A dissident’s view of the rise and the fall of the United Farm Workers union.
By Duane Campbell
Frank Bardacke’s Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers. (2011, Verso). is the view of a well- informed observer who worked in the lettuce fields near Salinas for six seasons, then spent another 25 years teaching English to farm workers in the Watsonville, Cal. area. His views on the growth and decline of the United Farm Workers union – some of which I do not share– offer important points of history and reflection for unionists today, particularly those working with the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Trampling Out the Vintage, provides several insights not previously developed in well informed books on the UFW including important differences between grape workers and workers in row crops such as lettuce; the length of time workers were in the UFW, the more settled family nature of grape workers, the strength of each type of ranch committees, the leadership of ranch crews ( and thus the potential differences in creating democratic accountability), and the differing histories of worker militancy in different crops. The author correctly argues that each of these led to somewhat different organizing environment in building the union. He also details problems of administrative mismanagement in the hiring halls in the grape areas and alleged mismanagement of organizing within the union sponsored health care insurance and clinic systems .