Blog post

"Beyond the Fields"—Steve Early on the history of the UFW

Clara Heyworth17 March 2011

In an article for Jacobin, republished at, Steve Early discusses the history of the United Farm Workers union, making reference to Frank Bardarke's forthcoming book:

As Chávez critic Frank Bardacke points out in his forthcoming book from Verso, Trampling Out The Vintage, UFW leaders and staff were even more detached from the membership than in other, more labor organizations because UFW "had its own source of income, separate from union dues." Between 1970 and 1985, payments from workers represented less than 50 percent of UFW income; the rest of the union's money was generated by boycott-related direct mail activity or from donations by wealthy individuals, other unions, and church groups. The UFW established and continues to operate, in the name of its dead founder, "a network of organizations which receive money form private foundations and government grants." The UFW was always a combination of farm worker advocacy group and collective bargaining organization. According to Bardacke, initial (but hard to reproduce) UFW success with wine, table grape, and lettuce boycotts convinced Chávez "that the essential power of the union was among its supporters in the cities rather than among workers in the fields."

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