Co-published by the American Prospect
A national growers’ lobby has sued the U.S. Department of Labor to freeze the wages of H-2A workers at a level barely above minimum wage.
Dolores, a documentary mix of archival footage and interviews with Dolores Huerta, her family and such prominent figures as Gloria Steinem, Angela Davis and Luis Valdez, portrays the United Farm Workers co-founder as a pivotal yet relatively uncredited luminary in labor history.
The time for Diane Rodriguez’s play is 1970, and the immediate setting is the office of El Malcriado, the newspaper founded by Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez in Delano, California.
Many people thought Cesar Chavez was crazy to think he could build a union among migrant farmworkers. Since the early 1900s, unions had been trying and failing to organize California’s unskilled agricultural workers. Whether the workers were Anglos, Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos or Mexican Americans, these efforts met the same fate. The organizing drives met fierce opposition and always flopped, vulnerable to growers’ violent tactics and to competition from a seemingly endless supply of other migrant workers desperate for work. So when Chavez left his job as a community organizer in San Jose in 1962 and moved to rural Delano to try, once again, to bring a union to California’s lettuce and grape fields, even his closest friends figured he was delusional.
Within a decade, however, the United Farm Workers (UFW) union had collective bargaining agreements with most of California’s major growers. Pay, working conditions and housing for migrant workers improved significantly.
California State Senator (and former United Farm Workers activist) Bill Monning is sponsoring an effort on behalf of a broad coalition of activists and legislators urging Governor Jerry Brown to nominate Fred Ross Sr. for the California Hall of Fame. Ross, who mentored Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Eliseo Medina and multiple generations of great activists, was arguably the leading community organizer of his time. Although Ross died in 1992, his influence over current Latino voter outreach and labor organizing strategies remains strong. A national campaign began earlier this year to get President Obama to award him the posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Fred Ross Sr. spent 60 years in California working to bring social and economic justice. But he is not in the state’s Sacramento-based Hall of Fame, an omission that Senator Monning and others now hope Governor Brown will remedy.
On September 6, 2013, Monning, along with Senate leader Darrell Steinberg and many of their Senate colleagues,