Sunday, July 6, 2014

Still Open to Interpretation: Questions about César Chávez and the United Farm Workers Movement

There are so many books about César Chávez that it might seem as if we don’t need any more, but we do.  Now we have Larry Dane Brimmer’s Strike: The Farm Worker’s Fight for Their Rights, which can add even more texture to our talk. This book serves as a reminder to us all that historical accounts are always incomplete because of the different questions authors ask and the information they choose to include. Brimmer has asked some new questions—at least new to me—and because of this he provides information that is missing in other titles.

Here are some “what if?” questions Brimmer is raising:
·      What if the Filipino agricultural labor organizers had not staged a strike before Chávez began his work? Would he still be the hero he is today? In other words, the role of Filipino laborers and their leaders needs to be part of our remembered history.

·      If members had been willing to speak up against Chávez when necessary, would the United Farm Workers (UFW) union have remained a strong voice in agricultural labor policy? It seems like members were too often unwilling to oppose him.

As a reader, I am grateful to Larry Brimmer for showing me that César Chávez was—and still is—a controversial figure—someone we can continue to discuss and think about. This well-written, well-illustrated, and thought-provoking book can easily be used by teachers and librarians to discuss CCSS topics like finding the author’s point of view and evidence for this view. The author’s note at the end is perfect for getting this conversation started. This is truly a book to check out because it can help us and our students see that history is a vibrant, living subject. 


  1. Of course we should introduce students to books or articles that question the leadership of those otherwise seen as heroes -- we have grown accustomed to doing that for the Founding Fathers, but no less apt for the heroes of the causes of the 60s.

  2. I am excited to read this book. My Ex was an Anglo "Boycotter"/Organizer when we met in 1971. In the early days of the UFWOC the impact and leadership of Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz were acknowledged My ex even helped build Filipino Hall. When the mission of the UFW enlarged include the active empowerment of La Raza,many Anglos were asked to depart he UFW organization. Though many of these original Boycotters and Organizers maintained their personal relationships with the UFW leadership, they moved onto to other movements--labor/social justice, housing, education, faith communities.

  3. Thank you for your email. I think you will be pleased to see that Larry Brimmer has included information about Filipino work towards labor reform. He has made a particular effort to include their stories.