The United Farm Worker s Union (UFW) has made the same mistakes that other unions have made in the past 25 years. The number one reason for the UFW not having as much of significance with agro-business today was that they lost the ties to their roots. Just as the Teamsters and AFL-CIO, getting local communities together and fighting for basic human rights formed the UFW. The leaders of the unions were fellow farmers, or mine workers, or steelworkers. The leaders understood the problems that the rank-and-file union members had. They fought hard for their cause because their cause directly effected them.
In the case of the United Farm Workers, they had a leader in the name of Caesar Chavez. Chavez became known as a world historical figure and has been mentioned in the same breath as King and Ghandi. His nonviolent protests and fasts earned worldwide support for the United Farm Worker s cause. In 1968, Chavez led a nation wide boycott against California grape growers.
The Coachella grapes, grown in southern California, are the first grapes to ripen in the state. The UFW was looking to get the workers paid 1. 25 per hour. After ten days, the growers folded and agreed to pay the workers the 1.
25 an hour. Shortly after the strike, Chavez called to the public to buy only union labeled grapes. This forced many grape companies in California to sign the union contract and allow their employees to join the union. In May 1993, Arturo Rodriguez became the second president of the UFW, following Chavez s death. Rodriquez was college educated with a degree in sociology from St. Mary s University.
He first met Chavez in 1973 and began working with him on organizing boycotts and protests. When Rodriguez took over as President, the UFW was still one of the fastest growing unions in the country. Rodriguez, however, had never worked in the fields. The UFW had followed the lead of the other unions who had hired college educated business me to lead them. The leaders did not understand the real problems of the members. The UFW had Chavez, a world leader, and it gave them an added advantage because of the public support from non-union citizens.
Now, the UFW has put its future in the hands of businessmen. And like other unions, will need to go back to its roots in order to gain back the strength it had a generation ago.