling Out the Vintage

    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." 

    Continue Reading

  • Frank Bardacke meets Tom Morello at Hillman Awards Ceremony

    Frank Bardacke attended the Sidney Hillman Foundation awards ceremony to accept the Hillman Prize in Book Journalism for his epic book Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers. The event was held on May 1, 2012 in New York City and Frank's acceptance speech can be viewed here.

    Frank met fellow award winner Tom Morello at the ceremony. The activist, songwriter, and musician was given a special Officers' Award for his commitment to workers' rights. Frank and Tom discussed the history of "This Land is Your Land", which Tom had performed earlier in the evening.

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    The Sidney Hillman Foundation's Hillman Prizes for Excellence in Reporting in Service of the Common Good are given to journalists whose work identifies important social and economic issues and helps bring about change for the better.

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