FARMWORKER DOCUMENTATION PROJECT UPDATE – JANUARY 18, 2007
0 to 100 - NOT BAD – MIKE MILLER ARCHIVE 95% FINISHED – A month ago, the Website of the Farmworker Documentation Project, made no mention of Mike Miller and his 50+ year collection of primary source documents about social movements in the U.S. Today, more than a 100 documents from Miller’s collection relating to the farmworker movement have been published on our Website. (See www.farmworkermovement.us > ESSAYS > Mike Miller Archive) There are hundreds (if not thousands) more that could be published but time and money check our appetite.
A FEW COMMENTS ABOUT THE PUBLISHED DOCUMENTS:
1. It is nearly impossible to overstate the “marketing” contribution made by Chris Hartmire and his California Migrant Ministry to the cause of Cesar Chavez and his farmworker movement, especially during the latter part of the 1960’s and early 1970’s.
2. The idea of a consumer boycott surfaced very early in the Delano Grape Strike. The strike began in mid-September 1965, and the seat-of-the-pants planning for a consumer boycott began by Thanksgiving 1965. It is not yet clear to me “who” sparked the boycott “idea” but it is clear that the NFWA leadership realized that because of wholesale importation of strikebreakers from the Mexico border, a strike in the fields could not be won.
3. In November 1965, from his home in Bakersfield, Marshall Ganz wrote the first “short term specific action program” for the farmworker boycott: “Work. Paper for Plan for Consumer Boycott.” He concludes his paper with this advice: “One person will be needed to co-ordinate this whole scheme for the next three weeks. Wendy could do this since she is mobile.”
4. The documents reveal the significant contributions of some very early boycott volunteers who soon thereafter disappeared from the ongoing farmworker movement scene: Jack Ybarra, Jerry Sampson, Bob Solodow come readily to mind. It seems that social movements in their very early phases attract/recruit – and throw into the breach - certain kinds of whirlwind, high energy, self-starter types who act somewhat independently, and oblivious to the organizational chaos of their fledgling movement, use their own wits (and resources) to get something going; but it cannot last long, and neither do they. Important farmworker movement contributors? You bet!
5. The happy 1965 confluence of national student movements – SNCC, SDS, and CORE – with the desire of the farmworker movement leadership to begin a national consumer boycott provided a ready made jumpstart network of contacts. Ultimately, the farmworkers built their own FULLTIME national (and international) network, but the contacts of the student movement were its starting point.
6. Make no mistake about it, Cesar Chavez was in charge.
QUESTION FROM MIKE MILLER:
“Do any readers of the following have any memory of the origin of the idea of major student involvement in the farm worker boycott?”
The idea for a major national boycott built around student volunteers
It may have been on that pilgrimage that the idea of a major national boycott structure, built around student volunteers, surfaced. As I recall there was a breakfast or lunch meeting someplace along the route that perhaps included the following people: Jimmy Herman, then President of the International Longshoremen’s & Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU), Chris Hartmire, Director of the California Migrant Ministry (which was actively supporting farm worker union efforts), The Movement Editor Terry Cannon, Cesar Chavez, perhaps Marshall Ganz, perhaps one or two other NFWA people and me. A concern expressed in the over-the-meal conversation was the growing number of college students who were showing up in Delano to “help.” Many students were participating in the march as well. There really wasn’t much for the students to do. The question at the table: is there a constructive application of the idealism these students are expressing that can help the farmworkers? Out of that conversation came the idea of the national boycott structure that would send teams of students and farm workers to urban centers across the country.