Justice in the Fields (by Emily Linehan)

OVERVIEW: The overall goals for this lesson are to have students explore the significance of the justice movement within the farmworker community of Delano, California that began in the 1960s. Students will understand the origin of the movement, main themes, and the various roles people played throughout the struggle for justice and equity in the fields.

FRAMEWORK: The following lesson will ask students to demonstrate their understanding of the injustices that farmworkers faced that led them to organize a social movement in the 1960s. Students will read primary sources that narrate the personal experiences of individuals and their involvement in bringing justice to the farmworkers in California. Students will understand the history of the United Farm Workers of America, identify the methods of nonviolence, and apply this knowledge to current social movements in other farmworker communities in the United States.

ESSENTIAL UNDERSTANDING: Students understand the various ways in which the 1960s farmworkers movement influenced and provided a framework for recent farmworker social movements in today’s society.

1. What were the main issues farmworkers faced in the 1960s that drove them to fight for justice in the fields?
2. What are key components to a social movement?
3. What were the different roles of men and women throughout this movement?
4. Who were some of the essential people and communities that supported the farmworker movement, and how did they become involved?
5. In what ways were methods of nonviolence utilized?
6. What are some similarities and differences between the farmworkers fight in the 1960s and the current conditions in the tomato fields of Immokalee, Florida today?

When was the last time you thought about where your food came from? Whether it was the pizza you ate at lunch, or the salad you brought from home, you, like many others, probably did not put much thought into the process that brought your meal to your plate. Sadly, there is little transparency in America today between the food we eat and the workers who pick the fruits and vegetables that fill our supermarkets and end up in our homes. What one would realize when they began to research the conditions of farm workers is disturbing.
For over a century, the industrial agricultural system in the United States has profited off the low wages and exploitation of farm workers. One of the most significant strikes organized by farmworkers took place in the 1960s. The United Farm Workers of America developed because workers “had been denied a decent life in the fields and communities of California’s agricultural valleys.”1 On their official website, the UFW discusses how the introduction of the Bracero Program impacted domestic farmworkers. They describe the Bracero Program as “an informal arrangement between the United States and Mexican governments…to provide Mexican agricultural workers to growers.”2 Even though the arrangement stated that bracero workers were not to replace domestic workers, this was never enforced. Many growers wanted braceros over domestic workers. “Over time, however, farmworkers, led by Cesar Chavez, were able to call upon allies in other unions, in churches and in community groups affiliated with the growing civil rights movement, to put enough pressure on politicians to end the Bracero Program by 1964.”3 Farmworkers still faced terrible working conditions in the fields, and their wages had not increased in years. Workers were often segregated by race in housing arrangements, and had to deal with many other inequalities in the field. Organizations such as the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee and the Agricultural Workers Association attempted to organize and represent farmworkers. In 1962, Cesar Chavez started The National Farm Workers Association with Dolores Huerta. Chavez and Huerta organized two strikes in 1965 to increase wages in the field, which growers agreed to. What they did not agree to, however, was union recognition. Later that summer, workers in Delano did not receive a wage increase to $1.25 and began to strike. After this, “Chavez called upon the public to refrain from buying grapes without a union label.”4 Volunteers established centers in various cities to organize the boycott and gain public support from unions, community organizations, and churches. The UFW identifies how the civil rights movement played a role in advancing the boycott.

The Civil Rights movement had increased public awareness of the effects of racism, including lowered standards of living for the victims of prejudice in housing, employment, schools, voting, and other areas of daily life. The Civil Rights movement focused attention on the treatment of Blacks in the south. But the situation in the fields of California proved similar enough that the largely Chicano and Filipino Farmworkers benefited by the new public understanding of Racism. As a result, millions of consumers stopped buying table grapes.5

This contextualizes the struggle in the fields as part of a larger movement.

1. Day One: Primary source for students: Cesar Chavez “The Organizer’s Tale”

2. Worksheet (homework)
3. Scenario (in class)

4. Day Two: “Traditional and Nontraditional Patterns of Female Activism in the United Farm Workers of America, 1962 to 1980” by Margaret Rose
5. Worksheet(homework)

6. (the first 5 minutes and 30 seconds) Video of Immokalee:
7. Worksheet(in class)

ACTIVITIES: This lesson takes place over two days. As an introduction to the first day, have students read “The Organizer’s Tale” by Cesar Chavez for homework and answer the questions on the worksheet. Have them bring the materials to class and begin with students sharing their responses to the homework for the first 15 minutes. Ask students to provide textual evidence to support their answers. After this activity, introduce the lesson with introduction above. Then, form students in three groups and give each group the scenario. Students will have 10 minutes to prepare a short skit (2-3 minutes each) based on the scenario. After each group performs, discuss the skits as a class, and the strategies the students came up with. Assign homework: Read Rose article and complete worksheet for homework. To check for understanding, on the way out the door, have students identify at least one nonviolent method utilized by the UFW and one of the main issues farmworkers faced in the 1960s that drove them to fight for justice in the fields.

Day Two: Students come to class having read the article, “Traditional and Nontraditional Patterns of Female Activism in the United Farm Workers of America, 1962-1980” with completed homework assignment. On the board have a larger version of the worksheet. Call on students to come up to the board and write one point they listed in their homework. Make sure that each student participates. After, have a short, collaborative discussion about the different roles females had in this movement. Compare them with the role of Cesar Chavez. For the final 15 minutes of class, watch the first 5 minutes and 30 seconds of Immokalee YouTube clip. Have students complete worksheet in class and have a brief discussion about the video. How is the situation in Immokalee similar to the farmworkers struggle in the 1960s? Collect worksheets on the way out the door.

Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

Drainville, Andre C. “Present in the World Economy: The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (1996-2007)” Globalization 5, 2008: 357-377.

Ganz, Marshall. Why David Sometimes Wins: Leadership, Organization, and Strategy in the California Farm Worker Movement. Oxford University Press, Oxford: 2009.

Shaw, Randy. Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW, and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. University of California Press, Berkley: 2008.

UFW: The Official Web Page of the United Farm Workers of America

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.

Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

Students compare the present with the past, evaluating the consequences of past events and decisions and determining the lessons that were learned.

Students analyze how change happens at different rates at different times; understand that some aspects can change while others remain the same; and understand that change is complicated and affects not only technology and politics but also values and beliefs.

1 UFW: The Official Web Page of the United Farm Workers of America. (2006).
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.

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