[Marxism] How the UFW crushed dissent

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jan 10 06:57:35 MST 2006

(This is rather long but well worth reading.)

 From the Los Angeles Times
Decisions of Long Ago Shape the Union Today
In the late 1970s Cesar Chavez grew intent on keeping control. He crushed 
dissent, turned against friends, purged staff and sought a new course.
By Miriam Pawel
Times Staff Writer

January 10, 2006

In the winter of 1977, at the height of his union's power, Cesar Chavez 
summoned the leaders of the United Farm Workers to a mountain retreat in 
the Sierra foothills. They found themselves in an ultra-clean compound 
where recovering drug addicts with shaved heads wandered the grounds 
dressed in uniform overalls.

The purpose soon became clear: Charles Dederich, the flamboyant founder of 
Synanon, welcomed his guests to the rehabilitation facility and explained 
the rules of the Game, a therapy designed for drug addicts. A dozen players 
would gang up on each other, "indicting" a participant for bad behavior by 
hurling abusive and often profane invective.

The UFW board members had arrived expecting to hash out a new strategic 
plan after a string of victories, including a pact to keep the rival 
Teamsters union out of the fields. Instead, they found themselves in the 
Game room, where some observed from elevated seats as others accepted a 
challenge to play in the recessed pit.

In retrospect, some UFW leaders came to view the Synanon meeting as a 
watershed, the first clear signal that Chavez had veered off course and 
shifted his focus away from organizing farmworkers.

"We were so close," said Eliseo Medina, one of the UFW's top organizers and 
a board member until 1978. "And then it began to fall apart
. At the time 
we were having our greatest success, Cesar got sidetracked. Cesar was more 
interested in leading a social movement than a union per se."

The story of Chavez's erratic leadership during a pivotal period emerged in 
bits and pieces at the time but has not been fully told before. Many who 
left the UFW were for a long time reluctant to discuss the union for fear 
of harming an institution and cause they still believe in deeply. Today, an 
extensive review of historical letters, minutes, memos and tapes of 
meetings, along with scores of interviews with participants, paints the 
first detailed portrait of a critical and turbulent time.

The decisions Chavez made a quarter of a century ago shaped the union and 
Farm Worker Movement today, turning it away from the core mission of 
organizing farmworkers. His actions drove out a generation of talented 
labor leaders; he replaced them with handpicked loyalists — including many 
of the people now running the organization. He quashed dissent and 
increased his control just as the union's growth made that more problematic.

He became increasingly concerned with traitors, spoke of malignant forces 
and publicly purged the young and old. He turned on proteges, some of his 
earliest supporters and close friends. His actions so baffled them that 
many years later they still seek explanations.

For a decade, he had been an internationally acclaimed, visionary leader, a 
brilliant strategist who inspired dozens of talented people to follow him. 
He had built a volunteer movement that galvanized public support to change 
the lives of farmworkers, bringing them dignity as well as higher wages. In 
California, he had pushed through the only law in the country that gives 
farmworkers the right to vote for union representation — establishing a 
legal framework that the UFW had been quick to exploit, winning dozens of 
elections and contracts.

As the UFW board gathered in February 1977 at the Synanon campus, there was 
a moment of opportunity to solidify those gains. Instead, Chavez became 
focused on building a community at the UFW's rambling headquarters in the 
Tehachapi Mountains. He railed about inefficiency, obsessing about the cost 
of telephone bills or questioning a $7.20 brake repair bill. He led 
committees that discussed celebrating movement anniversaries instead of 
birthdays. He studied mind healing and practiced curing illness by laying 
on hands.

For more than a year, Chavez required staff members to drive as much as 
five hours every weekend to La Paz, the union's headquarters, to play the Game.

"Cesar was struggling with disloyalty within the ranks. Dederich says: 
'This is how you deal with it.' The Game came to La Paz for control," said 
Chris Hartmire, a close Chavez aide who became the "game master" at La Paz, 
setting up the encounters.

Disciples said Chavez's eclectic interests and commitment to a movement 
were fundamental to his vision. "When people would accuse him of not being 
a union guy, he kind of took pride in that," said his son, Paul Chavez, who 
has carried on the social entrepreneur legacy by building affordable housing.

Said Marc Grossman, a Chavez public relations aide for many years and still 
the UFW spokesman: "He took as much personal satisfaction in converting 
someone to vegetarianism as to trade unionism. He really did."

Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the UFW, said in an interview that Chavez's 
brilliance was often misunderstood, and that during the turbulent years of 
the late 1970s he acted to defend the movement he built when it was under 
attack from insiders who thought they could run the union better. "It's 
very hard to build an organization, but it's very easy to unravel," she said.

Whether Chavez initiated the changes or responded defensively, the net 
result was the same. By 1982, he had driven out dissenting voices on the 
board, among the staff and in the fields. Key staff and architects of the 
union's early success were gone, along with the next generation of leaders 
in the fields. The UFW never regained the same momentum as a labor union 
for farmworkers.

1977: The Purges

In December 1976, Nick Jones, a longtime left-leaning volunteer who had 
been directing the UFW boycott, was accused by Chavez of masterminding a 
communist conspiracy to bring down the union. "I was flabbergasted," said 
Jones. "It demoralized me more than anything else in my whole life."

Jones quit, his abrupt departure triggering protests from around the 
country. The boycott had been a powerful weapon for the union, publicizing 
the harsh conditions for farmworkers and exerting pressure on companies to 
sign contracts. A mix of volunteers, students and farmworkers, the 
boycotters were a close-knit group. Many moved from city to city, and Jones 
was a well-known and liked leader.

"An atmosphere of suspicion has developed, in which preposterous 
accusations can be made and acted upon indiscriminately. People have been 
fired on the basis of flimsy charges against them," the Seattle boycott 
staff wrote to Chavez, one of many letters that demanded either an 
explanation or an apology.

The response was one that would be offered repeatedly in the coming years: 
Cesar knows things you don't, and he is protecting the union. Hartmire, a 
much beloved Chavez confidant and Presbyterian minister, became the 
official apologist, and his reassurances kept many staff members in the fold.

"People would go to Chris and say, 'I don't know about this,' and he would 
say, 'I know it seems that way, but you don't see the whole picture; Cesar 
does,' " said Ellen Eggers, who worked as a lawyer for the UFW.

In meetings and memos, Chavez stressed the need to foster community at La 
Paz, the isolated former tuberculosis sanatorium east of Bakersfield where 
he had moved the union in 1971. Chavez urged a greater role for children 
who had grown up in the movement and understood its values. He criticized 
board members for tolerating bad and subversive behavior because they were 
desperate for staff. He brought in management consultants and tried to find 
the ideal structure.

"The big problem we face is we haven't made up our minds what kind of union 
we want to be. Or if we're going to be a union," he told a group of staff 
after they had played the Game.

At a community meeting on April 4, 1977, that became known as the "Monday 
night massacre," volunteers were viciously attacked and expelled for sins 
ranging from smoking pot to betraying the union. "It was planned, and it 
was brutal," said Larry Tramutola, then a high-ranking union leader who 
participated in the denunciations.

Deirdre Godfrey was one of those expelled; she described in a letter to the 
executive board how security guards followed and threatened her that 
evening when she made a call to find a place to live: "I have never spent 
such a fearful night
. I shall never forget the frenzied, hate-filled faces 
and voices of people who had been warm and friendly with me right through 
to the hour of the meeting."

Over the next year, Chavez continued to denounce popular workers as 
communist infiltrators. A volunteer in her 70s was turned out with no place 
to live. In the middle of a wedding reception, Chavez vilified a young 
woman who had lived in his house as a teenager, ordering her thrown off the 
grounds just weeks after she had successfully negotiated a contract.

Huerta said it was a time when security had become a major concern in the 
loose-knit organization, after Chavez received death threats. "If Cesar was 
a little paranoid, there's a reason for it," she said.

Some former UFW leaders now say they had qualms about the purges, but 
justified or ignored them. They were winning elections. Some of the threats 
were real.

"You could see you were making a difference. You could put up, rationalize, 
accept, maybe even believe in it, as long as something bigger was 
happening," Tramutola said.

"I hoped it would go away," said Medina, then a vice president on the 
board. "It never did."

For many years, Jones, the onetime UFW boycott director, blamed Medina and 
other board members for not standing up to Chavez. "But no, it was all of 
us," Jones said recently. "All of those people who used to roll out the 
carpet and lay it at his feet — he cut their throats."

1978: Turmoil on the Board

Marshall Ganz, the son of a Bakersfield rabbi, had dropped out of Harvard 
and joined the UFW after a stint in the civil rights movement in the South. 
Passionate, fluent in Spanish, more popular among workers than staff, Ganz 
was a shrewd and relentless organizer who exuded brash confidence and 
backed it up with results. He was close to Chavez in an almost father-son 
way that caused resentment and occasional antipathy even among allies.

Ganz had helped oust Jones, but by 1978 he had grown troubled by Chavez's 
reluctance to tackle key issues: Should the union focus on the vineyards, 
its symbolic heart, or on the vegetable fields, where it had built a strong 
base of support? Should organizers try to win more elections and add 
members, or consolidate and work on administering contracts effectively?

Ganz laid out his criticism in a private letter; Chavez shared it with the 
board. At a March 25 meeting, Ganz explained to board members what prompted 
his scathing letter:

"We had all these problems out there that we had to deal with that were 
crucial. It was very frustrating to me, what I felt was the lack of 
planning, the lack of direction, just sort of going from here to there, and 
frittering resources and time," Ganz is heard saying on a tape of the board 
meeting. "And in the meantime, a lot of Cesar's attention seemed to be on 
the Game and on Synanon and on La Paz."

Ganz warned the board that he saw another looming problem: The union was 
not giving real power or responsibility to workers or involving them in 
decisions: "We just seem to assume that whatever way we decide to go is 
automatically OK. It's not automatically OK."

Ganz's base was Steinbeck country, the rich fields of Salinas, where the 
UFW had 17 contracts covering 7,200 farmworkers (about the size of the 
entire union today), including many of the most ardent and militant union 

Salinas was also home to the UFW's legal department, 18 lawyers who bailed 
out picketers and battled growers under the direction of Jerry Cohen, a 
young lawyer recruited by Chavez. Cohen relished a fight, and he excelled 
at using irreverent tactics to push the envelope and score victories.

"He was my idol," said Salvador Bustamante, a farmworker who wrote a poem 
about Cohen after watching him negotiate with growers. "I loved seeing him 
deal with them, avenging every affront they ever did to me."

Cohen had helped craft many of the union's early victories, from the law 
protecting union activity in the fields to the pact keeping Teamsters out. 
The legal department was in Salinas because he refused to live in La Paz.

Cohen had thought Chavez was comfortable with that decision, which placed 
the lawyers closer to many courts, though distant from union headquarters. 
But at the Synanon meeting, Cohen discovered otherwise: The lawyer got 
"Gamed" about why he abandoned his friend Cesar and moved to Salinas.

In an organization where most staff were volunteers, paid $5 a week plus 
free room and board, UFW lawyers had special status: They earned about $600 
a month. In the spring of 1978, each lawyer asked for a $400-a-month raise.

Chavez seized on the requests and turned them into a referendum on the 
larger issue of whether the union would have paid staff. He painted the 
lawyers as greedy and unwilling to sacrifice like everyone else and said 
acceding to their demand would be a prelude to destroying the volunteer 
organization. He asked the board to vote in support of the status quo, 
effectively dismantling the legal operation.

Cohen and Ganz countered that a stable of professionals who could afford to 
stick with the union was critical, particularly as the contracts in Salinas 
were expiring. The debate was so heated the executive board adjourned for 
10 days. Chavez eventually won by one vote, and most of the lawyers left 
soon after, replaced by a smaller operation at La Paz.

"It wasn't about money; it was about control," said Cohen, who resigned as 
chief counsel but stayed during a transition.

To Medina, the vote was one more sign the UFW was headed in the wrong 
direction. A farmworker who had risen quickly to a leadership position, 
Medina was widely viewed in the fields and among staff as the logical 
successor to Chavez. But Medina had been unhappy for months. "We sort of 
had become focused on everything except going out and organizing 
farmworkers," he said.

Organizing was what he excelled at: In the three months he had run the 
department, Medina reported at the June board meeting, the UFW had won 13 
elections and gained 3,030 members.

Just three months later, Arturo Rodriguez, who has since become UFW 
president, gave a very different report: He told the board that organizing 
prospects were grim.

Asked what it would take to win elections, according to minutes from the 
meeting: "Brother Artie responded that he wasn't really sure
. Brother 
Cesar said he doesn't think we can do very much about organizing right now."

The last item on the September agenda was Medina's resignation. Ganz, 
though more a competitor than a friend, argued that the board should not 
accept it. Chavez made no attempt to sway Medina.

"That removed the one credible alternative to Cesar," Ganz said. "It 
changed the dynamic."

1979: The Strike

Salvador Bustamante, known as Chava, had followed his older brother, Mario, 
who had followed their father from Mexico into the fields of Southern 
California and then into the union hall. In the winter and early spring, 
they picked lettuce in the Imperial Valley, the southeast corner of 
California along the Mexican border, then followed the harvest north to 
Salinas when the weather turned too hot in the desert.

Mario the firebrand and Chava the poet became union leaders, each elected 
to represent workers at his company.

"The union taught us not to be afraid," Mario Bustamante said. "Before we 
became part of the union, we were afraid of the law, the police, the growers."

The early successes were basic: an eight-hour day instead of harvest hours 
that began by the lights of trucks at 4:30 a.m. and ended when darkness 
fell at 9 p.m.

"That was one of the main advantages of having a union, to be able to put a 
limit on what the grower demanded," Chava Bustamante said.

Such victories helped them win converts. "We were really able to instill 
faith in people. Not just hope: faith," he said. "Our faith in the union."

When the UFW launched what would be its last major strike in early 1979, 
the Bustamante brothers were part of the core group that helped Ganz run 
the action.

At first the strike was successful. Then, on Feb. 10, a striker named 
Rufino Contreras went into the fields to chase out strikebreakers and was 
shot and killed. Amid mourning and recrimination, acrimony escalated among 
UFW leaders.

By March, Chavez called a special meeting because executive board members 
were barely speaking to one another. He had only one suggestion: "We have 
to play the Game, clean ourselves up."

Others, including his brother Richard, denounced the Game as destructive 
and doubted it would solve anything.

"I know it can," Chavez responded. "I don't know of any other thing; I don't."

Those who badmouthed the Game, especially Ganz, were undermining an 
unpleasant but useful tool, Chavez said: "Some people are afraid of being 
told things they're guilty of. Some are willing to take it for the goddamn 
cause and some are not."

The strike moved north into the Salinas Valley, following the harvest.

Ganz was stalling workers who wanted to expand the strike and stalling 
Chavez, who was pushing to end it. Workers devised slowdowns that varied 
from day to day: Plan Tortuga (turtle), go extra slow; Plan Canguro 
(kangaroo), skip over rows.

On the eve of the UFW's convention in Salinas on Aug. 11, more than 6,000 
farmworkers and supporters marching from two directions converged at a 
rally where Chavez and Gov. Jerry Brown gave fiery speeches and talked 
about a general strike.

In fact, Chavez had come to Salinas intent on shifting the union's 
resources into a national boycott. At a secret meeting that night, he 
explained to the workers' leaders that the UFW could not afford a strike.

"The union is broke. We've spent $2.8 million on this strike," Chavez said. 
A boycott would increase pressure. "It takes more time, but it is easier to 
win. It is a sure win. In a general strike you aren't as sure you will win."

The farmworkers didn't buy it. One by one, for more than 90 minutes, they 
articulated reasons to strike. If they were sent to boycott, they would 
lose their jobs and seniority. Workers had been eager to strike for months. 
If there was money to support a boycott, why not for the strike that 
workers were demanding?

"If we don't do it, the high morale and all the desire they have had for so 
long to go on strike 
 that morale will fall to the ground," Chava 
Bustamante told Chavez. "We have to make a decision that we will have to 
live with forever."

Workers who had been on strike for seven months would feel abandoned, his 
brother Mario said: "And with that, the faith and spirit that everyone had 
in us will be lost."

Ganz ended the meeting after midnight, saying everyone was tired. The 
convention would endorse a boycott and a strike, concealing the dissension, 
and the group would reconvene. They never met with Chavez again.

"I think it was the worst thing you could do to a leader like him," said 
Sabino Lopez, another farmworker who attended the meeting. " 
 To say, 
'Sorry, boss, we're not going to boycott.' "

Within days, more workers went out on strike, without benefits. Chavez 
called a meeting at La Paz to plan the boycott; Ganz was running the strike 
and refused to go. The two did not speak for weeks.

"I didn't feel I was part of the union leadership," Ganz said.

Unusually hot weather accelerated the harvest and increased the pressure on 
growers, who began to settle on terms union leaders had only dreamt about: 
wages starting at $5 per hour, significant medical benefits and paid union 

Chavez hailed the victories but shunned the celebration at a Salinas hotel. 
"We had the growers lined up at the Towne House, waiting to sign, and Cesar 
wouldn't come," recalled Cohen, the lawyer who handled negotiations.

Back in La Paz, there was a different celebration around the same time. A 
class of farmworkers had completed a 10-week English course. More than a 
hundred friends, family and residents of La Paz gathered for graduation and 
applauded a student slide show that concluded: "The union is not Cesar 
Chavez. The union is the workers."

Minutes later, graduates and guests sat down to a celebratory lunch. 
Dolores Huerta rose and attacked the teacher, demanding to know who had put 
the students up to voicing such heresy.

The lunch was over before it began. Chavez fired two teachers later that day.

1980: The Paid Reps

The farmworker leaders had gathered at La Paz in May to discuss their new 
jobs when a jubilant young lawyer burst into the classroom to tell Cesar 
Chavez her good news: She had passed the bar.

Like many, Ellen Eggers had become hooked on the UFW after working as a 
boycott volunteer during college. By the time she graduated from law 
school, the legal department she knew had been dismantled. Sorry to miss 
working for Cohen, Eggers was nonetheless happy to move to La Paz and work 
for the usual $5 per week.

Chavez interrupted the meeting and introduced Eggers to the farmworkers who 
had recently been elected as paid representatives. They gave her a round of 

Mario Bustamante and Sabino Lopez were among the dozen elected by their 
peers to work as full-time union representatives, paid by the growers to 
work for the UFW — in effect, the only UFW staff who earned salaries.

"They were the future," Eliseo Medina said. "They were outstanding leaders."

The paid reps, as they were known, worked closely with Ganz, who had 
nurtured their leadership through the strike. They tackled grievances 
against the companies and the union bureaucracy. They struggled to explain 
to workers that they had responsibilities as well as rights. They harassed 
La Paz about medical claims paid so slowly that workers were getting dunned 
by collection agencies. And they helped organize other workers, believing 
that was essential to protect the financial stability of companies that 
paid union wages.

After wildcat strikes began in the garlic fields of Gilroy, the paid reps 
won an unlikely ally.

Tramutola had worked for the UFW for 11 years and considered himself a 
loyalist. He knew others viewed him that way, some with suspicion because 
of his role in carrying out purges. He was wary of the paid reps, with 
their penchant for independence and their Salinas power base, until he saw 
them organize elections that summer.

"Knowing it worked totally changed my perspective," he said. "They were the 
real deal. Their loyalty to Cesar was as great as anyone. It was working 
the way we had always hoped."

When Tramutola was summoned to La Paz at the end of the season, he drove 
confidently in the union's trademark Valiant, expecting to be quizzed about 
the election victories.

"In a second, I realized my time had come," Tramutola said. "Cesar had a 
way of pursing his lips when he was angry. He looked at me and said, 'Who 
are you working for?' He said, 'Are you taking your orders from Moscow? 
Only I will call elections.' I said, 'With all due respect, workers have 
the right to call for elections.' "

Tramutola resigned. He told others he did not want to be caught between 
Chavez and Ganz.

As questions about loyalty increased, so did forced resignations.

Gilbert Padilla had worked with Chavez and Huerta even before they formed 
the first farmworkers association back in 1962. A diplomat dubbed the 
Silver Fox, he had a gift for mimicry and making people laugh that served 
him well in negotiating compromises between workers and employers.

For some time, Padilla had found the changes in his longtime friend and 
mentor so puzzling that he asked others if they thought Chavez had gone 
crazy. Padilla was particularly outraged when Chavez scrapped plans for a 
clinic and service center in the Central Valley city of Parlier and turned 
the site over to a builder to make money jointly by selling houses.

"I knew Cesar was the man, el jefe, but I didn't think the movement 
belonged to him," said Padilla, who resigned as secretary/treasurer. "I 
thought it belonged to the workers."

1981: The Confrontation

The farmworker leaders in Salinas who had faced off politely against Chavez 
two years earlier when he tried to curtail the strike no longer trusted the 
leadership in La Paz. The feeling was mutual.

As the UFW convention approached, the challenge became more direct: The 
Salinas leaders decided to run candidates for the board. "There were no 
farmworkers on the board," Mario Bustamante said. "There was a need for 
someone to be on the board who understood the problems in the field."

They turned to Rosario Pelayo, a proud and fiercely determined farmworker 
with a warm smile and shy manner. Born in Mexico, she had worked in the 
fields since she was 8 and had followed her husband to California. She gave 
birth to 13 children, eight of whom survived, and began to volunteer with 
the UFW after the last was born in 1970. By 1973 she was getting arrested, 
by 1975 she was hosting Chavez at her home in the Imperial Valley, by 1977 
she was president of the workers at her ranch.

"You always thought about the future of your children," she said, recalling 
days that began at 2 a.m. with leafleting buses that workers took to the 
fields and ended with late-night organizing sessions. "You didn't want what 
happened to you to happen to them."

The campaign for the UFW board was as fierce and ugly as the elections 
between the union and the growers. Chavez dispatched board members, who 
spent almost $5,000 campaigning against the insurgents, painting them as 
dangerous radicals trying to depose Chavez at the behest of Ganz and Cohen. 
Both had left the union months before.

Huerta had often found fault with Ganz but had been unable earlier to shake 
Chavez's confidence in his trusted aide. Then and now, she accused him of 
masterminding the Salinas insurgents' campaign, a charge Ganz and the 
workers reject as patronizing and untrue.

"They were good organizers," Huerta said about the paid reps, arguing they 
were manipulated by Ganz, who thought he should run the union.

On Sept. 5, Chavez opened the Fresno convention with a speech about 
"malignant forces" and then pulled off a parliamentary maneuver that 
effectively precluded a contested election for the board seats.

About 50 of the Salinas delegates walked out in protest. Chavez allies 
passed out leaflets calling the insurgents communists. Mario Bustamante 
broke the staff of his union flag in two.

The next day, Doug Adair, a grape picker and delegate from Coachella, rose 
to speak when Chavez asked for nominations.

Adair was working in the fields when he joined the UFW the day before the 
1965 Delano grape strike began. He was a striker, a picketer, an aide in 
the legal office and an editor of the newspaper before returning to work at 
a Coachella vineyard. Pelayo had worked there, as had her sister. Adair 
liked her, and he thought the board needed someone who understood the 
workers' problems and was willing to challenge Chavez.

"At that point, there was nobody on the board to disagree with him," Adair 
said. "There was no connection between La Paz and the members in the field."

Adair nominated Pelayo, but was ruled out of order because she had walked 
out the day before.

After the convention came the repercussions.

Adair's wife was fired from her job as a nurse at the union-run health 
clinic. She was told, she said, that she was fired for "being married to 
the traitor."

In Hollister, Cesar's son Paul led picketing of the office of a legal 
assistance agency where Chava Bustamante worked.

"They'd come out to the fields and attack me and my friends," Pelayo said. 
She returned to the Imperial Valley, never worked in the fields again and 
tried to shut out news of the union. "I didn't want to know anything. It 
was great pain."

In Salinas, Huerta led a campaign to unseat Mario Bustamante, who had 
served as president of the union workers at his company for seven years, 
and the other dissident leaders. When the workers stood by their elected 
representatives, Chavez fired them.

"They accused me of being a spy, being with the growers," said Sabino 
Lopez. "I refused jobs with growers. I didn't want to allow them to make 
the point. At the end, nobody wanted me. The union didn't want me, the 
growers didn't want me."

Bustamante, Lopez and seven others sued, charging Chavez had fired them 
illegally because they were elected by the workers. Chavez countered with a 
$25-million libel suit.

The task of defending the UFW and its president fell to Ellen Eggers. She 
agonized. She convinced herself that Ganz was masterminding the plot, 
though she had doubts.

"I felt horrible," Eggers said. "Here were these farmworkers who had 
assumed leadership positions, paid by the growers. Everyone had high hopes 
for them. And I was defending the guy who fired them."

A decade later, Eggers would seek out Bustamante to apologize.

In 1982, a judge concluded that Chavez had acted illegally, because the 
reps were elected and not appointed. The victory was pyrrhic, since the 
contracts were expiring and many had lost their jobs.

Today Mario Bustamante runs a small taxi company in Calexico. He and Pelayo 
were recently denied UFW pensions because they fell short the necessary 
hours in their final year, after the fight occurred.

Chava Bustamante is a union leader again, the 1st vice president of a 
Service Employees International Union local representing California 
janitors and security guards.

Lopez still helps farmworkers in Salinas, as deputy at a nonprofit agency 
that finds housing solutions; he recently became the first farmworker on 
the board of the John Steinbeck Center.

"I'm part of the union. We did great things together," Lopez said. The UFW 
experience, he said, transformed him from a shy immigrant with an 
elementary school education into a community leader. "No matter what 
happened, we're part of the movement. We're part of history. The union 
missed a really great opportunity to have farmworker leadership on top. 
There were really good people."



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