Recently, our boy president has been spending time spreading propaganda about the late United Farm Workers (UFW) leader Cesar Chavez. Thanks to this obsession, Obama declared March 31st as “Cesar Chavez Day.” In 2012, Obama designated Chavez’s home in Keene, California as a national monument. And just a few weeks ago, Obama hosted a screening of a new movie, Cesar Chavez, an American Hero, at the White House.
Not surprisingly, both the film and Obama’s characterizations of Chavez are pure revisionism and have little to do with reality. Obama’s loves Chavez because the Chavez mythology allows him to promote many of the progressive movement’s main propaganda themes: minorities vs. the evil white growers; rich vs. poor; community organizers overcoming callous corporations, etc. etc. And, of course, these themes are the same old tired themes used by communist and “progressive” movements going back to 1917.
Indeed, the common link between Chavez and Obama is Fred Ross, a Marxist organizer trained by Saul Alinsky who in turn trained Cesar Chavez. Alinsky, as we all know, is the father of dozens of radical community organizing groups that eventually served as a training ground for Obama. Obama so idolizes Chavez that he based his campaign slogan, “Yes, we can!” on Chavez’s “Si se puede.” Moreover, 40 years ago Ross trained Marshall Ganz and Eliseo Medina in voter registration techniques that they in turn introduced to the 2008 Obama campaign.
Obama clearly regards Chavez as some kind of saint and claims, “Chavez gave a voice to poor and disenfranchised workers everywhere.” Really? While Chavez did accomplish some things of significance, much of what he did is controversial and is challenged by many of the farm workers he claimed to represent. Needless to say, a good deal of his image has been shaped by Hollywood and a fawning media but when his legacy is examined in any detail, a dark side emerges. Growers and farm workers alike throughout California have strongly disputed the extent of Chavez’s alleged accomplishments, even challenging UFW’s contention that Chavez improved farm worker conditions. There certainly is not a consensus that he is some kind of national hero worthy of his home being turned into some kind of shrine.
To begin with, it’s hard to reconcile the mythology that Chavez was the spokesperson for California’s farm workers when, in fact, it is difficult to find farm workers who have anything good to say about him or the UFW. Indeed, when I served in the California Legislature there was a1995 bill to create a Cesar Chavez State Holiday but the only lobbying I received were from anti-Chavez farm workers. One group gave me a petition signed by 400 Latino farm laborers who were urging a “no” vote. I also talked to people who led non-UFW farm worker associations who hotly disputed the notion that Chavez or the UFW ever represented their views and challenged much of the Chavez mythology.
According to the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (CALRB) documents, the UFW has never represented the majority of farm workers in California. Even at its peak in the 1970s, it appears that the UFW represented around 5 percent of the state’s farm workforce. A study of UFW’s membership by Rob Roy of the Ventura County Agriculture Association concluded that UFW’s present membership is less than one half of one percent of California’s 900,000 farm workers. CALRB documents show an unprecedented 48 decertifications of the UFW since 1978 by farm workers voting to disassociate themselves from Chavez’s union. It seems farm workers do not particularly care for the UFW, which is why Chavez’s much publicized marches and protests over the last two decades were always dominated by professional activists, wacky Hollywood actors and liberal students from the cities. Farm workers were hard to find at a UFW rally.
At one time, the UFW certainly had more members than it does today but why the decline? Simple. The UFW has a long history of intimidating farm laborers, urging violence toward undocumented workers and they pursued a boycott strategy based upon a pesticide hoax that cost thousands of farm workers their jobs.
As Gloria Campos of the Strawberry Workers and Farmers Alliance told me,
They rely on college students and other unions to demonstrate and carry their message for them. We the workers from the strawberry fields tell our own story and reject their attack. The UFW is devious and deceitful. … The UFW lies andencourages others to lie. The UFW promotes boycotts which could eliminate our jobs.
The petition sent to me by 400 farm workers made the same point:
We are farm workers. We are of Mexican heritage. We are now Americans andCalifornians. We are taxpayers. … Cesar Chavez may have accomplished some good things for some people but he is no hero for us.
All throughout the 1960’s and 70’s there were anti-UFW rallies that numbered in the thousands, which the mainstream media did their best to ignore. They were protesting UFW’s strategy of boycotting grapes based on the claim that the pesticides used were dangerous to the farm workers’ health and caused cancer in their children. Indeed, this was the issue that first brought Chavez to national prominence in the 60’s. However, while it was a clever media ploy, it was a hoax that cost many farm workers their jobs.
Interestingly, as soon as the targeted grape grower signed a UFW contract, the health concerns mysteriously disappeared. The UFW knew it was a lie all along. Indeed, the California Environmental Protection Agency conducted extensive tests and “found most table grapes from the fields have no chemical residues. Residues on the rest were well within allowable ranges. …”
Studies by the University of California and the United States Department of Health and Human Services came to similar conclusions. As to the UFW charge that such pesticides were causing cancer in children, that turned out to be a phony claim as well. The California Department of Health Services, Environmental Epidemiology and Toxicology Branch, released a study that concluded, “the overall rate of childhood cancer for the time period 1980-1988 in the Four County Study area is not unusual compared to rates elsewhere in California or the United States… rates for children living in agricultural areas are not elevated.”
But the boycotts caught the fancy of a sympathetic Hollywood, and soon union activists nationwide were initiating pressure campaigns targeted at stores to stop carrying grapes. The real target, of course, was growers who refused to sign contracts with the UFW. Many growers lost business and laid off workers. Some eventually caved in under the pressure.
However, UFW’s tactics often went beyond pressure tactics. A search of major newspaper archives from the ’60s and ’70s involving the UFW make it clear that the UFW was a teamster type of union that did not hesitate to use thuggery to achieve its ends. Even the declassified FBI file on Chavez — which I obtained — reveal numerous incidents of violence directed against both growers and farm workers who were reluctant to vote for a UFW contract. The FBI files and press accounts describe beatings, overturned cars, throwing Molotov cocktails, torching fields, and other such tactics.
In the late 90’s I was notified by some female farm workers that UFW treats women horribly. Indeed, in 1997, forty female UFW members filed a lawsuit against the union due to its apparent practice of urging female members to use sex as a recruiting tool.
However, by far the darkest side of the UFW was its treatment of undocumented workers whom the UFW considered a threat to their jobs. In the mid 1980s, Chavez’s brother, Manual, headed up an effort to attack illegal workers crossing the border in Arizona. As reported by the liberal Village Voice, UFW thugs actually patrolled an border area they called “the Wet Line” looking for illegal aliens to beat up. As former Yuma County sheriff Travis Yancey stated, “they’d catch any ‘wet’ coming through and beat the hell out of them.” Former UFW staff member Gus Gutierrez said that Manual’s goons “just went apes … they just went wild.”
According to the Village Voice, “the UFW conducted a campaign of random terror against anyone hapless enough to fall into its net. Gutierrez later talked to officials on the Mexican side and had tales to turn his stomach: rapes and castration, broomsticks with nails shoved up people’s anuses.” Some workers ended up missing never to be found. When alarmed UFW organizer Lupe Sanchez led a delegation to meet with Chavez to inform him about the violence, he told them, “Manual has my blessing.”
Despite the liberal mythology that Chavez and the UFW helped undocumented workers get their start, they not only beat them but even held rallies outside INS offices around the country demanding crackdowns on illegal aliens! Chavez even testified before congress demanding that border security be increased and that more emphasis be placed on deporting illegal aliens. Chavez is on record calling illegal aliens “wetbacks” and “strike breakers.” And yet the liberals love Chavez because he was all about power — illegal aliens be damned. Incredibly, Obama today uses Chavez’s phony “legacy” to promote immigration reform: “As farm workers and laborers across America continue to struggle for fair treatment and fair wages, we find strength in what Cesar Chavez accomplished so many years ago.”
But this should not come as a surprise to anyone who knows Chavez well. Chavez’s guru is not Gandhi, but rather Saul Alinsky, whose book, “Rules for Radicals,” make it clear that violence is a tactic that can be used to achieve power. Chavez worked for Alinsky from 1952 to 1962.
In the 1970s Chavez became a follower of a cult called Synanon that commonly used violence and intimidation to silence its enemies. The Village Voice relates that when Synanon’s leader, Charles Dederich, was convicted of conspiracy to murder an attorney by placing a rattlesnake in his mailbox, Chavez publicly supported Dederich. When Chavez started to introduce some of Synanon’s mind control techniques to the UFW high command, scores of its brightest staff members resigned in protest.
We should also not forget that Chavez masterminded the bilking of hundreds of thousands in both federal and state tax dollars. He would apply for grants using warm and fuzzy language about helping farm workers but then use the funds instead for other purposes. It became so blatant that the UFW was audited by the General Accounting Office in 1980 and found to be
in massive violation of Federal grant guidelines.
But the left does not really care about historical truth. They don’t even care that Chavez treated illegal aliens like dog poop. The real reason the left worships Chavez is because they like to use the phony Chavez narrative to promote the hard left agenda. The left also loves the UFW’s money. For 30 years the UFW was one of the largest campaign contributors to Democrat candidates and many of the Southwest’s leading Latino politicians got their start in politics with assistance from the UFW.
However, our Propagandist-in-Chief says “we should honor him for what he’s taught us about making America a stronger, more just, and more prosperous nation.” As with his lies on the IRS, Benghazi, ObamaCare, etc, our president continues to subject America to a liberal version of history that has nothing to do with the truth.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.