Robert F. Kennedy and the Farmworkers: The Formation of Robert F. Kennedy and Cesar Chavez's Bond

Tags: Cesar Chavez, farm workers, farm worker, Peter Edelman, Dennis J. O'Brien, Marc Grossman, Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Helen Chavez, Sal Si Puedes, California, UFW, The Crusades, Mariah Kennedy Cuomo, Ronald Reagan, Farmworker Movement Documentation Project, Teamsters Union, Paul Chavez, Ethel Kennedy, Dolores Huerta Foundation, Senator Kennedy, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Viva Kennedy, Chavez, Alicia Chavez, Senator Robert Kennedy, Roberta Greene, Dolores Huerta
Content: Robert F. Kennedy and the Farmworkers: The Formation of Robert F. Kennedy and Cesar Chavez's Bond By Mariah Kennedy Cuomo Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of Arts In the Department of History at Brown University Thesis Advisor: Edward L. Widmer April 7, 2017 !1
Acknowledgements I would like to thank all who made this work possible. Writing this thesis was a wonderful experience because of the incredible and inspirational stories of Robert F. Kennedy and Cesar Chavez, and also because of the enthusiasm those around me have for the topic. I would first like to thank Robert F. Kennedy and Cesar Chavez for their lasting impact on our country, and for the inspiration they provide to live with compassion. I would also like to thank the farm workers, for their heroism and strength in their fight for justice. I also would like to thank my thesis advisor, Ted Widmer, for his ongoing support throughout writing my thesis. Thank you for always pushing me to think deeper, and for helping me to discover new insights. Thank you to Ethan Pollock, for providing me with the tools to undertake this mission. Thank you to my mother, Kerry Kennedy, for inspiring me to take on this topic with the amazing work you do--you too, are an inspiration to me. Thank you for your ongoing guidance. Thank you to Marc Grossman, who was an amazing help and provided invaluable assistance in making this piece historically accurate. And finally, thank you to the incredible participants in the farm worker movement who took the time to speak with me. I was truly in awe during our conversations. Thank you Grandma Ethel Kennedy, Dolores Huerta, Peter Edelman, Paul Chavez, and Marshall Ganz. Your interviews left me feeling inspired and with a brighter outlook on the world. Thank you again for your time, and also for the work you do to make the world a better place. Thank you to my family for always pushing me onwards, and to my friends, who were always kind along the way. !2
Introduction: Chavez and Kennedy an Unconventional Friendship At a passing glance it would be difficult to find two people who had less in common. Robert F. Kennedy's father was Joseph P. Kennedy, one of the wealthiest Americans of his time.1 Robert Kennedy attended the most elite New England boarding schools, Harvard University, and the University of Virginia Law School.2 As an adult, Robert Kennedy successfully ran his brother's Senate and Presidential campaigns and was the Attorney General of the United States before becoming a U.S. Senator from New York.3 He was a man who had grown up with power and had the mantle of power himself. Robert Kennedy spent his entire life in urban centers-- Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C.4 Furthermore, none of the places that he lived, nor the circles that he travelled in, had a farm worker constituency or even a Latino constituency, aside from the Puerto Rican section of New York, a far cry from the farm workers of Delano, California. 5 Cesar Chavez on the other hand, grew up in a farm worker family.6 By the time he was 15, and in 8th grade, he had dropped out of school because with four brothers and sisters, and a father who was injured on the job with no worker's compensation, Chavez needed to provide for 1 Kerry Kennedy, interview with Mariah Kennedy Cuomo, New York, NY, April 2, 2017. 2 "Robert F. Kennedy," JFK Library, https://www.jfklibrary.org/JFK/The-Kennedy-Family/ Robert-F-Kennedy.aspx 3 "Robert F. Kennedy." 4 Kerry Kennedy, interview. 5 Kerry Kennedy, interview. 6 "The Story of Cesar Chavez," United Farm Workers, http://www.ufw.org/_page.php? menu=research&inc=history/07.html !3
his family.7 Chavez went on to work for the Community Services Organization (CSO) where he learned community organizing and was charged with working on voter registration for Latinos, among other issues.8 When Chavez and his colleague from the CSO Dolores Huerta decided to resign from their jobs and form a union for farm workers-- the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA)-- Chavez moved his family out of their middle-class life to a life of abject poverty and unremitting labor in Delano, California.9 Chavez knew organizing farm workers would entail sacrifice, not only for him but for his family. While he was on the road, many days, sometimes weeks at a time, his wife Helen cared for their eight young children alone, and after getting them out to school in the morning, went out to work the fields herself, as the only form of income for the family.10 This is a far cry from Robert Kennedy's life where he lived with his wife, Ethel, and their growing brood which would become 11 in a thirteen-bedroom home outside Washington D.C., brimming with chandeliers, sterling silver, and a household full of help. 11 Despite their differences, the two men shared much in common. They had both grown up in sprawling Catholic families.12 For each of them their faith was not only their source of 7 "The Story of Cesar Chavez." 8 "The Story of Cesar Chavez." 9 Maureen Pao, "Cesar Chavez: The Life Behind A Legacy Of Farm Labor Rights," August 12, 2016, National Public Radio, http://www.npr.org/2016/08/02/488428577/cesar-chavez-the-lifebehind-a-legacy-of-farm-labor-rights; Miriam Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography (Bloomsbury, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014), 77-79. 10 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 83. 11 Kerry Kennedy, interview. 12 Kerry Kennedy, interview.; Paul Chavez, interview with Mariah Kennedy Cuomo, March 30, 2017, Providence, Rhode Island. !4
strength, it also informed their social justice agenda.13 They were both men of few words and were painfully shy, hardly natural leaders of a movement, and yet, people were drawn to them, drawn to their compassion, their determination to seek justice, their unwavering courage in the face of oppression, their basic human decency, and their poetry as men.14 Both Kennedy and Chavez shared the wisdom forged from unremitting, agonizing, pain and they saw in one another a brotherhood and in their mutual quest for justice they recognized in one another shared souls. The arguments against Robert Kennedy taking on the work of the farm workers were abundant and crystal-clear. As a senator from New York, it seemed absurd to take on an issue occurring on the opposite coast of the country.15 Growers in California, who were aggressively fighting the NFWA, exerted significant political power and were major Democratic Party donors.16 No other politicians, including those who were pro-labor and even friends of Chavez, had sided with the farm workers in fear of the political repercussions of crossing the growers.17 Additionally, the farm workers, and Latinos more broadly, did not vote in large numbers.18 In that Kennedy was likely considering running for president, and California was a key state in securing the Democratic nomination, crossing the growers seemed like political self-sabotage.19 13 Kerry Kennedy, interview.; Paul Chavez, interview. 14 Arthur Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy and His Times (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1972), 792. 15 Marc Grossman, interview with Mariah Kennedy Cuomo, March 23, 2017, Providence, Rhode Island. 16Marc Grossman, interview. 17 Marc Grossman, interview. 18 Marc Grossman, interview. 19 Marc Grossman, interview. !5
The bond, which was intrinsic to their nature, was immediate, iron-clad, and would last the rest of their lives. And yet, once Kennedy had visited Delano, witnessed the deprivation, confronted both the growers and the corruption of the criminal justice system, and met Cesar Chavez, there was nothing he wouldn't do in order to advance "La Causa." Upon returning to Washington, Kennedy directed his staff to keep in close touch with Chavez and the senator never denied a request from the National Farm Workers Association (which in 1966, became the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee, commonly known as the UFW.)20 In Delano, farm workers were growing impatient with the slow lack of change and many talking about resorting to violence.21 In response, Chavez started to fast in penance for the anger and the advocacy of violence among his people and as a personal sacrifice in that he felt that he had failed as a leader.22 Chavez's inner circle became deeply concerned about his health and turned to Kennedy, asking the senator to break bread with Chavez to help end the fast.23 Kennedy, deeply moved by Chavez's commitment, flew to Delano to break bread with Chavez at a mass.24 Six days later, Kennedy announced his campaign for President of the United States and in response Chavez and the UFW took the extraordinary step of suspending their 20 Peter Edelman, interview with Larry Hackman, August 5, 1969, John F. Kennedy Library Oral History Program. 21 Marc Grossman, interview. 22 Paul Chavez, interview. 23 Peter Edelman, interview with Mariah Kennedy Cuomo, March 30, 2017, Providence, Rhode Island. 24 Peter Edelman, interview. !6
union efforts in order to assure victory in the crucial state of California.25 Chavez left his family and home for 19 days in a row to organize Latinos across the state on behalf of Kennedy.26 Their bond reached far beyond any mere political expediency, or even that of allies in a mutual fight. They were men who found in one another a reflection of the very best in themselves. Historiography Much has been written on Robert F. Kennedy and Cesar Chavez. However, little has been written solely devoted to the topic of the work Chavez and Kennedy did together and even less has been written about their relationship. This is due to the lack of public knowledge around the work they did together, the limited time they had to work together, and that there were few tangible outcomes of the work they did together. Writing on Chavez and Kennedy's collaborations has largely been written about from lenses that are focused on one of the two people. Authors writing about Cesar Chavez write about the work Robert F. Kennedy did for the farm workers, and explain how Kennedy's work contributed to the farm worker movement. In portraying Kennedy's contribution to the movement, these authors isolate his actions, and in neglecting to connect them, they do not develop an understanding of Kennedy's relationship to the farm workers, nor do they study Chavez and Kennedy's relationship with any depth. Writing focused on Robert F. Kennedy tends to touch upon his work with Cesar Chavez and the farm workers but does not go into great detail on the topic. These pieces mainly focus on the Senate hearings of 1966 in which Kennedy participated and Kennedy's presidential campaign of 1968, 25 "UFW Chronology," United Farm Workers, http://ufw.org/_page.php? menu=research&inc=_page.php?menu=research&inc=history/01.html 26 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien, January 28, 1970, Delano, California, Robert F. Kennedy Oral History Program of the Kennedy Library. https://libraries.ucsd.edu/ farmworkermovement/media/oral_history/CEC-RFK%20ORAL%20HISTORY.pdf !7
and place Kennedy's work with Cesar Chavez as a bullet point within a larger argument. Both types of literature do not fully explore Kennedy and Chavez's relationship, nor do they look into their work together as a unique topic in and of itself. The study of Kennedy and Chavez's work together as a unique topic has been explored in the book One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez and The Dream of Dignity, by Steven Bender. The first third of One Night in America summarizes the work Kennedy and Chavez did together through exploring key events, but does not include many details within each of the events. Bender focuses on defining Kennedy and Chavez's goals and how they are unrealized today, citing various political issues during the second two thirds of the novel. The book does not present a new in-depth analysis of their relationship or its formation, but rather, focuses on how their lessons are applicable to relevant issues today. Within the realm of secondary sources, a few arguments are made and repeated about Kennedy and Chavez's relationship. Historians have pointed out that their working together was unique in that they came from different backgrounds, assert that they both made strong impressions on one another, and argue that it was characteristic of Kennedy to take on the cause of an oppressed people, and uncharacteristic of Chavez to trust a politician as he did Kennedy. These authors point out that the two men were similar in that Kennedy and Chavez were both committed to the idea of pursuing social justice issues. The argument which I lay out differs from these assertions in that it approaches the question of how they developed a unique relationship, and what the nature of that relationship was--that of mutual trust and understanding. This argument was made possible through the pursuit of new research, most importantly in the form of doing oral histories. !8
Research Plan and Methodology The research plan I devised began with reading and analyzing secondary sources on Cesar Chavez and Robert F. Kennedy so as to understand the two as individuals. I read secondary literature on the history and rise of the farm worker movement, to garner a better understanding of what was at stake in the 1960's. I then did more focused secondary research on the work Chavez and Kennedy did together and about their relationship so as to provide a foundation for understanding the topic matter and relevant arguments. I then delved into farm worker and Robert F. Kennedy archives to retrieve and analyze new information in an effort to add detail and fill remaining informational gaps. Lastly, I conducted oral histories in order to find answers to my more specific questions and gain new insights pertaining to the topic--the relationship between Robert Kennedy and Cesar Chavez. I read a range of biographies on Kennedy and Chavez by both authors who portrayed the men in positive lights--depicting them as saintly figures--and by those who portrayed them in negative lights--representing them as power-hungry, opportunistic individuals. I read both viewpoints in order to grasp the range of arguments made about the two men. Throughout this research, I was particularly focused on looking closely at the work they did together, and how this fit in with the broader argument the author was making. I read more contemporary secondary sources covering the work Kennedy and Chavez did together, which was mostly available in the form of brief articles. Like other secondary sources, the majority of these articles were focused on one of the two individuals, and therefore did not reveal a great deal about the development of their relationship over time. !9
After completing my secondary research, I had formed an outline for a background section of the thesis, had an understanding of what the work Kennedy and Chavez did together meant to each side of the relationship, and most importantly, had identified specific events and aspects pertinent to the topic which I wanted to explore in greater depth. These events included the Senate hearings of 1966, the issues which arose following the Senate hearings which Kennedy and Chavez worked on together, the Mass of Thanksgiving of 1968, and Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign of 1968. In this way, I provided myself with a strong foundation for delving deeper into specific aspects. I read newspaper articles which reported on the events in an effort to ascertain more information on each event. However, I found that these articles were limited in number and provided relatively little information. At the time of the events, the farm worker movement was not as well-known, nor was its leader, Cesar Chavez.27 There was limited reporting by major publications on the topic, and when there was, the articles were mostly focused on the legislative work at hand and the political implications of the events, and not on the work of the farm workers or Chavez. These articles provided a greater understanding of public opinion on the events, and were indicative of the relative lack of awareness about the work Kennedy and Chavez did together. Other newspaper articles revealed the farm worker movement's specific stakeholder groups and their differing viewpoints. Most outlets which reported on the events were Southern right-wing publications, which depicted the farm workers as a possiblyCommunist group. On the opposite side were farm worker movement publications, namely El 27 Marc Grossman, interview. !10
Macriendo, which focused on reporting the positive impact Kennedy had on the farm worker movement in relation to the topic I was researching. In order to learn about the development of the relationship between Robert F. Kennedy and Cesar Chavez, I had to do primary source research, as the topic was not explored in great depth within secondary sources. Additionally, information on the key events and aspects pertaining to this topic in secondary sources was limited, and therefore required primary source research. For archival research for the farm worker movement, I utilized the Farmworker Movement Documentation Project website presented by UC San Diego Library. This site includes extensive documents from participants of the UFW movement which were digitized by former UFW volunteer LeRoy Chattfield.28 For archival research on Robert F. Kennedy, I did research in the collections relating to Robert F. Kennedy (including the Pre-Administration Papers, the Senate Papers, the Attorney General Papers, and the Presidential Campaign Papers) at the John F. Kennedy Library. The majority of archival information from the John F. Kennedy library was not online and therefore required trips to Boston, however some relevant oral histories were available online. I thought it would be crucial to look into both archives, as they would provide insights from both sides of the events and aspects I was researching, as well as the broader topic of Kennedy and Chavez's relationship. Within the Farmworker Movement Documentation Project, I looked at documents pertaining to Robert F. Kennedy in order to analyze information on the broad range of work he did with the farm workers. Additionally, I looked at documents which provided background on 28 "Introduction," Farmworker Documentation Project, https://libraries.ucsd.edu/ farmworkermovement/about/ 1! 1
the specific events which I had defined as most important to the thesis. Most of the materials which were available on these topics were essays by UFW leadership and volunteers who had direct involvement in the events, as well as articles from farm worker publications which reported on the events. From these materials, I was able to derive a more complete understanding of the events, the specific actions of both Kennedy and Chavez, the sentiment around their collaboration, and impact of the work they did together. The UFW leadership and volunteers' essays offered viewpoints on Kennedy's impact on the farm worker movement and provided new details on the events. The essays by UFW leadership--people who were close to Chavez--offered new insights into how Kennedy was perceived by farm workers, the union, and by Chavez himself. These sources expressed how Chavez saw Kennedy explicitly, and traced how Chavez and Kennedy's teams formed a strong working relationship. This was particularly useful in garnering a better understanding of their relationship and how it developed over time. Chavez's own speeches, interviews, and writing on the events were important sources to use in order to understand how Chavez thought about Kennedy and the events. However, the most vital sources on these topic are the oral histories of Cesar Chavez. Within these interviews, Chavez discusses work done with Kennedy and his attitude towards Kennedy. This was extremely crucial to my thesis. Within the John F. Kennedy Library archives, I looked for all materials relevant to Robert F. Kennedy's work with Cesar Chavez and the farm workers. While this material was relatively limited, I found sources on the specific events I had identified as crucial which helped to fill informational gaps. Memos prepared before the events provided greater detail on the events and !12
allowed me to better understand Kennedy and his team's perception of the events, the farm workers, and of Chavez. Most of the information pertaining to the farm workers within the John F. Kennedy library was about farm worker legislation. These documents included extensive research reports on farm workers (as it pertained to legislation) and correspondence regarding farm worker legislation. Additionally, there are legislative documents outlining bills, the bills themselves, and speeches delivered by Kennedy in front of the Senate where he spoke on behalf of farm workers, and challenged those who were opponents of the legislation. The quantity of legislation-focused information and speeches delivered by Kennedy denoted the nature of Kennedy's work for the farm workers, and his focus on passing legislation. News reports on farm worker events and letters from people to Kennedy regarding his work with the farm workers (mostly expressing gratitude for his work with the farm workers from farm worker-aligned groups) are included in the archives. These helped me to understand how Kennedy and his team perceived public opinion around the events and farm worker efforts. I read correspondence between the Kennedy and Chavez teams, in order to garner a better understanding of the working relationship which formed and developed after the Senate hearings --a topic that is rarely, and possibly never, touched upon with depth within secondary literature. From this correspondence I was able to learn the topics which Kennedy and Chavez worked on together, and the kind of working relationship that developed. The archives included Kennedy's speeches and correspondence regarding the farm workers and Cesar Chavez. I read the speeches he delivered about the farm workers and Cesar Chavez, and analyzed the messages he aimed to portray. Kennedy's correspondence about the !13
events, his work with Chavez, and his admiration for Chavez were key in indicating how their trust and relationship was developing. It was interesting to find that the public and personal sentiments Kennedy expressed about Chavez were largely in tune with one another. Some of the most interesting and revealing sources in the archives were oral histories of Kennedy team personnel. These people were very close to Kennedy, and were often crucial members of the with Chavez-Kennedy partnership. These oral histories added color to the events and offered new perspectives on Kennedy and Chavez's relationship. The oral histories included new interpretations of how Kennedy felt about the events, Kennedy and Chavez's relationship at the events, and Kennedy's attitude towards Chavez. The oral histories also revealed the sentiment within the Kennedy team in relation to work with Chavez. Some Kennedy personnel disagreed with Kennedy's emphasis on working with Chavez. Specifically, in Frank Burns' description of confronting Kennedy about his focus on Chavez during the presidential campaign of 1968, new aspects of Kennedy's feelings towards Chavez and the farm workers were exposed. Oral histories are a great source to learn about history in that they capture new insights which are not available within other sources. I have found that oral histories are incredible sources to use when writing history, in that interviews allow for people to formulate their own theories and voice their own opinions on a given topic, thus distilling vast amounts of information and pointing to new conclusions. In this way, people can pinpoint the most relevant examples to bolster the point they are making. In looking at how arguments amongst oral histories differ and intersect, one can develop a greater understanding of the topic at large. Additionally, oral histories often reveal new stories which have been overlooked by previous historians. Through looking at oral histories within both the Farm Worker Movement !14
Documentation Project and John F. Kennedy Library archives, I have been able to garner an understanding of how each side viewed the work that was being done by Kennedy and Chavez, and form a comprehensive story about the relationship between Robert Kennedy and Cesar Chavez. Oral Histories In addition, I embarked on conducting my own oral history project, which allowed me to probe more deeply into the relationship between Chavez and Kennedy. I found it moving to try to learn about the past through the eyes of participants. It was a crucial way to learn in that what was revealed in these interviews were not always captured elsewhere. The oral histories grounded the specific events I was researching in individuals who defined which aspects of the events were most important, and therefore provided new information which truly reshaped and reformed the thesis. I asked specific questions in order to fill gaps within the historical record, which was also critical. I asked people what they thought Kennedy and Chavez's relationship was like, and their answers provided a plethora of new and important insights. Finally, I proposed my own arguments about Kennedy and Chavez's relationship, and invited their feedback. Their comments and suggestions were critical to the thesis's development. In this way, oral histories allowed me to learn far more than any other source. I conducted oral histories with a variety of people who took part in the Kennedy-Chavez partnership. I interviewed Ethel Kennedy, and discovered that when Robert Kennedy learned about the end of Chavez's fast, he ran straight up from the Hickory Hill swimming pool to drive to Dullus Airport and board a plane to Delano. I interviewed Robert Kennedy's close colleague Peter Edelman, who spoke about how Robert Kennedy felt about the farm workers, and how this !15
caused Kennedy to sideline his own political considerations in order to work on their behalf.29 I interviewed United Auto Workers western director Paul Schrade, who was a farm worker advocate and friend of Kennedy. In his interview, Schrade asserted that Kennedy's embrace of the farm workers was driven by his instincts to protect the oppressed, and that his overt expressions of allegiance with the farm workers were unprecedented and politically dangerous at the time.30 Schrade recounted details about specific stories including watching Kennedy join a picket line in Delano.31 I interviewed Dolores Huerta, who spoke about how Chavez and she came to trust Kennedy, and told a new story: when farm workers were blocked by Delano police from marching to Sacramento after the Senate hearings, Kennedy forced them to back down by threatening the police with a lawsuit.32 I interviewed Cesar Chavez's son, Paul Chavez, who recounted how his father expressed that he felt that Kennedy and he were similar.33 I spoke to Marshall Ganz who worked for the UFW from 1965 to 1981.34 Ganz told me how UFW personnel and Chavez felt about Kennedy, and told the story of an all-night meeting amongst UFW leadership where they discussed whether they would endorse Kennedy's presidential bid, 29 Peter Edelman, interview. 30 Paul Schrade, interview with Mariah Kennedy Cuomo, March 27, 2017, Providence, Rhode Island. 31 Paul Schrade, interview. 32 Dolores Huerta, interview with Kerry Kennedy and Mariah Kennedy Cuomo, March 12, 2017, New York, New York. 33 Paul Chavez, interview. 34 Marshall Ganz, interview with Mariah Kennedy Cuomo, April 1, 2017, Providence, Rhode Island. !16
which ended in an unprecedented unanimous resolution in favor.35 I spoke to Cesar Chavez's speechwriter and personal aide, Marc Grossman, who asserted that the greatest impact of the Senate hearings in 1966 was not the impact it had on legislation, but that it provided the foundation for Kennedy's relationship with Chavez and the farm workers.36 I found it extremely meaningful to add new information to the historical record through conducting oral histories with these incredible historical figures. Through analyzing the work of other historians, one is able to identify gaps in the historical record, and form new questions with the aim to fill those holes. In asking eyewitnesses questions and recording their answers, I was able to discover new information. I was excited to hear new stories which allowed me to contribute to and further develop the history of Kennedy and Chavez's relationship. I now have a better understanding of the collaborative nature of history--that the work of previous historians allows for the next generation to continue to build and discover, and that this continuous process allows for an ever-growing and ever-improving history. 35 Marshall Ganz, interview. 36 Marc Grossman, interview. !17
Chapter One Robert F. Kennedy and the Farm Workers Background When Robert F. Kennedy ran for president in 1968 he argued for an ideal that people could identify with--compassion. He believed that compassion could transcend the boundaries that were causing hatred and division in the 1960's. As Attorney General from 1961 to 1964, he fought organized crime and worked for civil rights for minority groups and particularly for African Americans.37 As U.S. Senator from New York from 1965 to 1968, he focused on working on defending the rights of the poor and minority groups--including the farm workers.38 Kennedy had been an advocate for civil rights issues, working on behalf of African Americans as early as law school, when he invited the first African-American Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Ralph Bunche, to speak at the University of Virginia.39 As Attorney General his leadership was crucial to the movement, and he assisted in drafting the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and contributed to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.40 As Senator from New York, Kennedy advocated for the marginalized and dispossessed.41 1968 brought him new challenges and opportunities to strengthen his role as a champion of rights and for greater understanding. He would include a description of impoverished black children in speeches going forward, making 37 "Robert F. Kennedy." 38 "Robert F. Kennedy." 39 "Civil Rights," Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, http://rfkcenter.org/robert-f-kennedy/robertf-kennedy-legacy-education-project/civil-rights/ 40 Christopher Richardson and Ralph Luker, Historical Dictionary of the Civil Rights Movement (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2014), 263; Kerry Kennedy, Interview. 41 "Robert F. Kennedy." !18
his campaign a tool to educate Americans about the struggles faced by a wide range of groups.42 He aimed to explain the feeling of racial injustice inherent within the economy for black people, painting the picture of a young black man witnessing vast wealth in the white neighborhood besides him while he remains impoverished. 43 His closeness to the systematic racism allowed Robert Kennedy to explain what solutions would truly create change. He argued for private and public industry to fund the creation of jobs in black neighborhoods, and for the increased funding of black schools.44 Through these efforts, Kennedy showed that he truly was a champion for the black cause and for gaining equality. Kennedy's compassion for African Americans made him a uniquely effective leader in their fight for equality. For him, this wasn't merely political calculation. He helped Coretta Scott King with the transportation of Martin Luther King's body, he was the only white person not booed at King's funeral, he was the first white person pulled onto the podium at the funeral, and afterwards, when rioting broke out in Washington, he walked through the black neighborhoods-- the only white politician of international stature who had the legitimacy to do so.45 Kennedy entered the Presidential race on March 16, 1968 in order to oppose the war in Vietnam and propose new policies. Kennedy entered four days after the New Hampshire primary and against a Democratic incumbent president, President Johnson, as well as the Democratic 42 Thurston Clarke, The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America. (New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, 2008), 146. 43 Clarke, The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America, 146. 44 Clarke, The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America, 141. 45 Clarke, The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America, 134. !19
Senator from Minnesota, Eugene McCarthy.46 Kennedy said, "I run because I am convinced that this country is on a perilous course and because I have such strong feelings about what must be done, and I feel that I'm obliged to do all that I can."47 He spoke on the need for de-escalation of the war in Vietnam, and on the need for a focus on civil rights issues. In his announcement speech he said, "I run to seek new policies--policies to end the bloodshed in Vietnam and in our cities, policies to close the gaps that now exist between black and white, between rich and poor, between young and old, in this country and around the rest of the world."48 He spoke about the struggles of the poor and racial minorities that had been ignored by most other politicians. Kennedy said, "As a member of the cabinet and member of the Senate I have seen the inexcusable and ugly deprivation which causes children to starve in Mississippi, black citizens to riot in Watts; young Indians to commit suicide on their reservations because they've lacked all hope and they feel they have no future, and proud and able-bodied families to wait out their lives in empty idleness in eastern Kentucky."49 During a turbulent time, Kennedy introduced his presidential campaign effort with an appeal for compassion and a focus on civil rights issues. During his presidential campaign in 1968, Robert F. Kennedy became a leader for many minority groups who often were in opposition to one another. These groups found Kennedy an unlikely leader because of his "wealth and privilege."50 These groups included the white working 46 "The Election of 1968," PBS, http://www.pbs.org/johngardner/chapters/5a.html 47 Daniel Shea, Brian Harward, Presidential Campaigns: Documents Decoded, (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2013), 63-65. 48 Shea, Harward, Presidential Campaigns: Documents Decoded, 63-65. 49 Shea, Harward, Presidential Campaigns: Documents Decoded, 63-65. 50 Clarke, The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America, 55. !20
poor, African Americans, Native Americans, and farm workers. Kennedy represented to these groups a strong fighter for justice and someone who believed deeply in compassion. His regular departure from carefully planned speeches in favor of talking to his audience about the poverty and injustices within the United States, and his focus on American ideals and moral integrity, contributed to creating a successful campaign effort. Robert F. Kennedy wanted badly to win the election so that he could do the work he had promised he would. He would need to appeal to the white working poor, who were frightened by rioting were threatened by the progress of the civil rights movement.51 They wanted to maintain segregation. Kennedy had a series of meetings--the first on April 7 at Hickory Hill--aimed to determine how best to reach the white working people, who viewed him as a champion for the rights of black people and therefore inconsistent with their own concerns regarding rioting.52 His team of consultants advocated for speeches that were not alarmist, but focused on his strength as the former Attorney General. But for Kennedy, his advocacy on behalf of the marginalized was not about political expediency, it was from the heart. Time and again, he frustrated advisors and instead of saying how he would fix the economy, he flipped the discussion on its head, saying that GDP is not what represents America.53 Kennedy was able to go into neighborhoods where people asked him, "What are you going to do about the violence?" and instead respond to the question, "What are you going to do for black people?"54 He spoke about things that were bigger 51 Clarke, The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America, 128-135. 52 Clarke, The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America, 123. 53 Clarke, The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America, 143. 54 Clarke, The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America, 146. !21
than their small question, and was called a revolutionary by many.55 He said that the United States was failing its citizens, and that "I think we can do better!"56 He spoke of poverty in the nearby black ghettos, and the more distant Native American reservations, and said to them that the American people deserve better.57 In this way, Robert F. Kennedy proved that he would be the leader to bring the nation peace, with his grander visions and his drive of compassion. He began to convince the white working poor that he cared for them and their problems of poverty, and connected their own feelings of desolation with those of the black people in the adjoining neighborhood. Robert F. Kennedy saw the farm workers as a group of neglected citizens, about whom he cared deeply, and he would fight for their cause during his years in the Senate and during his presidential campaign. When he attempted to visit workers on a farm outside Rochester, he was greeted by white farmer wielding a shotgun.58 At other farms he witnessed horrific conditions-- children living in mobile homes with distended bellies.59 He spoke on behalf of farm workers across the country, demanding that the more privileged of this country question what allowing for this kind of injustice to continue means for the United States and for them as citizens. He developed close relations with Cesar Chavez, and shared the Eucharist to break Chavez's wateronly fast.60 He paid no heed to the outsized influence of corporate agriculture interests and their 55 Clarke, The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America, 109. 56 Clarke, The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America, 46. 57 Clarke, The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America, 145. 58 Kerry Kennedy, interview. 59 Clarke, The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America, 79. 60 Marc Grossman, interview. !22
political clout in the crucial state for his presidential run of California. He continued to preach compassion and live it through his actions. Cesar Chavez would partner with Kennedy on the campaign trail, and push his message of compassion. The history of California's rise to become the nation's leading agricultural producer is a story rife with worker exploitation and racism. California growers, from the beginning of the California agriculture business, saw farm workers as replaceable. In 1869, the completion of the transcontinental railroad allowed, for the first time, for the shipping of crops from California to eastern markets.61 Seeing the opportunity to become agribusiness giants, railroad barons and industry pioneers purchased vast swaths of land which they converted to farmland.62 The first major California agriculture growers then hired Chinese laborers who had built the railroad to work the fields as farm workers.63 Discrimination led to the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, forcing the Chinese to leave their jobs in the fields.64 Other discriminative legislation would determine who the Chinese were replaced by--poor white European immigrants, then later Japanese in the early 20th century, and Mexicans, who came to the U.S. to work during the harvest season.65 Discrimination and government-grower collusion caused the breakdown of farm worker organization attempts in the early 20th century. In 1903, Japanese and Mexican migrants 61 "United Farm Workers of America," Encyclopedia.com, http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/ politics-and-business-magazines/united-farm-workers-america 62 "United Farm Workers of America." 63 "United Farm Workers of America." 64 "United Farm Workers of America." 65 "United Farm Workers of America." !23
associated, forming the Japanese-Mexican Labor Association (JMLA), and launched strikes against their employers in an effort to raise wages.66 This arose at the same time as other similar unionization efforts in the often-fragmented American labor movement.67 However, due to discrimination against the minority groups, the American labor movement refused to support the Japanese-Mexican farm workers' efforts.68 Unsupported, the farm workers were powerless against the growers, and their efforts failed.69 By the 1920's Mexicans made up the majority of agricultural workers in California.70 In the 1930's during the GREAT DEPRESSION, when Oklahomans moved in to work the fields alongside the Mexican farm workers, growers pitted the two groups against one another in order to avoid their collusion for better conditions and wages.71 The California government was closely aligned with growers, and supported growers in thwarting farm worker efforts aimed at achieving unionization--most often strikes.72 Leftover Jim Crow laws excluded migrant workers and domestic help from labor protections. When President Roosevelt passed progressive labor legislation in the 1930's, Southern Dixiecrats didn't want Blacks to have the same rights as Whites, and threatened to vote against the legislation. As a compromise, Roosevelt excluded farm laborers and domestics from 66 Richard Street, "The 1903 Oxnard Sugar Beet Strike: A New Ending," Labor History 39, no.2, May, 1998, https://search.proquest.com/docview/221026861?accountid=9758. 67 "United Farm Workers of America." 68 "United Farm Workers of America." 69 "United Farm Workers of America." 70 "United Farm Workers of America." 71 "United Farm Workers of America." 72 "United Farm Workers of America." !24
the federal protections, including the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) which protects laborers' right to join unions and bargain collectively and the Fair Labor Standards Act which established the minimum wage and overtime pay.73 Those exceptions stand today. Growers garnered significant power over farm workers through the institution of the Bracero Program in 1942. During World War II, many farm workers had moved out of the fields, taken jobs in factories, and been recruited to the military, which caused growers to complain of a labor shortage.74 In responding to this issue, the United States entered into an agreement with Mexico to allow for temporary migrant workers, or "braceros," to work in U.S. fields. The agreement stipulated that braceros not replace domestic workers, but this was ignored.75 In providing growers with an excess supply of farm workers, the Bracero program gave growers great power over farm workers, which they would exploit. Growers quickly replaced insubordinate farm workers, thereby blocking unionization efforts.76 Growers kept expenses down by keeping wages low and by expending very little on farm workers facilities, resulting in extremely poor conditions for farm workers.77 73 Juan Perea, "The Echoes of Slavery: Recognizing the Racist Origins of the Agricultural and Domestic Worker Exclusion from the National Labor Relations Act," Ohio State Law Journal, http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/students/groups/oslj/files/2012/04/72.1.perea_.pdf 74 Elizabeth Mandeel, "The Bracero Program 1942-1964," American International Journal of Contemporary Research, Vol. 4, January 2014, http://www.aijcrnet.com/journals/ Vol_4_No_1_January_2014/17.pdf 75 "The Bracero Program 1942-1964." 76 "The Bracero Program 1942-1964." 77 "The Bracero Program 1942-1964." !25
The growers pushed for the Bracero program--originally a wartime measure--to be extended, and it became Public Law 78 in 1951.78 Chavez saw this as a continuation of the growers' legacy of aiming to maintain a surplus of labor in order to keep farm worker wages and benefits low, and to fight unionization.79 The National Farm Labor Union fought the Bracero program in the 1940's through the 1950's, however their efforts were largely unsuccessful.80 The program finally came to an end as the result of a years-long campaign headed by the national AFL-CIO and the labor movement, as well as the Catholic Church and other faith groups.81 Senator Edward M. Kennedy, while working in the Senate, and Huerta and Chavez, while working at the CSO, also played major roles in achieving the end of the program in 1964.82 The end of the Bracero program marked the end of growers' undefeated track record of maintaining farm worker exploitation. Cesar Chavez was exposed to injustices of farm work labor beginning in his early childhood--injustices he would dedicate the rest of his life to fighting. Chavez was born on March 31, 1927, in the North Gila River Valley outside Yuma, Arizona, where he lived with his mother, Juana, father, Librado, and four siblings in a traditional Mexican-American household.83 The family lived in a small adobe home on 80 acres of the family's land.84 Due to financial 78 "The Bracero Program 1942-1964." 79 Marc Grossman, interview. 80 "UFW History." 81 Marc Grossman, interview. 82 "UFW History."; Marc Grossman, interview. 83 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 9.; Marc Grossman, interview. 84 "The Story of Cesar Chavez." !26
issues brought on by the Depression, the family was forced to surrender their home and land to the bank, move to California, and endure the difficult life of migrant farm laborers.85 In 1938, at 11 years old, Cesar Chavez and his family packed their belongings in their 9 year old Studebaker President and began to drive west to the Del Rio barrio in the small farm town of Oxnard, in Ventura County north of Los Angeles.86 Later in San Jose, during their travels along the migrant trails of California, Juana knocked on doors until she found a garage where the family was allowed to stay.87 This was in a barrio called Sal Si Puedes, meaning "Get Out If You Can," and was one of many temporary homes where the Chavezs would reside.88 Librado led the family in finding work and at times in walking out of the fields to protest farm worker abuse and mistreatment by growers.89 Chavez saw his mother and father, Juana and Librado, engage in degrading farm work, where they were forced to work in horrible conditions and earned menial pay. Farm workers did not have unemployment insurance, so after his father, Librado, was injured, Juana and the children had to work to support the family.90 She often was forced to take the worst-paying jobs, which involved leaving her home at 3am to avoid the pounding afternoon heat of the fields 85 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 13.; Marc Grossman, interview. 86 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 15.; Marc Grossman, interview. 87 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 16. 88 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 16. 89 Marc Grossman, interview. 90 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 18. !27
where she would bunch carrots.91 Farm workers had no rights to health and safety protections.92 In other forms of work, farm workers were forced to use "el cortito" a short-handled hoe which left people with extreme skeletal pain after leaving the fields, making it difficult to stand upright.93 This often resulted in long-term health complications, which impacted Cesar Chavez himself later in life.94 Gaining access to water was difficult and often unhygienic, as growers forced farm workers to share cups and at times charged them for water.95 Farm workers had no access to bathrooms, and there were often no trees in the fields to shield oneself.96 In the fields, women were sexually harassed and humiliated.97 Additionally, farm workers were not covered by minimum wage laws, and Juana, Librado and their children, like other farm workers, made only a few dollars per day for the taxing work they endured.98 Cesar Chavez and his siblings had a difficult upbringing, working as child laborers in the fields, and constantly subjected to racism when they attended school.99 Chavez attended 37 schools while working as a migrant farm worker, some of which were segregated.100 Spanish was 91 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 17. 92 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 17. 93 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 17.; Marc Grossman, interview. 94 Helen Chavez, interview with Marc Grossman, October 27, 2006, La Paz, California, Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs at Wayne State University. 95 "UFW History." 96 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 17. 97 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 17. 98 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 17-18. 99 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 16. 100 "The Story of Cesar Chavez." !28
forbidden in school, and Chavez was hit on his knuckles by a teacher when he spoke his family's language.101 In integrated schools, Chavez recalled feeling like a "monkey in a cage."102 In 1942, after completing the 8th grade, Chavez went to work in the fields full-time to help support his family.103 In 1946, at age 19, Chavez joined the U.S. Navy, serving in the Western Pacific.104 At the time, the navy was segregated, and Chavez described his experience as the "two worst years of my life."105 In 1948, Chavez returned from the Navy to Delano and married Helen Fabela, a woman whom he had met at a malt shop in Delano.106 They soon settled together in Sal Si Puedes, while Cesar labored in nearby fields and orchards.107 Chavez's early difficulties opened his eyes up to racism and the lack of dignity of migrant farm worker life--experiences which would drive him to work for the improvements of the lives of farm workers. In San Jose, Chavez met Father Donald McDonnell, a young priest and advocate for farm workers rights, who introduced Chavez to the social teachings of the Catholic Church, including Rerum novarum, Pope Leo XIII's 1891 landmark papal encyclical on the dignity of labor.108 McDonell had come to Sal Si Puedes in order to perform Catholic services for hundreds of 101 "The Story of Cesar Chavez." 102 "The Story of Cesar Chavez." 103 "The Story of Cesar Chavez." 104 "The Story of Cesar Chavez." 105 "The Story of Cesar Chavez." 106 Marc Grossman, interview. 107 Marc Grossman, interview. 108 Jacques Levy, Cesar Chavez: Autobiography of La Causa (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 1975), 89-93.; Grossman Interview !29
Mexican Americans, who otherwise had no way of engaging in the services.109 Father McDonell discussed the plight of farm workers perpetuated by the agriculture industry with Chavez, and introduced Chavez to the writing of St. Francis of Assisi and Mahatma Gandhi.110 Gandhi and St. Francis would become key models of nonviolent resistance for Chavez and he would draw upon their tactics in later organizing efforts.111 Father McDonnell also helped introduce Chavez to Fred Ross, who ran the Community Service Organization (CSO), a leading statewide Latino civil rights group that advocated for barrio improvements, fought police brutality, helped residents become U.S. citizens and register to vote among other initiatives.112 In 1952, Chavez became an organizer for the CSO, and while working closely with Fred Ross, he travelled the state organizing new CSO chapters, founding 22 new chapters in total.113 In 1958, Chavez became the National Staff Director of the CSO. Chavez's tenure at the CSO taught him extensively about community organizing and how to work with people. Chavez left the CSO, an organization he loved, when the CSO refused to support a concentrated effort for farm worker organizing.114 On his birthday--March 31, 1962--Chavez 109 Levy, Cesar Chavez: Autobiography of La Causa, 89. 110 Press Release, "Father McDonnell introduced a young Cesar Chavez to social justice teachings," United Farm Workers, February 23, 2012, http://www.ufw.org/_board.php? mode=view&b_code=news_press&b_no=11813; Marc Grossman, interview. 111 Press Release, "Father McDonnell introduced a young Cesar Chavez to social justice teachings." 112 "Cesar's Biography," United Farm Workers, http://chavezfoundation.org/_cms.php? mode=view&b_code=007003000000000&b_no=1902&page=1&field=&key=&n=1; Marc Grossman, interview. 113 Marc Grossman, interview. 114 "UFW Chronology." !30
resigned from his position at the CSO in order to work on starting a farm workers union fulltime.115 At 35 years old, and with $1,200 in savings, Chavez moved his family and eight young children to Delano, California.116 This date is accepted today by the UFW (United Farm Workers) to be the earliest beginning of "La Causa," or the fight for farm workers' rights.117 In 1962, Chavez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) with Dolores Huerta. Huerta was a powerful force for the NFWA-- she was a great leader, a strategic thinker, a tough negotiator, and a hard worker. Huerta was born on April 10, 1930, in the mining town of Dawson, New Mexico. Huerta was raised by her mother, Alicia Chavez in a farm worker community in Stockton, California.118 Alicia Chavez taught Dolores Huerta early in life to help those who were impoverished. Alicia Chavez owned a restaurant and a 70-room hotel where she set prices to accommodate poor people, sometimes allowing them to say for free.119 Alicia Chavez also was a proponent of embracing cultural diversity, and aimed to inculcate this value in her daughter.120 While working as a school teacher, Huerta was confronted with the poor living conditions of migrant farm workers.121 Many of her students came from farm worker families, and she saw that they were impoverished, hungry, and lacking many basic necessities.122 "I couldn't tolerate seeing kids come to class hungry and needing shoes. I thought I could do more 115 "UFW Chronology." 116 "UFW Chronology." 117 Marc Grossman, interview. 118 "Dolores Huerta," Dolores Huerta Foundation, http://doloreshuerta.org/dolores-huerta/ 119 "Dolores Huerta." 120 "Dolores Huerta." 121 "Dolores Huerta." 122 "Dolores Huerta." !31
by organizing farm workers than by trying to teach their hungry children," Huerta said.123 Huerta began working towards improving the conditions of farm workers by working as a community organizer for the CSO's Stockton chapter, and founded the Agricultural Workers Association (AWA) which worked on Latino voter registration and lobbied the government for barrio improvements.124 In 1962, Huerta resigned from her duties in order to join Chavez in the formation of a farm worker union.125 Chavez and Huerta viewed their farm worker union's purpose as beginning a social movement.126 They aimed to revolutionize the lives of farm workers so as to allow them to become truly equal beneficiaries of the American Dream--able to rise up economically and work with dignity.127 Chavez and Huerta believed that in order to achieve these goals, farm workers had to form a union and sign union contracts with growers, thereby going beyond the tradition of solely aiming to achieve menial wage increases. Union contracts would allow for full democratic participation of farm workers, and would give them power over growers. Chavez and Huerta believed that effective strikes to win union contracts with growers would be in the far distant future, possibly taking decades.128 They would need to first build a large coalition of farm workers who understood and were dedicated to their cause. Chavez and Huerta sought to draw 123 Laura Reyes, "For Women, History is Happening Now," Huffington Post, March 27, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-reyes/for-women-history-is-happening_b_6955736.html 124 "Dolores Huerta." 125 "Dolores Huerta." 126 "UFW Chronology." 127 Paul Chavez, interview. 128 Marc Grossman, interview. !32
people in to the NFWA through offering benefits and services including a death benefit plan to allow for burials, a credit union that lent farm workers money when work was scarce, a co-op gas station which sold inexpensive gas and car services, and service centers which helped with a variety of problems.129 Chavez travelled through dozens of farm worker towns in the Central Valley, meeting with farm workers in their homes, and signing people up to the union person-byperson-- tactics he had learned from Fred Ross while working for the CSO.130 On September 30th, 1962, the NFWA held its first convention in an abandoned movie theatre in Fresno where delegates from across the state assembled.131 There, the union's flag was unveiled.132 Cesar Chavez and his brother Richard Chavez had co-designed the symbol for the NFWA--a black eagle on a white circle with a red background.133 The eagle's wings had squared-off edges to make it easy for farm workers to replicate.134 Chavez said on the symbol, "a symbol is an important thing. That is why we chose an Aztec eagle. It gives pride . . . When people see it they know it means dignity."135 He also said where that eagle flies, the farm worker rights will be respected.136 Chavez utilized symbols to unify the union and express its values throughout the farm worker movement. 129 Marc Grossman, interview. 130 "UFW History."; UFW Chronology." 131 "UFW Chronology." 132 "UFW Chronology." 133 "UFW Chronology." 134 "The Story of Cesar Chavez." 135 "The Story of Cesar Chavez." 136 Marc Grossman, interview. !33
The NFWA (later the United Farm Workers in 1966) made historic gains for the farm workers as a result of their leaders' commitment to the cause and the maintenance of the union's values, and though the implementation of new strategies which effectively communicated their message so that it was widely embraced. The Great Delano Grape Strike, beginning in 1965, propelled the group into the national spotlight.137 The union continued to thrive because it was committed to nonviolence, and implemented new strategies which were highly symbolic including boycotts, picketing (protesting outside their place of employment), marches, and strikes. Through the use of these tactics, the union formed a broad coalition of outside supporters, most often including other organized labor groups, religious groups, and was also embraced by minorities and students.138 In speaking about the boycott's supporters, Chavez said, "That segment of the population which makes our boycotts work are the Hispanics, the Blacks, the other minorities and our allies in labor and the church. But it is also an entire generation of young Americans who matured politically and socially in the 1960s and `70s--millions of people for whom boycotting grapes and other products became a socially accepted pattern of behavior."139 In times of trouble, most notoriously when the union's commitment to nonviolence was challenged, Chavez embarked on religious-oriented fasts: First in Delano in 1968 to rededicate the union to nonviolence, then in 1972 in Phoenix for 24 days after Arizona passed a law banning farm worker strikes and boycotts, and again in 1988 in Delano for 36 days over the 137 Marshall Ganz, interview. 138 "The Story of Cesar Chavez." 139 Cesar Chavez, "1984 Cesar Chavez Address to the Commonwealth Club of California," speech, San Francisco, CA, November 9, 1984, Cesar Chavez Foundation, http:// www.chavezfoundation.org/_cms.php? mode=view&b_code=001008000000000&b_no=16&page=1&field=&key=&n=8 !34
pesticide poisoning of farm workers and their children.140 These fasts showed Chavez's commitment to the union's values, and were meaningful testaments to how much he cared for the movement--things that the nation noticed. The union garnered significant membership, reaching its peak at 80,000 registered members in the 1970's.141 The UFW became the first successful farm workers union in the U.S., attained the first genuine collective bargaining agreements between farm workers and growers, established union contracts which secured rights and protections for farm workers including the securement of mandatory rest periods, toilet and drinking water access, the banning of sexual harassment and discrimination as well as protections against pesticide exposure.142 Chavez also attained the first union contracts for profit sharing and parental leave for farm workers.143 Other significant wins under Chavez's leadership of the UFW were the establishment of a pension plan for retired workers, the abolition of the short-handled hoe which crippled farm workers, the extension of coverage to farm workers of unemployment insurance and disability insurance, and federal amnesty rights for immigrants.144 Additionally, the union created the first family medical plan for farm workers and their dependents, called the Robert F. Kennedy Medical Plan.145 For a 140 Marc Grossman, interview. 141 Eric Brazil, "UFW Labors to Find Growth," SF Gate, June 6, 1999, http://www.sfgate.com/ bayarea/article/UFW-labors-to-find-growth-3080480.php 142 Peter Matthiessen, Sal Si Puedes: Cesar Chavez and the New American Revolution (Berkeley, CA: UC Press, 2014), xxiv-xxv. 143 "Cesar Chavez Foundation," Cesar Chavez Foundation, http://www.chavezfoundation.org/ _page.php?code=014001000000000. 144 "Cesar Chavez Foundation." 145 "Cesar Chavez Foundation." !35
movement that had been stagnant for 100 years, Chavez's rethinking of how to lead along with Dolores Huerta and others resulted in many accomplishments during his 31 years leading the UFW. 146 146 "Cesar Chavez Foundation." !36
Chapter Two Robert F. Kennedy and the Farm Workers 1966 In 1966, Chavez's young farm workers union was engaged in a strike in Delano, California, in an effort to force growers to recognize the union. As the growers maintained complete control in the area, strikers were relentlessly abused by police officials, and were denied justice by local legal authorities. The strikes in Delano were gaining publicity. At the time, a bill to bring farm workers under the NLRA was proposed in the Senate, and in conjunction with these efforts, senate hearings were scheduled in Delano to hear grower and farm worker testimony.147 Chavez expressed that he was doubtful that the hearings would lead to real reform, noting that farm workers had historically been ignored by government officials.148 Robert F. Kennedy was initially hesitant about engaging with farm workers, as he had little information on the matter, and was swamped with other issues in Washington.149 Additionally, it was politically detrimental for Kennedy to embrace the farm workers. However, Kennedy's participation in the meetings led to the most important day of the hearings--March 16--which resulted in tangible outcomes. On March 16, Kennedy's firm questioning of Kern County Sheriff Leroy Gaylen and grower Martin Zaninovich shed a national spotlight on Delano, and in doing so, protected the farm workers by giving them legitimacy.150 Kennedy embraced the farm worker 147 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity, 12. 148 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity, 13. 149 Peter Edelman, interview with Larry Hackman, July 15, 1969, John F. Kennedy Library Oral History Program. 150 Marshall Ganz, interview. !37
movement wholeheartedly as a result of hearing farm worker and law enforcement testimony, and felt a deep admiration and desire to work with Cesar Chavez, as he observed Chavez's advocacy and leadership. Kennedy's aide, Peter Edelman said that in Delano "something had touched a nerve" in Kennedy.151 Kennedy expressed this in his actions--delivering a speech to rally the farm workers at Filipino Hall, their union hall, and joining them in a picket line at DiGiorgio Fruit Corp. vineyards. The farm workers, in return, looked at Kennedy as a friend and ally. In this way, the hearings provided for the coming together of Chavez and Kennedy, which sparked the beginning of a very meaningful relationship. 1965 marked the beginning of an unforeseen strike effort which would catapult Chavez and the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) into the national spotlight. In 1965, the NFWA was a fledgling organization, consisting of mostly Latino farm workers.152 Chavez and Huerta had spent three years recruiting people--one by one and forming local chapters-- techniques they had learned as a community organizers in the Community Service Organization (CSO).153 Chavez was focused on his far-off goal of signing union contracts with growers in that he believed this alone would establish lasting and meaningful change. Chavez believed that the present power dynamics of the time which kept growers in complete control over farm workers had to be changed to allow for these contracts to be signed. His goal was "to overthrow a farm labor system in this nation which treats farm workers as if they were not important human 151 Peter Edelman, interview with Larry Hackman, July 15, 1969. 152 Marc Grossman, interview. 153 Marc Grossman, interview. !38
beings."154 Therefore, farm workers would have to become empowered in the efforts to attain contracts, as growers were resistant to give up any power. Chavez thought it would take as many as ten years of grassroots organizing until he had built up significant membership, and thereby the strength of the union in order to achieve these goals.155 Launching a large strike for wage increases was far from on his mind.156 When another farm worker group reached out for support on a strike, Chavez and the union needed to decide if they would support the effort. On September 8, 1965, the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), an organization of Filipino American grape workers, launched a strike against Delano-area table and wine grape grower after growers cut pay rates during the harvest.157 AWOC members had held strikes in May in Coachella, California, where they had successfully fought for and won $1.40 per hour wages and 25 cents per box.158 When these same farm workers, following the grape harvest, arrived in Delano, they expected the same wages, but were met with an average wage of $1.25 an hour and 10 cents a box.159 AWOC launched a strike fighting for better pay and working conditions.160 154 Chavez, "1984 Cesar Chavez Address to the Commonwealth Club of California." 155 Marc Grossman, interview. 156 Marc Grossman, interview. 157 Rick Tejada-Flores, "Chбvez, Cйsar," The Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States, (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2005), http://www.oxfordreference.com/ view/10.1093/acref/9780195156003.001.0001/acref-9780195156003-e-139. 158 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 105. 159 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 105.; "UFW History." 160 United Farm Workers, "The 1965-1970 Delano Grape Strike and Boycott," http:// www.ufw.org/_board.php?mode=view&b_code=cc_his_research&b_no=10482 !39
Leader of AWOC Larry Itliong approached Chavez asking for his union to join the picket lines.161 At the time, the young UFW had little money, less than $100 in its bank account, and a relatively small membership paying dues.162 Chavez doubted that the NFWA was prepared for a strike. While reflecting upon the strike proposition, Chavez said, "All I could think was, `Oh God, we're not ready for a strike.'"163 Additionally, the coming collaboration of Filipinos and Mexicans was unprecedented. The groups had historically been pitted against one another by growers, who utilized the groups as strikebreakers (temporary farm workers who replaced those on strike) against one another.164 During the debate with the NFWA, Cesar's wife, Helen settled the issue by asking, "Are we a union or not?"165 Supporting the idea himself, Chavez put the matter of whether the NFWA should join the strike to a union vote on September 16, 1965-- Mexican Independence Day.166 The union members voted unanimously in favor, symbolizing the breaking of racial barriers in favor of the pursuit of one common goal--farm workers rights.167 Chavez asserted that the two groups would come together as one in their strike efforts, and would not only share picket lines but common facilities including strike kitchens and a union hall.168 161 "The 1965-1970 Delano Grape Strike and Boycott."; Marc Grossman, interview. 162 "The 1965-1970 Delano Grape Strike and Boycott." 163 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 11. 164 Lorraine Agtang, "Commentary: UFW is a tribute to the real solidarity achieved between Latinos and Filipinos," Northwest Asian Weekly, December 20, 2013, http://nwasianweekly.com/ 2013/12/commentary-ufw-tribute-real-solidarity-achieved-latinos-filipinos/ 165 Maruja Estevez, "Helen Chбvez, Labor Rights Leader & Wife Of Cesar Chбvez, Dead At 88," Vibe, June 7, 2016, http://www.vibe.com/2016/06/helen-chavez-wife-cesar-chavez-dead-88/ 166 "The 1965-1970 Delano Grape Strike and Boycott." 167 "The 1965-1970 Delano Grape Strike and Boycott." 168 "The 1965-1970 Delano Grape Strike and Boycott." !40
Chavez also stressed that the strikes would be nonviolent, asking each participant to take a vow of nonviolence.169 The two groups combined later in 1966 to form the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC) which became an organizing committee of the national AFLCIO, with Chavez as director and Larry Itliong as associate director. (The union became the United Farm Workers of America in 1972.) In this initial effort, AWOC and the NFWA began work on September 19, 1966--a job that was incredibly difficult to organize.170 The combined efforts of both organizations would lead to what would be called the Great Delano Grape Strike --an effort that propelled the farm worker movement into garnering national attention, and put it on the path to become the nation's first enduring farm workers union. For the strike effort, the NFWA and AWOC had mobilized "13,000 of the most oppressed workers in the country" to protest their lack of labor protection from pesticides and exploitation and their poor living conditions.171 In order to combat the organizational challenges of the fields which stretched across thousands of square miles of farm land, the farm workers created roving picket lines, focusing on striking at specific fields each day.172 In an effort to break the strikes, growers brought in strikebreakers (also known as scabs) who replaced the striking workers in the vineyards.173 The unions sent 15 to 20 cars full of strikers (also known as pickets) to fields where growers were employing strikebreakers.174 The strikers were effective at convincing farm 169 "The 1965-1970 Delano Grape Strike and Boycott." 170 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 106. 171 Marc Grossman, interview. 172 "UFW History."; Marc Grossman, interview. 173 "UFW History." 174 "UFW History." !41
workers to join the strike.175 The growers, expecting to end the strike, quickly conceded to the union's demands, and allotted farm workers a small wage increase, granting them $1.25 wages.176 By this time, the farm workers had embraced Chavez's vision of a social movement, and these grower consolidations made farm workers feel a greater sense of empowerment and dedication to pursuing greater feats--recognized unionization.177 The striking farm workers were up against California's powerful corporate agriculture interests, a 3 billion-dollar-a-year industry whose heads held board seats on banks, in local governments and the state legislatures.178 The agricultural industry in California held control over the state's economic, political, and social institutions.179 Politicians feared the growers, leaving them virtually with total, unregulated power.180 On the ground in Delano, this was manifested in that local law enforcement and justice system personnel partnered with growers to break strikes and ensure that growers were not prosecuted. Delano became a petri dish of corruption and the complete disregard of justice. Growers responded to the ongoing strikes by trying to intimidate strikers through the use of threats and violence.181 Growers physically abused strikers, posing threats to their lives and 175 "UFW History." 176 "UFW History." 177 "UFW History." 178 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 77. 179 Marc Grossman, interview. 180 Marc Grossman, interview. 181 Report, "Incidents Involving Police Or Other Law Enforcement," Papers of Robert F. Kennedy, Senate Papers, Legislative Subject Files, Box 71, Folder: "Migratory Labor California Undated," John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. !42
during later, more tragic strikes, resulting in strikers' deaths.182 Growers often drove cars at high speeds close to picket lines, so that strikers had to jump out of the way of cars. Sometimes the growers hit strikers with their cars. Growers sprayed strikers with sulphur (at Schenley Ranch) and dust (at Dispoto Ranch.)183 They threatened strikers while wielding shotguns.184 Individual strikers were singled out and beaten mercilessly.185 The growers knew that they would not be prosecuted, so violence against strikers proliferated. Law enforcement openly colluded with growers. Police officials stood by to witness the growers' violence, and refused to arrest growers or their agents. One striker recounted, "Police were looking on while growers elbowed, knead, pushed, stepped and cursed NFWA pickets. One of the growers spoke to the police and the police moved away. They made no move to curb the attacks of growers involved."186 Police also took part in violence against strikers. "[Reverend] Chris Hartmire was pushed by Sergeant Dodd because he didn't move fast enough although he was just a visitor and not picketing."187 Reverend Chris Hartmire ran the California Migrant Ministry (CMM) and was a close friend of Chavez and a partner of the NFWA. The police also refused to provide strikers with any sort of help supplying information on their grower attackers. "When we asked for information on names of growers or strike breakers who harassed or 182 Report, "Incidents Involving Police Or Other Law Enforcement." 183 Report, "Incidents Involving Police Or Other Law Enforcement." 184 Report, "Incidents Involving Police Or Other Law Enforcement." 185 UFW Report, "Harassment of Pickets in Delano Grape Strike," Papers of Robert F. Kennedy, Senate Papers, Legislative Subject Files, Box 71, Folder: "Migratory Labor California Undated," John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. 186 Report, "Incidents Involving Police Or Other Law Enforcement." 187 Report, "Incidents Involving Police Or Other Law Enforcement." !43
attacked pickets, police and prosecutors refused to get their names for us. This happened many times."188 There was no debate over the matter--the police were there to break the strikes. Local police launched their own effort to intimidate strikers. They constructed an obtrusive information-gathering campaign. The Kern County Sheriff's Office created a dossier of 5,000 cards of suspected strike supporters.189 These cards included each person's name, criminal record, civil-rights group associations, and mug shot.190 The sheriff's office acquired this information by photographing picketers on picket lines, recording license plate numbers of cars parked at the NFWA headquarters, and pulling information from outside law enforcement offices.191 These methods--particularly photographing strikers--were devised to intimidate and harass strikers. In one instance, Sergeant Dodd "blocked off the exit of pickets at Masakian Ranch" in order to take strikers' photographs.192 Sergeant Dodd told strikers that "pickets were violating and injunction" and he "would need the information for the filing of a complaint."193 One striker recounted that Dodd told strikers, "he would arrest us and let the courts decide whether the arrest was justified."194 188 UFW Report, "Harassment of Pickets in Delano Grape Strike." 189 John Dunne, Delano: The Story of the California Grape Strike (New York, NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1967) 190 Dunne, The Story of the California Grape Strike. 191 Dunne, The Story of the California Grape Strike. 192 Report, "Incidents Involving Police Or Other Law Enforcement." 193 Report, "Incidents Involving Police Or Other Law Enforcement." 194 Report, "Incidents Involving Police Or Other Law Enforcement." !44
The District Attorney's Office colluded with growers in denying farm workers' appeals for justice against grower violence. When farm workers filed complaints to the D.A.'s office, they were turned away. A striker said, "When Bruno Dispoto of Dispoto Farms knocked down striker Gene Nelson with a car, the farm workers issued many complaints to the D.A. office and none were accepted. Dispoto went off free."195 The prosecutors, however, were quick to prosecute strikers. Regarding the same instance, the striker added, "When a farm worker "accosted" Dispoto, asking him "why he had beaten up a one-legged war veteran" he "was arrested on the spot."196 Local judges partnered with growers to break the strikes. Growers obtained anti-picketing injunctions or temporary restraining orders (TRO's) from rural judges in an effort to ban strikes.197 This included issuing a special directive against striking in Delano and against shouting from streets, labeling it "disturbing the peace."198 Two days after this directive, the local court issued an order forbidding the use of the word "huelga" (meaning "strike" in Spanish.)199 Strikers resisted the unjust TRO's, leading to mass arrests. The day following the "huelga" ban, on October 19, 1965, Cesar's wife, Helen Chavez, and strikers shouted "huelga" at a picket line. The sheriff arrested Helen and 43 picketers, including Reverend Chris Hartmire who was 195 Report, "Incidents Involving Police Or Other Law Enforcement." 196 Report, "Incidents Involving Police Or Other Law Enforcement." 197 Marc Grossman, Interview. 198 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez and The Dream of Dignity, 15; Miraim Pawel, "Op-Ed Cesar Chavez: A life bigger than film," Los Angeles Times, April 2, 2014, http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-pawel-chavez-film-20140402-story.html 199 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity, 16. !45
arrested in the middle of an Interview with the Los Angeles Times.200 Their bail was set at $276 each.201 Helen remained in jail for 3 days.202 The general attitude of local law enforcement was summed up by strikers as, "We will arrest the pickets first then let the courts decide if they are innocent or not."203 In Delano, the strikers were up against the growers, the police, and the courts. The strikes were gaining attention. Two supporters of the strike movement (also close colleagues of Kennedy) propagated holding congressional hearings in Delano in an effort to grow attention around the strike.204 United Auto Workers (UAW) International President Walter Reuther and UAW director Paul Schrade supported the strikes in Delano.205 They had visited Delano with national media personnel in December, 1965 in order to gain national attention for the strike.206 National attention was important to farm workers in that it lent them legitimacy and support, which would help generate support for early union boycotts of products from struck ranches.207 Reuther and Schrade saw congressional hearings as an opportunity to do the same. They persuaded Senate Subcommittee on Migratory Labor Chair, Harrison "Pete" Williams, Jr. 200 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity, 16. 201 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity, 16. 202 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity, 16. 203 Report, "Incidents Involving Police Or Other Law Enforcement." 204 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity, 16. 205 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity, 16. 206 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity, 16. 207 Marc Grossman, Interview. !46
of New Jersey to hold hearings in advance of proposing farm worker legislation.208 As the strikes were gaining attention, Senator Williams decided to hold hearings in Delano. In 1966, Williams reintroduced a farm labor reform package before the subcommittee. The package had been introduced many times previously, but was blocked by southern representatives who were backed by agricultural business interests. The proposed legislation would provide farm workers with union protections including holding elections in the fields.209 This legislation included provisions which would establish collective bargaining rights, protect against child labor, establish a voluntary farm employment service and create a National Advisory Council on Migratory Labor.210 The 1966 package included additional protections compared to legislation proposed in 1965 including tax amortization for farm labor housing and reduced residence requirements for voting.211 There was little chance that the bills would be passed, due to lobbying by corporate farming interests, especially from growers in California.212 But corporate farmers were not the only critic of the proposed legislation. Chavez saw the legislation proposed by Williams was problematic, in that it was not-well suited for the needs of migratory farm workers. Under the NLRA, it could take months for a union election to be held.213 As farm workers operated on a seasonable basis--working at each farm for only a short period of time--far-off elections meant that the majority of farm workers would not be present at 208 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez and The Dream of Dignity 12. 209 Letter, Peter Edelman to Harry Van Arsdale. 210 Letter, Peter Edelman to Harry Van Arsdale. 211 Letter, Peter Edelman to Harry Van Arsdale. 212 Marc Grossman, interview. 213 Grossman, interview. !47
the farms during the elections, thereby rendered unable to vote.214 The more meaningful legislation would have been bringing farm workers under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, in that this would provide the federal minimum wage and overtime pay for all farm workers--not just the minority who would be protected by unions.215 The state Agricultural Labor Relations Act granting farm workers the right to organize, vote for the union and bargain with their employers was finally passed nearly a decade later by the California legislature under Governor Jerry Brown--a major victory for Chavez and the UFW.216 But without federal legislation, its impact was limited to farm workers in California. Three of six United States Senators on the Migratory Labor Subcommittee attended the hearings in California, including Democratic Senator Harrison Williams of New Jersey, Republican Senator George Murphy of California, and Democratic Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York.217 The hearings began on March 14th in Sacramento, were held on March 15th in Visalia, and ended on March 16th at the epicenter of the strike movement--in Delano. In addition to participating in the hearings which were set to take place from 11am to 5pm, the 214 Grossman, interview. 215 Grossman interview 216 Grossman, interview. 217 Mark Day, Forty Acres: Cesar Chavez and the Farm Workers (New York, NY: Praeger Publishers Inc.), 25. !48
Committee visited farm labor camps and other locations with media tagging along.218 The hearings were successful in gaining attention and traction for the farm worker movement.219 The senators came from a variety of backgrounds, and maintained different and developing stances on the farm worker movement. Williams was a champion of the farm worker movement.220 Williams said that these bills aimed to "end the law of the jungle in farm labormanagement relations."221 Senator Murphy was thought of as an enemy to organized labor.222 It was widely held that while defending the Bracero program in 1964, Murphy had made the racist argument that Mexicans were better suited to be workers because they were "built close to the ground," although Murphy disputed that he made this claim.223 Murphy's support for bringing farm workers under the NLRA was at best, meek. Feeling pressure from employers who were against the farm worker movement, Murphy expressed that while he didn't necessarily support 218 Briefing, "Briefing Sheet For Hearings By United States Senate Subcommittee of Migratory Labor," March 14, 1966, Papers of Robert F. Kennedy, Senate Papers, Legislative Subject Files, Box 71, Folder: "Migratory Labor: California Hearings, Subcommittee on Migratory Labor," John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. 219 Marshall Ganz, interview. 220 Matthiessen, Sal Si Puedes, 124. 221 Article, "Big Changes Loom In Farm Labor Economy," Harry Bernstein, March 22, 1965, Papers of Robert F. Kennedy, Senate Papers, Legislative Subject Files, Box 71, Folder: "Migratory Labor California 1/1967-2/1967," John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. 222 Article, "Big Changes Loom In Farm Labor Economy." 223 Article, "Big Changes Loom In Farm Labor Economy." !49
the bill, he believed that farm workers should have the right to unionize if the "proper machinery" were put into place.224 Senator Kennedy was in the early stages of establishing himself as an ally of the farm workers. It was not self-evident why a senator from New York would take up the cause of Mexican American farm workers in a remote area of California. Some might have speculated that doing so would allow Kennedy to expand his constituency beyond his home state and establish a foothold for a future presidential bid. But farm workers at the time had no political clout, and their plight was not a major issue across the country. Poverty then, as today, was not a popular cause, and white working class voters, the core of Kennedy's support, would have been skeptical about why he was spending time on that cause while there were many other, more urgent issues, to tackle. In a letter sent to Kennedy on February 9, 1966, Sylvia Kalitinsky, a New York Representative for the NFWA, asked Kennedy to meet to discuss the strikes, noting that she had been told he had "become interested in the strike and had recognized its importance."225 Kalitinsky also said, "Although, seen from New York State, a strike in Delano California, might seem somewhat remote, the issues involved are important to all farm workers and to all Spanish speaking people in the United States."226 The farm workers issue was raised by Kennedy staffer Peter Edelman, and backed by United Auto Workers President Walter 224 Dick Meister, "Support From Robert Kennedy," New York Herald Tribune, 1966, https:// libraries.ucsd.edu/farmworkermovement/ufwarchives/meister/06%20UFWMeister66-5RFK.doc.pdf 225 Letter, Sylvia Katlinsky to Robert F. Kennedy, February 9, 1966, Papers of Robert F. Kennedy, Senate Papers, Legislative Subject Files, Box 71, Folder: "Migratory Labor: California (1/1966-2/1966)," John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. 226 Letter, Sylvia Katlinsky to Robert F. Kennedy. !50
Reuther, and the western states head of the UAW, Paul Schrade, who were active supporters of the farm workers. After some consideration of the capacity to take up yet another issue in a far off place, Kennedy decided to attend the hearings in Delano. While some of Kennedy's detractors argue that this was a calculated move by Kennedy, it was in fact his compassion for the underdog and his love of justice which drove him to attend the hearings. In 1966, Kennedy was focused on grappling with the escalating issue of the war in Vietnam. Additionally, according to Paul Schrade, Kennedy was largely unfamiliar with the farm worker movement at this point.227 When the idea to leave Washington in order to visit farm workers in California was proposed to him by Edelman, Kennedy was initially hesitant.228 After considering the proposition over the course of three days and reaching out to colleagues in California for advice, Kennedy decided to go.229 After the hearings, Kennedy thanked Schrade for urging him to go.230 On the first day of hearings, March 14th in Sacramento, Williams presided over testimony for growers and farm workers.231 Williams said during the hearings, "We have all to come to California to seek the causes and background of the protracted strike in the grape vineyards in the Delano area-- to see whether this bitter dispute stands as a symbol of the need to provide procedures in this place of contrast."232 Later, in providing testimony in Delano on 227 Marc Grossman, interview. 228 Peter Edelman, interview with Larry Hackman, July 15, 1969. 229 Peter Edelman, interview with Larry Hackman, July 15, 1969. 230 Paul Schrade, interview. 231 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez and The Dream of Dignity, 12. 232 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez and The Dream of Dignity, 12. !51
March 16th, Chavez pointed out that hearings in the past had been unsuccessful.233 "We are meeting, once again, to discuss the problems of the farm worker, and what might be done to correct these problems. Such meetings have been called for decades, and unfortunately things have not changed very much in spite of them. The same labor camps which were used 30 years ago at the time of the La Follette committee hearings are still housing our workers. The same exploitation of child labor, the same idea that farm workers are a different breed of people-- humble, happy, built close to the ground-- still prevails."234 Chavez took a powerful stance on challenging the senators--especially Murphy who had been linked to the "built close to the ground" quote--to reflect on how the nation had failed them in the past, and question what role they would play in the future. During the hearings, Governor of California Pat Brown issued a statement endorsing the legislation proposals including establishing a minimum wage and collective bargaining rights for farm workers, as well as instituting child labor laws and unemployment insurance for farm workers.235 Brown said, "We cannot put off forever what must be done to correct the deplorable economic and social plight of many of our farm workers."236 This line was picked up by newspapers across the country. The governor, it can be assumed, knew the package had no chance of passage. While he had taken courageous moral positions in the past, including opposing housing discrimination in 1964, which significantly contributed to his losing of his 233 Marc Grossman, interview. 234 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity, 13. 235 "Governor Endorses Farm Labor Proposal," Daily Independent Journal, March 14, 1966, https://www.newspapers.com/image/72003146/ 236 "Governor Endorses Farm Labor Proposal." !52
reelection campaign to Ronald Reagan, he was extremely cautious in engaging with the farm workers.237 Growers still held significant weight within the political arena, and were key donors to political campaigns, especially those of Democrats.238 They were squarely against Chavez and the work of the UFW. These political calculations caused Brown, like many other politicians, to steer clear of aligning themselves in a meaningful way with the farm workers union.239 As a senator from New York, Kennedy did not have to contend with the corporate farming political weight in California. None the less, he was well aware of its influence on fellow Democrats, and some in his circles cautioned him against harming his colleagues. Furthermore, farming was the most lucrative industry, virtually the only industry in upstate New York, and his constituents there would not take kindly to his advocacy of farm workers rights. For these reasons, it seemed nonsensical for Kennedy to openly embrace the plight of the farm workers. Notable labor leaders including Al Green and Larry Itliong of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), William Kircher of the national AFL-CIO, and Dolores Huerta provided testimony supporting the farm workers. Supporters from the Migrant Ministry, a group which had aligned itself with the NFWA also provided pro-farm worker testimony including Reverend Chris Hartmire and Catholic Bishop Hugh Donohoe of Fresno.240 Hartmire said, "As Christians we cannot assume a position of non-involvement or neutrality in the presence of social injustice which reduces the dignity and well-being of any of God's children."241 237 Grossman, interview. 238 Grossman, interview. 239 Grossman, interview. 240 Bruns, Encyclopedia of Cesar Chavez: The Farm Workers' Fight for Rights and Justice, 249. 241 Bruns, Encyclopedia of Cesar Chavez: The Farm Workers' Fight for Rights and Justice, 249. !53
On the morning of March 15, in Visalia, California, the senators toured the horrific living places of farm workers.242 They visited two farm worker housing projects which left them stricken by the horrible conditions they observed.243 In a memo on the trip, Peter Edelman noted: "This housing was described last year by Secretary of Labor W. Willard Wirtz as some of the worst he had ever seen."244 The committee visited the Self-Help Housing project in Goshen, California where farm workers were able to build their own homes using low interest federal loans.245 The senators were comparatively impressed by the efficacy of this effort.246 The Committee next toured the Linnell Farm Labor Camp and were "shocked" upon viewing 12'x16' feet tin shacks which housed farm workers.247 Farm workers often endured horrible conditions in segregated temporary housing projects run by growers, who charged them at least $2 a day for the housing.248 The housing was often unheated, mosquito-ridden, and lacked indoor plumbing as well as cooking facilities.249 Williams called the camp was "The worst public housing I have ever seen." Murphy also said, "As a U.S. Senator from California, I am ashamed of what I have 242 Memorandum, Peter Edelman to Robert F. Kennedy, March 14, 1966, Papers of Robert F. Kennedy, Senate Papers, Legislative Subject Files, Box 71, Folder: "Migratory Labor: California Hearings, Subcommittee on Migratory Labor," John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. 243 "Murphy, Williams Express Shock At Linell Labor Camp," The Fresno Bee The Republican, March 15, 1966, https://www.newspapers.com/image/25796272/?terms=kennedy%2Bvisalia 244 Briefing, "Briefing Sheet For Hearings By United States Senate Subcommittee of Migratory Labor." 245 "Murphy, Williams Express Shock At Linell Labor Camp." 246 "Murphy, Williams Express Shock At Linell Labor Camp." 247 "Murphy, Williams Express Shock At Linell Labor Camp." 248 "UFW History." 249 "UFW History." !54
seen here,"250 later advocating for the use of federal funds to improve the camps.251 Kennedy remarked that the housing reminded him of that of impoverished people in Mississippi.252 On March 15th, hearings began in Veterans Memorial Hall at 11am.253 In a statement prepared by Governor Pat Brown, the governor argued for housing benefits for farm workers. The statement asserted that there is a "shocking lack of adequate housing for farm worker families."254 Williams said, "This has been an ignored part of our population."255 Williams added, "The time has long gone past when we should make some kind of effort."256 Kennedy also said he supported farm worker housing, but added: "a whole range of legislation is needed for farm workers."257 Throughout the hearings, growers defended the working conditions and wages of farm workers, argued against unionization and federal intervention, and, incredibly, denied that a strike was occurring. Growers testified that conditions were good, and that California offered the highest farm worker wages in the country.258 Growers contended that establishing a minimum 250 "State Farm Housing `Deplorable," Pasadena Independent, March 16, 1966, https:// www.newspapers.com/image/65016938/?terms=senator%2Bwilliams%2Bsacramento 251 "Murphy, Williams Express Shock At Linell Labor Camp." 252 Paul Schrade, Interview. 253 Briefing, "Briefing Sheet For Hearings By United States Senate Subcommittee of Migratory Labor." 254 "Housing Benefits For Farm Families-Brown," Ukiah Daily Journal, March 15, 1966, https:// www.newspapers.com/image/7865106/?terms=kennedy%2Bvisalia 255 "Housing Benefits For Farm Families-Brown." 256 "Housing Benefits For Farm Families-Brown." 257 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez and The Dream of Dignity, 14. 258 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez and The Dream of Dignity, 13. !55
wage would "destroy incentive."259 Additionally, growers defended child labor as providing "farreaching educational benefits in allowing children to work [in the fields]."260 The growers asserted that the unique nature of grower-picker relationships made collective bargaining impossible, in that agreements could only be reached based upon "individual relationships."261 They argued that farm worker issues were too complex for federal regulation. Growers argued that farm worker-labor relations should fall under state jurisdiction "so that a State board can properly handle the multitude of local problems involved in production of farm crops."262 In this way, growers aimed to maintain control over the farm workers, as they knew that the state would stay on their side, and that it would be virtually impossible for farm workers to prevail in every state across the country. So long as there was no federal legislation, big agriculture interests could retain the status quo. The growers also labeled the strike a myth. One grower testified, "There is no strike among the Delano farm workers. The so-called strike is pure myth, manufactured out of nothing by outside agitators who are more interested in creating trouble in the United States than in the welfare of farm workers."263 Growers said that organizing was driven by "trouble-makers in the cities,"264 portraying strike leaders as outsiders and anarchists. Robert Kennedy had heard virtually identical words before when, at the height of the Civil Right Movement. Police Chief George "Bull" Connor said, "Ladies and gentlemen, for 42 days now 259 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez and The Dream of Dignity, 13. 260 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez and The Dream of Dignity, 13. 261 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez and The Dream of Dignity, 13. 262 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez and The Dream of Dignity, 13. 263 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez and The Dream of Dignity, 13. 264 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity, 13. !56
the city of Birmingham has been under siege from outside agitators led by Martin Luther King. Now, the President has seen fit to move some 3,000 federal troops into this state for possible use in Birmingham."265 As Robert Kennedy and John F. Kennedy had been the people to send in those troops at the time, in order to protect African American citizens from the white racists who controlled the levers of power in the city, Robert Kennedy must have understood the plight of the farm workers at a visceral level--he had seen this before. The most memorable day of the trip, was March 16th, the day of the formal hearings in Delano, when the growers' weak testimony was torn apart in front of farm workers who had been abused by them mercilessly for years. One thousand spectators crowded into the Delano High School auditorium.266 By 11am, the room was overflowing. Three hundred people were denied entry and were forced to wait outside.267 Growers had taken almost all the seats, forcing farm workers out of the auditorium.268 When Kennedy realized this, he demanded that half of the seating be given to farm workers and their families.269 Chavez told the senators about police harassment. He said that police photographed strikers, kept a dossier on each one, and used the dossier to intimidate strikers.270 He described 265 "Bull Connor Statement," NBC, https://www.nbclearn.com/portal/site/k-12/flatview? cuecard=1310 266 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity, 31. 267 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity, 31. 268 Paul Schrade, interview. 269 Paul Schrade, interview. 270 Susan Ferris and Ricardo Sandoval, The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Movement (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1997), 116. !57
mass arrests of peaceful demonstrators.271 Kennedy was incensed. Kennedy's cross examination of the Kern County Sheriff remains an enduring memory for the farm worker movement to this day.272 Sheriff Leroy Gaylen of Kern County explained that he took photographs to identify troublemakers so that he could keep the peace. The transcript captured the key moment of confrontation: Kennedy: "Do you take pictures of everyone in the city?" Gaylen: "Well, if he is on strike, or something like that." Kennedy:" Why are the picketers arrested as a preventive measure?" Gaylen: "Well, if I have reason to believe that there's going to be a riot started, and somebody tells me that there's going to be trouble if you don't stop them, then it's my duty to stop them." Kennedy: "You go out there and arrest them?" Gaylen: "Absolutely." Kennedy: "Who told you that they were going to riot?" Gaylen: "The men right out there in the field that they were talking to said if you don't get them out of here we're going to cut their hearts out." Kennedy: "This is the most interesting concept, I think, that you suddenly hear talk... about somebody's going to get out of order, perhaps violate the law, and you go in and arrest them, and they haven't done anything wrong. How do you go arrest somebody if they haven't violated the law?" 271 Ferris, Sandoval, The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Movement, 116. 272 Marshall Ganz, Interview. !58
Gaylen: "They are ready to violate the law, in other words--" The crowd roared. Kennedy slapped his fist on the table, leaning back in surprise at the Sheriff's statement. 273 Kennedy: "Could I suggest that in the interim period of time, in the luncheon period of time, that the sheriff and the district attorney read the Constitution of the United States?"274 The room exploded with farm workers' laughter.275 Farm workers shook signs in the back of the auditorium which read "Kennedy for President in '68".276 Schrade recounts, "it just woke everyone up in the crowd and they applauded. It was a really spectacular moment."277 For farm workers, this exchange confirmed the feeling that Kennedy would be a strong ally in their fight for justice. Chavez whispered to Dolores Huerta, "He shouldn't go so far, because it's only going to hurt him."278 Chavez recalled, "Instead of that awful feeling against politicians who don't commit themselves, we felt protective. He said that we had the right to form a union and that he 273 "Robert Kennedy Took On Kern County Sheriff United Farm Workers" United Farm Workers, August 18, 2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G66myWragTg 274 Ferris, Sandoval, The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Movement, 116. 275 Ferris, Sandoval, The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Movement, 116. 276 Mahoney, Richard, The Kennedy Brothers: The Rise and Fall of Jack and Bobby (New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing Inc., 2011) 277 Paul Schrade, interview. 278 Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy and His Times, 791. !59
endorsed our right, and not only endorsed us but joined us. I was amazed at how quickly he grasped the whole picture... He immediately asked very pointed questions of the growers; he had a way of disintegrating their arguments by picking at the very simple questions...."279 The story of Kennedy grilling the Kern County Sheriff became a powerful symbol of farm workers fighting and winning against injustice, shared widely by media personnel and farm workers alike. The union's paper, El Macriendo, featured the story of Kennedy interrogating the Sheriff, showing a picture of Kennedy on the third page entitled "In this Issue," in the top ranking position with the quote, "I suggest, Sheriff, that you read the U.S. Constitution before you arrest any more strikers."280 The farm workers believed that Kennedy had blocked the Sheriff from his unjust arrests. The larger article was entitled "The U.S. Senate Has The Last Word," and began with, "The senators who came to Delano last month have told the whole world just what is happening in the Grape Strike around Delano."281 By questioning Sheriff Gaylen, Kennedy exposed the failure of justice for farm workers, and broadcast that message to the world. This interaction made the farm worker movement a national concern, boosted farm worker morale tremendously, and made the growers afraid, all because the media had spread the farm workers' message.282 UFW Organizer Marshall Ganz said that Kennedy's tough crossexamination of the sheriff acted as a warning, and told the corrupt police, you can't get away 279 Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy and His Times, 791. 280 El Macriendo, March 3, 1966, Farmworker Documentation Project, https://libraries.ucsd.edu/ farmworkermovement/ufwarchives/elmalcriado/1966/March%203,%201966.pdf 281 El Macriendo, March 3, 1966. 282 Marshall Ganz, Interview. !60
with this because the whole world is watching now.283 Kennedy's powerful stance made him revered as a leader and friend. During the break for lunch hearings, Kennedy and Chavez unexpectedly met in the parking lot outside of the high school auditorium, where they took an immediate liking to one another.284 It was not their first meeting. They had met briefly in 1960, when Chavez was registering Latino voters for John Kennedy's presidential campaign.285 The two men stood talking quietly in conversation.286 People began to surround them in concentric circles. Schrade recounted, "A crowd gathered, two deep, then four deep, and finally ten or fifteen people deep. It went in maybe five minutes, maybe even ten."287 Both Schrade and Edelman said that Chavez and Kennedy bonded immediately. Edelman said, "The two men took an instant like to one another and bonded immediately into a close relationship that lasted until RFK's death."288 Schrade said on the encounter, "there was a good relationship that was building,"289 adding, "I don't know what they said to each other. I do know that when it was over they were friends for 283 Marshall Ganz, Interview. 284 Paul Schrade, Interview. 285 Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy and His Times, 792. 286 Paul Schrade, interview. 287 Paul Schrade, interview. 288 Paul Lee, "Senator Robert F. Kennedy Visits Delano 1969," August 2, 2010, Farmworker Movement Documentation Project, https://libraries.ucsd.edu/farmworkermovement/category/ commentary/senator-robert-kennedy-visits-delano-1968/ 289 Paul Schrade, interview. !61
life."290 What was clear was that Chavez and Kennedy were drawing people together in excitement, and were beginning to form the beginnings of a lasting and important bond. Immediately following the hearings, Kennedy, accompanied by Chavez and Huerta, made a surprise visit to Filipino Hall where he addressed a mass meeting of farm workers. He said, "And it's not just a question of wages. It's a question of housing. It's a question of education. It's a question of living conditions. It's a basic question of hope for the future."291 The crowd cheered in response.292 Kennedy had embraced the farm workers' cause, and aimed to position himself as a partner in their efforts. He went beyond the traditional political role of working from Washington to institute change, but instead wanted to know what the farm workers needed in order for them to "help themselves." Kennedy treated the farm workers with dignity. Dolores Huerta later said, "Robert didn't come to us and tell us what was good for us. He came to us and asked us two questions: 'What do you want? And how can I help?' That's why we loved him."293 The farm workers mobbed Kennedy, bustling around him, grabbing onto whatever they could touch. By the time he left, his hands were red, swollen and bleeding.294 Kennedy cancelled his schedule, and instead joined 100 strikers on a picket line at DiGiorgio Fruit Corp. vineyard.295 DiGiorgio was one of the largest vineyard in California, at 4,400 acres, and had been the model for the fictional ranch, Gregorio Fruit Corp., depicted in 290 Paul Schrade, interview. 291 "Robert Kennedy Took On Kern County Sheriff United Farm Workers." 292 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 123. 293 "Robert Kennedy Took On Kern County Sheriff United Farm Workers." 294 Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy and His Times, 791. 295 Mahoney, The Kennedy Brothers: The Rise and Fall of Jack and Bobby. !62
John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath.296 DiGiorgio was a major grower and enemy of the farm workers. Farm workers and growers alike were shocked when Kennedy arrived at the picket line, as no politician had done so before.297 Under blue skies, Kennedy walked down the half-mile picket line, shaking hands with strikers while people cried out "Viva Kennedy" and "Kennedy for presidente!"298 Special correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune Dick Meister wrote on the scene, "It was an odd sight; Sen. Robert Kennedy in a proper pin-stripe suit moving along a line of pickets in work clothes. He was responding in his Boston manner to cries of `Welcome' shouted in Spanish accents."299 Kennedy's visit to the picket line reinforced the sincerity of his commitment to the farm workers. Schrade, who was present, said, "It was a great time when you knew that friendship had been cemented and Bob wouldn't forget; that the farm workers wouldn't forget. It was really very important towards building the movement."300 Schrade also said, "This guy was doing something no other politician had. It was a beautiful, beautiful moment."301 In striking against DiGiorgio ranch, Kennedy had made a statement of his unqualified devotion to the farm workers, something which no politician had dared to do, and exhibited his fearless commitment to Chavez 296 Marc Grossman, interview. 297 Mahoney, The Kennedy Brothers: The Rise and Fall of Jack and Bobby. 298 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity, 19. 299 "Support From Robert Kennedy." 300 Paul Schrade, Interview. 301 Paul Schrade, Interview. !63
and the strikers.302 There was no mistaking it--Kennedy was against the growers and for farm workers. On the day of the hearings, Chavez announced the farm workers would embark on a 25day, 350-mile march entitled pilgrimage, penance and revolution from Delano to Sacramento.303 The strikers were making a peregrinacion, (pilgrimage in Spanish), a Mexican tradition which was pursued in order to achieve change.304 The farm workers sought penance for the "sins of the strikers, their own personal sins as well as their yielding perhaps to feelings of hatred and revenge in the strike itself."305 The march concluded on Easter Sunday at the state Capitol, reaffirming the notion of penance, to present the grievances of the farm workers before the governor and legislature.306 The march effort aimed to inspire revolution tied to Chavez's farm workers social movement ideas. The "Plan of Delano" prepared for the march included, "Our PILGRIMAGE is the MATCH that will light our cause for all farm workers to see what is happening here, so that they may do as we have done. The time has come for the liberation of the poor farm worker!"307 Chavez explained that "The pilgrimage from Delano to Sacramento has strong religious-cultural overtones. But it is also the pilgrimage of a cultural minority who have 302 Marc Grossman, interview.; Mahoney, The Kennedy Brothers: The Rise and Fall of Jack and Bobby. 303 Cesar Chavez, "Peregrinacion, Penitencia, Revolucion," Cesar Chavez Foundation, http:// www.chavezfoundation.org/_cms.php? mode=view&b_code=001008000000000&b_no=10&page=1&field=&key=&n=2 304 Cesar Chavez, "Peregrinacion, Penitencia, Revolucion." 305 Cesar Chavez, "Peregrinacion, Penitencia, Revolucion." 306 Marc Grossman, interview. 307 Luis Valdez, "The Plan of Delano," Farmworker Documentation Project, https:// libraries.ucsd.edu/farmworkermovement/essays/essays/Plan%20of%20Delano.pdf !64
suffered from a Hostile Environment, and a minority who mean business."308 The march demonstrated the strength of the farm workers, their dedication to their cause and made a powerful statement to the entire country about the need for change. The march was strategically planned to be directly after the conclusion of the hearings, so as to capitalize on the media personnel already present in Delano for the hearings.309 News stories about the hearings and Kennedy's confrontation with the Kern County Sheriff were retold over the next month, presenting the farm workers with the perfect opportunity to spread the issues raised by the march.310 This was successful, and the march and the march's message was broadcast nationwide.311 The marchers would quickly have to confront those who sought to deter them. At the start of the march, while still in the town of Delano, the marchers were blocked by 30 police officers who stood in the middle of the road wearing riot gear.312 The police officers told the marchers that they did not have permission for a "parade."313 Captain of the march Robert A. Bustos responded that they did indeed, have permission for passage.314 Police disregarded this message, and the march was at a standstill. Upon hearing the news, Robert Kennedy called the chief of 308 Marc Grossman, interview. 309 Marc Grossman, interview. 310 Marshall Ganz, interview. 311 Marc Grossman, interview. 312 Roberto Bustos, "The March to Sacramento," Farm worker Movement Documentation Project, Accessed April 1, 2016, https://libraries.ucsd.edu/farmworkermovement/wp-content/ uploads/2012/05/THE-MARCH-TO-SACRAMENTO.pdf 313 Robert Bustos, "The March to Sacramento." 314 Robert Bustos, "The March to Sacramento." !65
police and told him that if he continued to block the march, he would bring a lawsuit for discrimination against the department.315 After three hours of waiting, the police dispersed and the marchers were able to pass.316 This would be the first of many instances where Kennedy made sure that the farm workers were protected and that their opponents would no longer stand in their way. Kennedy was ready to embrace the issues of the farm workers because he had garnered an understanding of poverty and injustice. As Attorney General during the Civil Rights Movement, he learned about the oppression faced by African Americans, particularly in the rural South.317 He visited Southeast Asia on behalf of President Kennedy, and travelled extensively in Latin America and Africa.318 A decade earlier, he had travelled across the Soviet Union, keeping a meticulous diary on the lives of people living in poverty.319 During his time in the Senate, in addition to the international arena, Kennedy took up the causes of Native Americans, Appalachians, and people living from Watts to Bedford Stuyvesant, Detroit, Newark and the Mississippi Delta.320 Kennedy's former experiences in working for the "underdogs" of society prepared him to quickly comprehend the problems in Delano. Kennedy's sharp intuition on these issues--those of poverty and injustice--propelled him to leave Washington to attend the congressional hearings without having a deep background in the matter. Schrade said, "He 315 Robert Bustos, "The March to Sacramento."; Dolores Huerta, interview. 316 Robert Bustos, "The March to Sacramento." 317 "Robert F. Kennedy." 318 "Robert F. Kennedy." 319 Kerry Kennedy, interview. 320 Kerry Kennedy, interview. !66
exposed himself to a lot of this poverty and abuse by governments and employers. So he picked it up really quickly with the farm workers in Delano."321 Once in Delano, Kennedy wholeheartedly adopted the farm worker movement despite only having been at one and a half days' worth of hearings. Schrade said, "There was an immediate change because this was a first experience for him and he really picked up on it very quickly."322 Kennedy was able to quickly see and understand what the farm workers were going through, probably at least in part due to his wide exposure to poverty in the past. Edelman recounted, "He just was very moved again by what he saw out there, the testimony of the workers were very genuine about their conditions, versus the very flimsy justifications offered by the law enforcement officials for their repressive treatment of the strikers plus the rather blustering and not very convincing position taken by the growers."323 Kennedy was disturbed by the injustice, and would not let the farm worker movement go on without him. Kennedy had rapidly embraced the farm workers' cause, as he was characteristically a supporter of the underdogs. Kennedy was effective in utilizing compassion to argue on behalf of farm workers during the hearings. In exposing himself to many different groups of impoverished peoples, Kennedy became an expert at drawing larger connections out of their experiences. Edelman said, "You begin to get this blossoming, this real connecting up in his head between the various kinds of oppressed people."324 Kennedy also became very good at understanding what the issues and 321 Paul Schrade, interview. 322 Paul Schrade, interview. 323 Peter Edelman, interview with Larry Hackman, July 15, 1969. 324 Peter Edelman, interview with Larry Hackman, February 13, 1973, Robert F. Kennedy Library Oral History Program. !67
feelings of the people were. Edelman noted that after these trips, Kennedy's speeches became incredibly compelling at expressing the understanding of what was "on people's minds and why they did what they did."325 Kennedy was very good at explaining those connections, those issues, and those feelings to the public for the farm workers as well. He was able to draw in connections during the hearings. In questioning grape grower Martin Zaninovich, Kennedy compared him to those who denied Blacks who wanted the vote in the South. In visiting the living camps of farm workers, he brought up the poverty of Mississippi. As Kennedy had more contact with the farm workers and garnered a greater understanding of their plight, he would skillfully communicate their needs to the American public and become key in garnering support. Kennedy's active engagement at the hearings brought in a plethora of media attention.326 During the hearings, nationwide media attention headlined farm workers' issues. Kennedy's unusual actions in supporting the farm workers provoked even more stories including his standing up to the Kern County Sheriff which was the most widely broadcast event of the hearings. Additionally, Kennedy's visiting the picket line at DiGiorgio Fruit Corp. vineyards became indicative to the public and lawmakers alike of how important the cause was to him, and of his strong support of the farm workers. Chavez said, "No one was taking any notice of what we were doing. Then Robert Kennedy came out to see us. He joined our picket lines. That was unheard of. Once he took an interest, lots of other people started coming, offering help."327 Kennedy's reputation as a person whom embraced the struggles of those who had been wronged 325 Peter Edelman, interview with Larry Hackman, February 13, 1973, Robert F. Kennedy Library Oral History Program. 326 Marshall Ganz, interview. 327 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity, 20. !68
and needed support, helped to put farm workers on the map, and lend legitimacy. Kennedy's broad support base was translated into the farm worker movement, and would help the farm workers in the future in garnering volunteers, particularly when it was most essential once the international boycott of California grapes began in 1967. Additionally, with greater eyes on the farm workers, they were protected from the unheeded police brutality they had been experiencing. Chavez said, "He gave us credibility. We were being murdered. Literally. So when he came and championed our cause, he made us credible. He helped stop the cops from beating the hell out of us."328 For these reasons, Kennedy's attendance and active embrace of the farm workers lent direct support from his owns large supporter base, the public's support, and eventually the support of other politicians--an impact that would last throughout ongoing NFWA/UFW efforts.329 Kennedy's support lent legitimacy to the farm workers union, and defended it against enemies who attempted to tar the workers as communists. This smear campaign was perpetuated by leaders in government who supported the growers and also by right-wing media. The FBI spied for years on Chavez and the union beginning with the start of the Delano strike to determine whether Chavez was a Communist, and Ronald Reagan called Chavez and farm workers "classic Communists" and "a danger to American society."330 Southern papers colored new stories around farm worker events with headlines that spread the message. It was designed to deter farm worker movement support. Kennedy, in 1966, was a key factor in stopping this 328 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity, 20. 329 Marshall Ganz, interview. 330 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity, 21. !69
name-calling by actively denying that the farm workers were communists. As someone who had been very vocal against communism while working with Senator Joseph McCarthy against Communist influence in America, Kennedy had established himself as an influential voice in this regard. During his experience while working with McCarthy, Kennedy also recognized the detrimental effects of rampant Communist paranoia, and was vehement to take a stand against it damaging the reputation of the farm workers. Kennedy's assertion that the farm workers were not communists put an end to the power of the growers' propaganda campaign. Chavez said on the topic, "I think it was the turning point in the vicious campaign on the `Red-baiting' issue and us. He turned it completely around, completely destroyed it, tore it apart. They kept trying for another year, but after that... people just wouldn't believe it anymore."331 Kennedy, as expected, received challenges that he was a Communist after standing up for the farm workers. Kennedy did not bend from what he believed was right, and embraced the farm workers' cause at the expense of his own political career. Kennedy's attendance and active resistance to the growers brought immeasurable support to the farm worker movement as it bolstered their sense of hope in the struggle.332 Kennedy represented an important ally for the farm workers, and for Cesar Chavez. The hearings came after five months of tiresome strikes. His presence was described by UFW volunteer Wendy Brooks as a "shot in the arm."333 Farm workers watched Kennedy's fiery testimony with the 331 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity, 21. 332 Marshall Ganz, interview. 333 Wendy Brooks, "The Story of Wendy Goepel Brooks, Cesar Chavez, and La Huelga," Farmworker Documentation Project, https://libraries.ucsd.edu/farmworkermovement/essays/ essays/007%20Brooks_Wendy.pdf !70
Kern County Sheriff, his participation in striking at DiGiorgio Farms, and his expression of allegiance with their cause at Filipino Hall. As Kennedy was a renowned figure for justice, and a powerful politician, they celebrated his genuine actions of support and took it as a hopeful testament to the future success of their movement. Chavez said in a letter thanking Kennedy for visiting, "Our members were very pleased to have the opportunity to meet and talk with you and deeply appreciate the strong and provocative lines of questioning which you used to elicit important information from many witnesses."334 Farm workers came out of the hearings viewing Kennedy as a friend who understood their struggle. Cesar Chavez's friend and songwriter Lala Guerrero included Kennedy and Senator Murphy in a song, "Corrido de Delano," telling the story of the grape strike.335 "Murphy y Kennedy vinieron A consultar a nuestra gente Escucharon las demandas Y se fueron muy conscientes De que se trata de un pueblo Trabajador y decente."336 334 Letter, Cesar Chavez to Robert F. Kennedy, March 25, 1966, Papers of Robert F. Kennedy, Senate Papers, Legislative Subject Files, Box 71, Folder: "Migratory Labor: California (1/1966-2/1966)," John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. 335 "Francisco Garcia: Farm Worker Troubadour Vol. 1 (Essay + Songs + Translation + Photos)." 336 "Francisco Garcia: Farm Worker Troubadour Vol. 1 (Essay + Songs + Translation + Photos)." !71
"Murphy and Kennedy came To consult with our people They listened to our demands And left keenly aware. That at the center of it all Is a hard-working and decent people."337 Robert F. Kennedy and Cesar Chavez formed the beginning of a very strong relationship during the hearings in Delano. They shared the same core values. Many historians have remarked on the similarities between the two men and how it led to their friendship--they were introverts, with a passion for social justice, a healthy sense of skepticism, even fatalism, and yet an idealism and charisma which motivated others.338 Kennedy admired Chavez for his commitment to nonviolence, and his pursuit of justice for the farm workers. The two were both connected by their deep sense of faith, which ran through their political actions and reaffirmed their commitment to social justice, the poor, and self-sacrifice. Kennedy admired Chavez's incorporation of religion into the actions of protest. He understood what the peregrinacion meant, in that he too had leaned upon religious reflection when confronted by challenges, including after the death of his brother. He admired Chavez's commitment to the cause, and the suffering he would undergo. This mutual understanding allowed the two relatively quiet men to take an immediate liking to one another. 337"Francisco Garcia: Farm Worker Troubadour Vol. 1 (Essay + Songs + Translation + Photos)." 338 Schlesinger, Robert Kennedy and His Times, 792. !72
Chapter Three Robert F. Kennedy and The Farm Workers 1966-1968 By the conclusion of the hearings, Kennedy and Chavez had established a relationship of trust and admiration which was both personal and professional. At Kennedy's behest, his team was extremely responsive to all calls made on behalf of Chavez.339 Kennedy took on a range of UFW related work, including working for federal legislation to help farm workers, and successfully advocated for the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Amendment of 1966, which granted a minimum wage for agricultural workers.340 When Chavez was confronted with a new issue from some strikers who challenged the commitment to nonviolence within the union, he embarked on a highly religious and personal fast.341 Kennedy aimed to help Chavez through this challenge. Chavez aides first reached out to Kennedy asking for Kennedy's support which Kennedy lent immediately, and throughout the fast Kennedy asked his aides for daily updates on Chavez's condition.342 When Chavez's team called Kennedy and informed him that Chavez would end the fast and that he wanted Kennedy to be there, Kennedy was six days out from announcing his presidential bid.343 He eagerly accepted the invitation for the day of the end of the fast, and, on that day told his aides his plans to run.344 It was important to Kennedy to be there for Chavez and Kennedy was moved by Chavez's expression of sacrifice, dedication and 339 Peter Edelman, interview with Larry Hackman, July 15, 1969. 340 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity, 22. 341 Paul Chavez, interview. 342 Peter Edelman, interview with Larry Hackman, July 15, 1969. 343 "UFW Chronology." 344 Peter Edelman, interview. !73
love at the end-of-the-fast mass, the farm workers' overwhelming enthusiasm for Kennedy reaffirmed his commitment to run. The mass marked a firming of Chavez and Kennedy's bond. Kennedy clearly established himself as the UFW's strongest ally within government. From the hearings forward, Kennedy and Chavez's teams were in very close contact. When Chavez's team made calls to Kennedy's team, Kennedy's aides were very responsive, and aimed to support the UFW in whatever way possible.345 Edelman said, "Cesar's people kind of got the idea very early that we were responsive, that when they would call up and ask us to do something that we would try to do it." In this way, Kennedy made it clear to Chavez and the farm workers that he was there for support. According to Edelman, Kennedy was "the first national political figure to wholeheartedly embrace the farm workers' cause and offer unqualified support for the union movement."346 As a "ruthless interrogator of the corrupt and powerful,"347 the farm worker movement fit in well with his strengths, as he worked hard on getting legislation passed for farm workers, in addition to pushing growers and stakeholders on farm worker matters. During the strike and into the boycott, Kennedy applied pressure to growers, sending letters to DiGiorgio with Senator Williams. At the same time, he continued to apply pressure on Governor Brown, writing Brown letters on behalf of Chavez. In the Senate, Kennedy called for the extension of federal labor protections to migrant laborers. Kennedy pushed for the passage of collective bargaining legislation from 1966 through 345 Peter Edelman, interview by Larry Hackman, August 5, 1969, John F. Kennedy Library Oral History Program. 346 "Senator Robert F. Kennedy Visits Delano 1968." 347 Clarke, The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America. 242 !74
1968. Kennedy argued for the inclusion of farm workers, saying in June 1966, "If ever there were a classic case for bringing farm workers under the collective bargaining provisions of the National Labor Relations Act, this is certainly it. The lack of legally constituted, orderly procedures upon which labor and management may rely created chaos in this situation. And if, as seems inevitable, the union movement among farm workers is going to spread, the chaos will spread unless we enact legislation to extend the rights and obligations of our national collective bargaining laws to the farm industry."348 In 1968, Chavez sent a telegram to Kennedy, asking whether he believed it would be passed, to which Kennedy responded that he was "cautiously optimistic."349 The proposal to have farm workers under the NLRA died in Congress, and was not enacted.350 Kennedy thereafter worked with Chavez in Congress on the successful passage of the Fair Labor Standards Amendment of 1966, which granted a minimum wage for agricultural workers. 351 Kennedy and Chavez's relationship and trust for one another developed as they continued to partner on farm worker rights work. At Chavez's request, Kennedy advocated on behalf of grape strikers over enforcing federal regulations banning green card holders from breaking strikes, and over applying pressure to the Justice Department's Immigration Service and the Labor Department.352 Kennedy also helped in fundraising efforts, went to Texas to observe strike 348 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity, 23. 349 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity, 23. 350 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity, 23. 351 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity, 23. 352 Peter Edelman, interview. !75
efforts, and participated in hearings on the trip.353 Kennedy met with Chavez while attending hearings of the Poverty Subcommittee in May 1967 and when Chavez went to Washington to testify before the Migratory Labor Subcommittee in early 1967.354 Kennedy pursued farm workers' rights in his home state of New York.355 Edelman remarked, "The relationship gradually developed and the trust gradually developed and Kennedy's respect for them continued."356 Chavez recognized that a battle in the fields, where growers held total, unregulated power, would not achieve the goals he sought.357 Two years after the launch of the strike, in 1967, Chavez called for the boycott, bringing the farm workers' fight to the cities, and focusing widespread public attention on the cause.358 The boycott was a technique Chavez had learned about through his extensive readings of the writings of Mahatma Gandhi, who undertook a salt boycott in 1930, and Martin Luther King, who led the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955.359 The technique of using a boycott had never been used before in a dispute between farm labor and management, and national labor leaders put down the idea, but Chavez remained resolute in his belief that it would be successful.360 He aimed to harness the power of the people-- whom he called "our court of last resort"--and believed that the American public would support "La 353 Peter Edelman, interview. 354 Peter Edelman, interview. 355 Peter Edelman, interview. 356 Peter Edelman, interview. 357 Marc Grossman, interview. 358 Marc Grossman, interview. 359 Matthiessen, Sal Si Puedes: Cesar Chavez and the New American Revolution, xx. 360 Marc Grossman, Interview. !76
Causa" by refraining from buying grapes. In this way, he aimed to directly engage the nation in the fight for farm workers' rights. Hundreds of grape strikers and UFW staff members travelled to cities across the U.S. and Canada to spread word of the boycott.361 At first, the union urged consumers to not purchase grapes bearing the labels of Guimarra Vineyards Corp., one of the largest table grape growers. The boycott was expanded to all California table grapes after the Giumarra used the labels from other grape growers in order to avoid the boycott.362 This effort garnered the broadest coalition of volunteers Chavez ever had. Tens of thousands of supporters picketed supermarkets across the U.S.363 As the boycott occurred during the Civil Rights movement, people were increasingly aware of injustices against minorities, and were therefore were more apt to embrace the farm workers, as they saw their struggle as reflective of the larger evils of racism.364 Millions of consumers stopped purchasing grapes across the nation.365 The boycott was successful in gaining significant leverage over table grape growers, who were forced to negotiate their first union contracts in 1970.366 In the winter of 1968, the UFW's commitment to nonviolence was challenged by frustrated strikers. At the time, the UFW had been striking for two and a half years for union contracts and signs of progress were dwindling. The UFW was fighting 32 powerful growers, led 361 Marc Grossman, interview. 362 Marc Grossman, interview. 363 "The Story of Cesar Chavez." 364 "UFW History." 365 "UFW History." 366 Marc Grossman, interview. !77
by John Giumarra Sr.; as well as for a brief time in 1966 the Teamsters Union, which had worked with DiGiorgio to defeat Chavez's union.367 UFW members, especially some young men, were becoming increasingly frustrated by the ongoing nature of the struggle, and by grower and sheriff violence. They challenged Chavez's tactics of nonviolence.368 Militant, frustrated strikers spoke about violence as a means of fighting back against growers, which they associated with strength and manliness, while depicting nonviolence as evidence of cowardice.369 At the same time, Giumarra Vineyards leveled allegations of violence by union members against farm workers, and served Chavez with a 12-count summons which ordered him to appear in court on February 26, 1968.370 Chavez responded to the grumblings of violence with a powerful message--the farm worker movement would not go on until the strikers recommitted themselves to nonviolence. Chavez, unlike others, held that violence and martyrdom had no place in the farm worker movement. Chavez said, "If to build our union required the deliberate taking of life, either the life of a grower or his child, or the life of a farm worker or his child, then I choose not to see the union built."371 In this way, Chavez took an unqualified position on nonviolence. 367 A.V. Krebs, "La Causa The Word Was Made Flesh," Farmworker Movement Documentation Project, https://libraries.ucsd.edu/farmworkermovement/essays/essays/ KREBS%20MANUSCRIPT%20LA%20CAUSA.pdf 368 "La Causa The Word Was Made Flesh." 369 "The 1965-1970 Delano Grape Strike and Boycott." 370"La Causa The Word Was Made Flesh." 371 Cesar Chavez, letter to E.L. Barr, "Letter from Delano," Farmworker Documentation Project, https://libraries.ucsd.edu/farmworkermovement/essays/essays/Letter%20From%20Delano.pdf !78
Chavez embarked on a deeply spiritual and personal mission to reaffirm the union's commitment to nonviolence--that of a fast. In doing so, Chavez showed that he would willingly suffer for the farm worker movement, and for nonviolence. For Chavez, nonviolence was heavily intertwined with his Catholicism, and therefore fasting as a means of penance for the violent nature of the strikers seemed necessary. Thus, Chavez began "fasting in penance for violence provoked by his union's struggle for survival."372 Additionally, Chavez was fasting in penance for his perceived failures as a leader, in that he had not succeeded in completely committing his union to nonviolence.373 Chavez began the fast privately, and for several days didn't tell anyone his intentions. Chavez brought his fast to the attention of the farm workers in an effort to reaffirm their commitment to nonviolence. On February 14, 1968, Chavez addressed the members of the UFW, announcing that he was embarking on a "personal and religious fast.374 Chavez asserted that he would either remove himself from the union, or there would be a mutual recommitment to nonviolence. In recounting his announcement, Chavez said, "I told them I thought they were discouraged, because they were talking about short cuts, about violence. They were getting so mad with the growers, that they couldn't be effective anymore . . . Then I said I was going to stop eating until such time as everyone in the strike either ignored me or made up their minds that they were not going to be committing violence." Chavez, in this way, embarked on a journey of suffering so as to enact change within his union. Chavez's fast was a way to bring the movement 372 Pat Hoffman, Ministry of the Dispossessed (Los Angeles, CA: Wallace Press, 1987) 373 Paul Chavez, interview. 374 Hoffman, Ministry of the Dispossessed. !79
to a halt in order so that they would rethink their commitment to nonviolence.375 The fast would become a clear demonstration of how deeply Chavez felt about nonviolence, and the farm worker movement, in that he was willing to suffer greatly for both. Chavez's team reached out to Kennedy early on, asking him for support, as they believed Kennedy's relationship was strong enough to influence Chavez if the fast went too far. One week into the fast, Cesar's team contacted Edelman, asking him to notify Kennedy that he had begun the fast and of their concerns.376 They were concerned for Chavez's health, unsure of his intentions, and thought the fast was getting little attention.377 The team said that they thought the only way for Cesar to go off the fast was if Kennedy went to see him and personally asked him to stop. 378 Chavez would end his fast voluntarily, but Kennedy would make sure that he was by his side. Chavez's fast garnered attention across the nation. While fasting, Chavez lived on the union headquarters' property of the "Forty Acres" in an adobe-like building which served as a gas station for union members.379 He spent his time in a 10 by 12 foot white-walled storeroom furnished by a single bed.380 On the wall of the room hung a picture of John F. Kennedy. During 375 Hoffman, Ministry of the Dispossessed. 376 Peter Edelman, interview with Larry Hackman. 377 Peter Edelman, interview with Larry Hackman, July 15, 1969. 378 Peter Edelman, interview with Larry Hackman, July 15, 1969. 379 "La Causa The Word Was Made Flesh."; "What Cesar Chavez Taught Us," Farmworker Movement Documentation Project, https://libraries.ucsd.edu/farmworkermovement/wp-content/ uploads/2012/04/019AA-WHAT-CESAR-CHAVEZ-TAUGHT-US.pdf 380 "La Causa The Word Was Made Flesh."; "What Cesar Chavez Taught Us." !80
the fast he would pray and read the Bible and Gandhi.381 Within the first few days of the fast, groups of farm workers began visiting Chavez.382 He refused to be interviewed by reporters.383 People came from across the state, set up tents, and camped in support of Chavez.384 Visitors participated in daily masses at a makeshift chapel, held prayer vigils, and spent hours in line in order to speak with Chavez as he lay on his bed.385 Masses were attended by Helen Chavez, Chavez's eight children, and his mother, in addition to swarms of visitors.386 Reverend Mark Day recalled. "We offered Mass each night at the adobe gas station . . . Nationwide TV audiences caught the prayer, penance, and nonviolence themes of the fast. I am sure Cesar got his point across, and I am convinced that much of our present support was generated during that period.''387 Chavez made a powerful demonstration of his commitment to the farm workers and nonviolence in undergoing the fast which was seen by people across the nation. Kennedy admired Chavez's heroism and self-sacrifice. Kennedy, a devout Catholic, and someone who was resolutely against violence, understood and applauded what Chavez was doing. Both men regularly returned to their faith in desperate times, and were outspoken critics of violence. Kennedy was impressed by Chavez's sacrifice for the cause and sent a telegram reading, "I want you to know that I fully and unswervingly support the principles which led you 381 "What Cesar Chavez Taught Us." 382 "La Causa The Word Was Made Flesh." 383 Marc Grossman, interview. 384 "La Causa The Word Was Made Flesh." 385 "What Cesar Chavez Taught Us." 386 "La Causa The Word Was Made Flesh." 387 Day, Forty Acres. !81
to undertake your fast...Your work and your belief have always been based solely upon principles of non-violence...you have my best wishes and my deepest concern in these difficult hours."388 Senate aide Peter Edelman recalled: "He asked me every day, you know, `How is he today? Have you called out there? Do they want us to do something? What can I do?'"389 Edelman called the team often, asking for updates--something that was rare for Edelman.390 Finally, there came a point when Kennedy could be of service. After 25 days, Chavez lost 35 pounds and was left in dire condition. Chavez wanted to end his fast in a Mass of Thanksgiving, and wanted Kennedy at his side. Kennedy was at a critical juncture in his political career when Edelman told Kennedy about Chavez's request.391 At the time, Kennedy was in the final stages of deciding upon entering the presidential race. Not even this would stop Kennedy from responding to his friend's call. Ethel Kennedy recounted when Robert Kennedy received the phone call. "[Robert Kennedy] had been on a rigorous campaign and was totally exhausted and out of gas. He had just gotten home and went for a swim with the family and then took a phone call. He climbed back up the hill, drove to Dulles and flew out to Delano."392 There was no political efficacy in going to Delano. Senate aide Ed Guthman told Kennedy that the trip would have no impact on changing people's views. Guthman said, "Well the people who like you are still gonna like you and the people who 388 Ethel Kennedy, interview, Farmworker Movement Documentation Project. 389 Peter Edelman, interview with Larry Hackman. 390 Peter Edelman, interview with Larry Hackman 391 Peter Edelman, interview. 392 Ethel Kennedy, interview with Mariah Kennedy Cuomo, April 6, 2017, Providence, Rhode Island. !82
dislike you are gonna still dislike you."393 After saying this, Guthman asked Kennedy, "What do you think?" to which Kennedy responded that he liked Cesar.394 Kennedy accepted the invitation without hesitation. Kennedy stopped in Des Moines on the way to Delano, where Kennedy delivered a campaign speech for Governor Hughes.395 While there, Kennedy asked if the Hughes and three other governors who were at the rally to join him in visiting Cesar.396 They said no as "it wasn't on their agenda."397 No national political figure was as committed to the farm workers as Robert F. Kennedy. Speaking to reporters before the Mass, Kennedy said that he understood farm workers' irritations and even resentment, and asserted they had been failed by the federal and state governments. "I think people are frustrated and I think they're terribly disturbed by the fact that they haven't had more success and that the federal government in Washington has not been helpful to them and that the State has not been helpful to them, and this is not only true here, but elsewhere in the country, so that there is this frustration and there is apt to be this explosion."398 He called on the government to take action to support the farm workers. Kennedy said, "I think that Cesar Chavez is very influential, but I think also what in the last analysis is the answer is that we pass the laws that will remedy the injustices. That's what we should do, that's what those 393 Ethel Kennedy, interview, Farmworker Movement Documentation Project. 394 Ethel Kennedy, interview, Farmworker Movement Documentation Project. 395 Ethel Kennedy, interview, Farmworker Movement Documentation Project. 396 Ethel Kennedy, interview, Farmworker Movement Documentation Project. 397 Ethel Kennedy, interview, Farmworker Movement Documentation Project. 398 "Senator Robert F. Kennedy Visits Delano 1969." !83
of us in Washington should do."399 Kennedy aimed to formulate constructive discussion around the farm workers. He aimed to get the story out that the farm workers should be helped, and denigrated the mere criticism of violence. Kennedy added, "We shouldn't just deplore the violence and deplore the lawlessness. We should pass the laws that remedy what people riot about. We can't have violence in the country, but we should also not have these injustices continue."400 In this way, Kennedy openly applauded Chavez, and aimed to garner the support of the nation for the farm workers. Kennedy saw that people could point to Delano in fear and say "look at the violence," and wanted to instead get people instead to see the injustice, and ask "how can we help?" By attending the Mass of Thanksgiving in front of a crowd of about 8,000, Robert Kennedy solidified his relationship with Chavez and the farm workers. They understood he was making a sacrifice--traveling to Delano while contemplating the presidential campaign, and showing support for a leader and a cause that not only had no political benefit for him, but could cost him dearly with the powerful growers lobby in the crucial state of California. Doing so demonstrated Kennedy's deep dedication to the farm workers' cause and to their leader, Cesar Chavez. By attending the event, Kennedy developed a deeper connection and admiration for Chavez, in that he recognized Chavez's suffering, and valued Chavez's religious and symbolic message. Chavez, in turn, witnessed Kennedy's compassion. In this way, the two men's relationship was reinforced, and they garnered a greater sense of mutual trust. 399 "Senator Robert F. Kennedy Visits Delano 1969." 400 "Senator Robert F. Kennedy Visits Delano 1969." !84
Before the mass, Kennedy briefly met with Chavez privately in the small room where Chavez had been fasting. Kennedy was concerned about Chavez's health, and was aware of the significant suffering and religious experience he had undergone over the past 25 days. Kennedy did not take the fast lightly. Kennedy greeted a very weak Chavez, saying "How goes the boycott, Cesar?" Cesar smiled and said, "How goes running for President, Bob?"401 The two laughed and embraced one another.402 Chavez expressed his hopes that his fast efforts would be successful,403 and Kennedy gave Chavez a note he had the governors in Des Moines sign earlier that day.404 Kennedy and Chavez never had long, substantive conversations, nor did they spend a significant amount of time with one another, but in their actions they developed a close relationship.405 The two seemed to "just click."406 Kennedy, Chavez, and Huerta drove to the scene of the mass, a public park in Delano called Memorial Park.407 Eight thousand Chicanos watched the procession, excitingly calling to Kennedy and waving baseball caps while shouting, "Bobby! Bobby! Bobby!" and "un gran' hombre!"408 Helen Chavez said about the scene, "Everybody was yelling, Kennedy, Kennedy. And you could tell by the expression on their faces that there was a lot of admiration and love for 401 Ethel Kennedy, interview, Farmworker Documentation Project. 402 Ethel Kennedy, interview, Farmworker Documentation Project. 403 Ethel Kennedy, interview, Farmworker Documentation Project. 404 Ethel Kennedy, interview, Farmworker Documentation Project. 405 Marc Grossman, interview. 406 Marc Grossman, interview. 407 Ethel Kennedy, interview, Farmworker Documentation Project. 408 Marc Grossman, interview. !85
him."409 Upon arriving at the park, Kennedy was mobbed by the farm workers who were eager to touch him.410 The crowds were excited to see Kennedy, and grabbed at his hands, sometimes scratching them.411 Helen Chavez said, "everybody wanted to touch him."412 When people reached for him, Dolores Huerta called out, "Get back!" Edelman knew that Kennedy liked engaging with the crowds so told her it was unnecessary.413 The farm workers were excited by their political hero's enthusiasm for their cause. Chavez was weak, and had to be half carried to his seat. Most who attended the mass were Mexican American farm workers.414 The event was highly symbolic and ceremonial. Edelman described the event as having a "marvelous kind of pageantry about it."415 The union had prepared a makeshift alter on a flatbed truck.416 The mass was ecumenical, symbolizing the farm workers' openness to other faiths, and included readings from Jewish, Protestant, and Catholic representatives.417 Three hundred loaves of Mexican semita bread, called the bread of 409 Helen Chavez, interview with Marc Grossman. 410 Helen Chavez, interview with Marc Grossman. 411 Helen Chavez, interview with Marc Grossman. 412 Helen Chavez, interview with Marc Grossman. 413 Peter Edelman, interview with Larry Hackman, July 15, 1969. 414 Robert F. Kennedy, "Robert F. Kennedy Statement on Cesar Chavez March 10, 1968," March 10, 1968, Digital Public Library of America, http://dp.la/item/ aaa27166fd4c50105aa90791635c8c3e.; 415 Peter Edelman, interview with Larry Hackman, July 15, 1969. 416 Ethel Kennedy, interview, Farmworker Documentation Project. 417 Jorge Mariscal, "Cesar and Martin, March '68," Farm worker Movement Documentation Project, August 2, 2010. !86
social justice,418 were distributed after the mass for communion. Paul Schrade presented the union with 50 thousand dollars to build its new headquarters at the Forty Acres on behalf of Walter Reuther.419 While many important figures attended the mass, Kennedy was the most highly celebrated, as he was loved and admired by Chavez and the farm workers.420 As Chavez was too weak to speak that day, he prepared a statement which was read by assistant and Migrant Ministry staffer Reverend Jim Drake.421 In signaling Chavez's appreciation of Kennedy's continued dedication and friendship, his statement opened, "We should all express our thanks to Senator Kennedy for his constant work on behalf of the poor, for his personal encouragement to me, and for taking the time to break bread with us today."422 Helen Chavez said about Cesar Chavez's attitude towards Kennedy at the time, "He admired Robert a lot, because he took the time to come out here, where he was, to be with the workers. And that really was a big impression on Cйsar and on everyone that this man that was so busy and so well known, so wellloved was out here to help the workers."423 Helen said the fact that Kennedy was the first 418 Hoffman, Ministry of the Dispossessed. 419 Ethel Kennedy, interview, Farmworker Documentation Project. 420 Paul Schrade, interview. 421 Hoffman, Ministry of the Dispossessed. 422 Scott Hammond, Kevin Hardwick, Howard Lubert, Classics of American Political and Constitutional Thought: Reconstruction to the present (Hackett, AR: Hackett Publishing, 2007), 710. 423 Helen Chavez, interview with Marc Grossman. !87
political leader to spend time to visit the farm workers "meant a lot to all of us--to everyone."424 For the farm workers and for Chavez, Kennedy's attendance was hugely important. Chavez's statement was a "call to sacrifice" in the "non-violent struggle for justice." In explaining his fast, Chavez said, "It was a fast for non-violence and a call to sacrifice."425 Chavez argued that the farm workers struggle was difficult, and would require making sacrifices. Chavez said, "Our struggle is not easy. Those who oppose our cause are rich and powerful and they have many allies in high places. We are poor. Our allies are few. But we have something the rich do not own. We have our own bodies and spirits and the justice of our cause as our weapons."426 Chavez portrayed farm workers as underdogs fighting for justice. In arguing against nonviolence, Chavez shared what he believed showed true strength--sacrifice. "It is my deepest belief that only by giving our lives do we find life. I am convinced that the truest act of courage, the strongest act of manliness is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally non-violent struggle for justice."427 Chavez's statement concluded with, "To be a man is to suffer for others. God help us to be men!"428 Chavez's statement was powerful in that it revealed that Chavez had committed his life to suffering for the farm worker movement, and he had transformed the struggle of the farm workers into their strength. 424 Helen Chavez, interview with Marc Grossman. 425 Hammond, Hardwick, Lubert, Classics of American Political and Constitutional Thought, 710. 426 Hammond, Hardwick, Lubert, Classics of American Political and Constitutional Thought, 710. 427 Hammond, Hardwick, Lubert, Classics of American Political and Constitutional Thought, 710. 428 Hammond, Hardwick, Lubert, Classics of American Political and Constitutional Thought, 710. !88
While wearing a black-eagle UFW button, Kennedy sat beside Chavez during the mass.429 Chavez was covered in blankets and sat slumped in his chair, looking extremely weak.430 During communion, Bobby Kennedy broke a home-baked loaf of Semita bread and personally presented the Eucharist--the Body of Christ--to Cesar Chavez, ending the labor leader's twenty-five day fast with the bread of Life.431 Kennedy ate from the same home-baked loaf.432 Ethel Kennedy said of the moment, "I thought it was wonderful...together they broke the bread of social justice."433 After receiving communion, Kennedy delivered a speech in an effort to rally the farm workers.434 He began by trying to speak Spanish. After realizing that his accent was no good, Kennedy said in a teasing manner to the crowd, "Am I murdering the language?"435 The crowd of excited farm workers cheered in response. Kennedy said he was at the "historic occasion" "out of respect for one of the heroic figures of our time--Cesar Chavez" but also "to congratulate all of you, you who are locked with Cesar in the struggle for justice for farm workers, and the struggle for the Spanish-speaking American."436 Kennedy commended the achievements of the farm workers. He said, "You have won historic victories," calling them the first union to "fight 429 "Senator Robert F. Kennedy Visits Delano 1968." 430 "What Cesar Chavez Taught Us." 431 "Senator Robert F. Kennedy Visits Delano 1968." 432 "What Cesar Chavez Taught Us." 433 Ethel Kennedy, interview, April 2, 2017, Farmworker Movement Documentation Project. 434 Paul Schrade, interview. 435 Marc Grossman, interview. 436 "Robert F. Kennedy Statement on Cesar Chavez March 10, 1968." !89
and triumph, over all the odds" and said that "the victories are yours and yours alone."437 He commended their strength in committing to nonviolence, saying "It takes far greater commitment, far more courage to say, `we will do what must be done through an organization of the people, through patient, careful building of a democratic `organization.''"438 Kennedy, in a nod to Henry V--his favorite passage from Shakespeare--said that in the future, the farm workers would look back on these days of struggle with pride. "And when your children and grandchildren take their place in America--going to high school, and college, and taking good jobs at good pay--when you look at them, you will say, `I did this. I was there, at the point of difficulty and danger.' And though you may be old and bent from many years of labor, no man will stand taller than you when you say, `I was there at the time of difficulty and danger. I marched with Cesar."'439 Kennedy's remarks went far beyond a rote rally--for him, save love, there was no more admirable trait than moral courage--self-sacrifice for a cause greater than oneself. For Kennedy, Chavez become one in his band of brothers. Kennedy placed himself as a proud partner in the plight of farm workers. He clearly outlined "Washington's responsibility" "to pass the laws that will remedy the injustices farm workers face."440 Kennedy said that farm workers must have a federal law for collective bargaining "this year," more adequate regulation of green-card workers to prevent their use as strikebreakers "this year," the enforcement of labor laws "this year," and equal protection laws 437 "Robert F. Kennedy Statement on Cesar Chavez March 10, 1968." 438 "Robert F. Kennedy Statement on Cesar Chavez March 10, 1968." 439 "Robert F. Kennedy Statement on Cesar Chavez March 10, 1968." 440 "Senator Robert F. Kennedy Visits Delano 1968." !90
"from now on."441 In this way, he took a clear and strong stance on the legislation he believed ought to be passed. Kennedy concluded in saying that he was proud of his alliance with the farm workers, and would continue to fight with them in the future. Kennedy, said, "I come here to say that we will fight together to achieve for you the aspirations of every American--decent wages, decent housing, decent schooling, a chance for yourselves and your children. You stand for justice and I am proud to stand with you."442 He ended the speech saying, "Viva La Causa!"443 Kennedy had reaffirmed his allegiance to and admiration for Chavez and the farm workers. The farm workers reacted to Kennedy's speech by mobbing him and calling on him to run for President.444 Chavez recounted that "The crowd was pushing and surging" to reach Kennedy as he made his way to his car.445 While this made some around him fearful, Kennedy embraced the excitement.446 Having reached his car, Kennedy turned towards the crowd and stood shaking hands and speaking to people. When Kennedy finally began driving away, farm workers yelled to him through the windows, asking "Aren't you going to run? Why don't you run? Please run!"447 Kennedy spontaneously jumped on top of the roof of the car, and shouted back to the 441 "Senator Robert F. Kennedy Visits Delano 1968." 442 "Robert F. Kennedy Statement on Cesar Chavez March 10, 1968." 443 "Senator Robert F. Kennedy Visits Delano 1968." 444 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 445 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 446 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 447 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. !91
farm workers, thanking them for their support and saying, "Viva la Causa!"448 The farm workers loved Kennedy, and Kennedy loved the farm workers. On his flight back to New York, Kennedy called California State Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh--and repeated the news he had shared with Chavez--that he would run for president.449 Kennedy's announcement six days later came to the farm workers as no surprise.450 Some of Kennedy's close advisors, including Paul Schrade, say that it was in Delano, amidst the crowds of cheering farm workers, that Kennedy decided to run. Schrade said, "Farm workers were big in provoking Kennedy to run, and so was that day."451 In Delano, Schrade followed Kennedy to the airport in order to convince him to run. "I really pounded him about running. I said these people need the presidency more than you do, more than anybody, and you've got to run."452 Schrade recounted that at this point, Kennedy "began asking questions about tactics, strategy and so forth."453 In truth, Kennedy had made decision the day before.454 It was clear that Kennedy was truly touched by the outpouring of support from the farm workers-- a group whom he respected and admired vastly--and by their resolute dedication to justice. The farm workers would be a central part of Kennedy's campaign. 448 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 449 Paul Schrade, interview. 450 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 451 Paul Schrade, interview. 452 Paul Schrade, interview. 453 Paul Schrade, interview. 454 Peter Edelman, interview. !92
Kennedy was deeply moved by Chavez's fast.455 In a letter to a constituent about the trip, Kennedy reiterated the message which he had shared during his speech with the farm workers, showing that he truly believed in what he said. Kennedy wrote, "I was pleased and proud to go to Delano to honor a great man, an heroic figure of our time, Cesar Chavez. His non-violent struggle for the rights of the migrant worker is a great achievement which will afford Americans of Mexican decent the full participation in our society which they deserve."456 The event deepened his ties with the farm worker movement, and Kennedy wrote a note to Edelman saying, "I'd like to stay in touch with those people."457 Chavez was also deeply moved by Kennedy's participation, and was fully committed to him. On March 16th, when Kennedy announced his campaign for presidency, Chavez committed the UFW to the Kennedy campaign in the primary.458 The efforts contributed to Kennedy's victory in the state.459 In speaking about his presidential campaign in Los Angeles, California on March 24, 1968, Kennedy would heavily dedicate the majority of his remarks to the farm worker movement, and praise Chavez for the sacrifice and values he portrayed in his fast.460 He opened up speaking about visiting Chavez during the Mass of Thanksgiving. Kennedy said, "Two weeks ago, I came to California to pay homage to one of the great living Americans: Cesar Chavez. For 455 Peter Edelman, interview with Larry Hackman, July 15, 1969. 456 Palermo, In His Own Right, 226. 457 Peter Edelman, interview with Larry Hackman, July 15, 1969. 458 Tejada-Flores, "Chбvez, Cйsar." 459 Tejada-Flores, Rick. "Chбvez, Cйsar." 460 Speech, "Remarks of Senator Robert F. Kennedy," March 24, 1968, Papers of Robert F. Kennedy, Senate Papers, Speeches and Press Releases, Box 4, Folder: "1965-1958, 3/21/1968-3/31/1968," John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. !93
more than two years from his base in the grape fields of California, Cesar Chavez has been sending the rest of America a message. The message says that Americans of Mexican decent were walking taller than ever before. The message says that dignity is not something warded coldly in a welfare office. The message says that dignity is something man attains with his mind, with the labor his body, with his belief in himself. It is not something you buy in a supermarket."461 Kennedy had developed a clear understanding of what Chavez was trying to accomplish, and utilized his campaign as means of spreading that message. He would go on to say that it is Chavez's work which is one of the major reasons why he ran. "I come here to honor Cesar Chavez, and to honor his message. I come here today for other reasons. But my concerns remain the same concerns of Cesar Chavez."462 At the Mass of Thanksgiving, Kennedy had aligned himself with Chavez's underlying drives. 461 Speech, "Remarks of Senator Robert F. Kennedy." 462 Speech, "Remarks of Senator Robert F. Kennedy." !94
Chapter Four Robert F. Kennedy and Farm Workers 1968 Even before Kennedy had announced his presidential candidacy, he had a campaign team of staunch supporters who were eagerly preparing for his bid: the UFW. When Kennedy announced, the UFW stopped strike efforts in order to focus solely on campaigning for Kennedy for months. Chavez spent 19 days on the road for Kennedy, and the farm workers launched a "get out the vote" campaign effort in major barrios across California, including East L.A., with such tenacity that the efforts reaped historic voter turnout numbers.463 Kennedy, in turn, acknowledged the farm workers, and honored them at the victory celebration--Dolores Huerta was by his side on the podium when he delivered his victory speech. Kennedy and Chavez both worked for one another with vigor, and in doing so, expressed their faith in one another and that they were bound in a mutual struggle. On March 16, 1968, Kennedy announced he was running for president. Senator Eugene McCarthy had almost defeated President Lyndon Johnson in the New Hampshire Democratic primary. Robert Kennedy entered the race late in the game. Winning California would be essential in attaining the democratic nomination, as the state had a large delegate bloc. McCarthy had a lot of support in the state.464 Liberals in California had already committed to McCarthy in 463 Marc Grossman, interview. 464 Paul Chavez, interview. !95
large numbers by the time Kennedy announced.465 Additionally, democratic registration in the state was on the decline, posing another challenge for Kennedy.466 At the time of his announcement, the Democratic Party was split over the issue of Vietnam. Walter Reuther of the UAW and George Meany of the AFL-CIO supported Johnson (although Paul Schrade with the UAW was for Kennedy.)467 Kennedy, advocating peace, would not rely on "old hard-liners of the Democratic Party"468 and instead benefited from the "new and fresh and very enthusiastic support that he was getting"469 from minority groups--including the farm workers--and students.470 Schrade said that "it was a beautiful campaign."471 Just a few weeks after Kennedy announced his candidacy, Johnson withdrew from the race, citing the war. The date was March 31, 1968. In California, the Mexican American vote was large in numbers but a difficult vote to get out.472 The Kennedy campaign would focus significant time on engaging this voter base.473 The campaign created one of its headquarters for these efforts in East Los Angeles, which was a 465 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 169. 466 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 170. 467 Paul Schrade, interview. 468 Paul Schrade, interview. 469 Paul Schrade, interview. 470 Paul Schrade, interview. 471 Paul Schrade, interview. 472 Walter Sheridan, interview with Roberta Greene, August 13, 1969, (page number), John F. Kennedy Library Oral History Program. 473 Walter Sheridan, interview with Roberta Greene. !96
central hub of Latinos.474 Bert Corona, head of the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), would help in this effort, although Chavez and the farm workers were the major contributors.475 Kennedy focused extensively on attracting the votes of minority groups, especially the Mexican-American vote. Some within his campaign, including Frank Burns, a California political figure and aide to Jesse Unruh during Kennedy's campaign, saw this as problematic, asserting that he was "overplaying their strengths,"476 and favored instead appealing to "party leadership" and "the blue collar guy," groups he thought Kennedy was largely ignoring and which he though Kennedy could get through outreach.477 Burns expressed that he was trying to get Kennedy to make "contact with more people in California than say just Cesar Chavez or Paul Schrade or some of your liberal groups," and that in resisting, Kennedy and Burns engaged in "some ring-ding fights on that subject."478 Kennedy continued to focus on the liberal base. Regarding the decision to do an event for farm workers and the Mexican American vote, Burns, said, "Usually there'd been a decision to do it and then we would come in and perhaps just say, well, all right, do that but do some other things, too."479 474 Walter Sheridan, interview with Roberta Greene. 475 Joseph Palermo, "Here's What RFK Did in California in 1968," Huffington Post January 10, 2008, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joseph-a-palermo/heres-what-rfk-did-in-cal_b_80931.html 476 Frank Burns, interview with Larry J. Hackman, April 17, 1970 Robert F. Kennedy Oral History Project of the John F. Kennedy Library Oral History Program. 477 Frank Burns, interview with Larry J. Hackman. 478 Frank Burns, interview with Larry J. Hackman. 479 Frank Burns, interview with Larry J. Hackman. !97
Cesar Chavez believed that Kennedy had to run for President. After Kennedy spoke so vehemently about the changes he saw necessary in Washington, and showed a passion to enact those changes, Chavez was confident Kennedy would run for President. Chavez said, "We couldn't see how he couldn't run. With us it was a foregone conclusion that he would."480 As early as two years before Kennedy announced his bid for President, the farm workers had begun preparing for his campaign effort, claiming that they were the first organized group to do so.481 During the Senate hearings in 1966, the union disseminated campaign materials--bumper stickers, signs and posters--for a Kennedy presidential race.482 Campaign signs hung on the walls of the Delano High School auditorium where Kennedy participated in hearings on March 16th, and farm workers shouted, "Kennedy for '68," and "We want Kennedy '68."483 At the time, Peter Edelman asked Jim Drake whether the farm workers "really meant" what was intended by the campaign materials, to which Drake responded "Not only do they mean it, but it's going to happen."484 Instead of asking the questions of whether or when Kennedy would run, the farm workers had jumpstarted his campaign. By the time Kennedy announced his run for President, Kennedy and Chavez had formed a close relationship based upon mutual trust and Kennedy's attendance at Chavez's fast had sealed the bond between them. Kennedy and Chavez's teams had day-to-day contact, and Chavez 480 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 481 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 482 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 483 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 484 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. !98
knew that he could rely on Kennedy no matter the issue that arose.485 During Chavez's many campaigns, including boycotts and strikes, he relied heavily on community engagement, and Kennedy's supporters backed the farm workers in a way that was crucial to the success of his efforts.486 Schrade said of their bond, "That was really a beautiful relationship. I've never seen anything like it, and I've never seen anything like it since."487 Chavez and the farm workers saw that Kennedy was committed to their welfare and their futures, and had built a strong relationship grounded in that commitment.488 Chavez believed that getting behind Kennedy for the presidential race was the right thing to do for the nation.489 Chavez was aligned with Kennedy's positions on issues that Chavez too thought were important--deescalating the war in Vietnam, combating poverty, and desegregation.490 Chavez believed Kennedy had the necessary leadership skills to tackle these issues--those of compassion and strength.491 Chavez therefore thought that Kennedy's election was more important than the impact it would have on the farm worker movement alone, in that it would allow for him to help with these major issues which were also close to Chavez's own heart. 492 485 Paul Schrade interview. 486 Paul Schrade interview. 487 Paul Schrade interview. 488 Paul Schrade interview. 489 Paul Chavez, interview. 490 Paul Chavez, interview. 491 Paul Chavez, interview. 492 Paul Chavez, interview. !99
Immediately after the fast, Kennedy called Chavez in order to ask him to be a delegate in California.493 Chavez's support would be crucial in the state.494 Upon hearing Chavez's frail voice, Kennedy felt badly asking him for a political favor, and decided against it.495 Kennedy knew that in being a delegate, Chavez would have to take on greater challenges, so he would not push Chavez on the matter. When Kennedy's campaign chairman in California Jesse Unruh hadn't heard back from Chavez on the delegate question, he contacted Paul Schrade, who in turn, called Kennedy.496 Schrade told Kennedy that Chavez's delegate status was incredibly important, and asked him what had happened.497 Kennedy explained to Schrade, "He sounded so sick and so weak at that point from the fast I didn't have the heart to make him take on the Teamsters and George Meany and because it would be trouble for him."498 Schrade responded, "That doesn't sound like the cold-blooded SOB you're supposed to be." There was a pause, and Kennedy chuckled, saying, "Yeah Paul, but don't tell anybody."499 Schrade said that he was adamant that they absolutely needed Chavez, and so Schrade called Chavez himself.500 Chavez responded to Schrade saying that he had to call a community meeting of the grape strikers to consider the 493 Grossman, interview. 494 Paul Schrade, interview. 495 Paul Schrade, interview. 496 Paul Schrade, interview. 497 Paul Schrade, interview. 498 Paul Schrade, interview. 499 Paul Schrade, interview. 500 Paul Schrade, interview. !100
matter.501 Committee members from different ranches assembled in Delano, and voted unanimously in favor of Chavez's becoming delegate for Kennedy.502 Chavez and the farm workers' support were key for the campaign. The farm workers campaign for Kennedy in California broke boundaries. The farm workers embraced Kennedy not as a politician, but as a partner whom they idolized and loved. The campaign had an "electric" spirit, where people engaged quickly, with passion and dedication to the effort.503 This was indicative of the strong relationship Kennedy had formed with Chavez and the farm workers. Chavez led a campaign effort that benefited from a positive working relationship with Kennedy personnel and his expertise in the area. Chavez had extensive experience in community organizing, campaigning, and working in California, particularly with Chicanos. Chavez had worked on the Viva Kennedy campaign in 1960, a campaign to garner Mexican-American votes for President Kennedy. Chavez was well-prepared to launch a campaign in East Los Angeles and in barrios throughout the state. Chavez said, "We had the truth and we had the resources and we had the courage and the willingness to do it. So we were independent. We didn't want to get tied into any fighting. We wanted to do some work."504 Chavez and his staff partnered with Kennedy personnel, including Jim Drake, Peter Edelman, and Fred Dutton, who helped provide any 501 Paul Schrade, interview. 502 Paul Schrade, interview. 503 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 504 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. !101
support necessary.505 Schrade recounted, "It was really a beautiful relationship."506 The Kennedy campaign provided the farm workers with funding, although they did not require much, Kennedy campaign materials, which the farm workers appropriated to fit their needs.507 Chavez said, "We had a beautiful campaign."508 It was important symbolically for the farm workers to win Delano for Kennedy.509 Chavez said, "we made up our minds that we had to win in Delano for him."510 The farm workers were up against Republicans who were registering as Democrats so that they could vote for McCarthy and thereby sabotage Kennedy.511 The farm workers stationed 175 people in Delano, amongst the 26 precincts.512 The attitude, according to Chavez, was, "we want every Kennedy vote out. No excuses that `I can't go,' or `I'm sick,' or `I'm tired."513 Kennedy lost in 20 precincts, won in 6, but those votes were enough to give him the City of Delano.514 The farm workers had secured their home base for Kennedy. 505 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien.; Peter Edelman, interview. 506 Paul Schrade, interview. 507 Paul Schrade, interview. 508 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 509 "Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien.' 510 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 511 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 512 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 513 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 514 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. !102
Chavez went on a 19-day tour, speaking on behalf of Kennedy at Colleges and Universities and in Spanish-speaking communities across the state.515 Chavez visited almost every university in California.516 The universities were largely pro-McCarthy. Chavez held rallies where he expressed why the farm workers wanted Kennedy for President.517 Chavez noted that these speeches were effective on college campuses. Chavez said, "And some people would say, `All right, if that's what the workers want, we'll work for Kennedy.'"518 Chavez recounted one moment when he overcame pushback around the idea of visiting Berkeley. People expressed fear around visiting Berkeley. Chavez responded, "No, we're going to go to Berkeley and we're going to talk those guys' heads off. He's our candidate and we don't have anything to apologize for."519 Chavez was resolute in his work for Kennedy. During the tour, Chavez visited every county with significant Spanish-speaking populations.520 During this portion of the tour, rallies were "jammed packed."521 Chavez told his close friend and assistant from the Protestant Migrant Ministry Reverend Jim Drake that he was impressed by the large numbers of people who came to hear him speak about Kennedy.522 The 515 Bender, One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity, 38 516 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 517 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 518 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 170. 519 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 520 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 521 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 522 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 170 !103
farm workers handed out ballots which people were to use to select their vote upon.523 At the very bottom of the ballot was Kennedy's name.524 Once the ballots were filled out, Chavez got people to commit to the job of working to make sure their selection was victorious.525 The farm workers were the only group utilizing this tactic.526 The farm workers created an organized and concerted campaign effort through strategically assigning farm workers to blocks within East Los Angeles. Chavez strategically assigned farm worker supervisors to five precincts each in East L.A.527 Groups of farm workers were assigned precincts, and each farm worker was assigned specific blocks within these precincts.528 Every block had at least one worker assigned to it.529 Chavez said during one meeting, "Forget about California, forget about Los Angeles, forget about East Los Angeles. You just remember your block."530 Workers went door-to-door on their assigned block, appealing for support for Kennedy.531 They would go to each registered Democrat's door four times--first to ask for their support, second to ask them to volunteer, third to drop off literature, and fourth to 523 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 524 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 525 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 526 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 527 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien part 2, January 28, 1970, Delano, California, Robert F. Kennedy Oral History Program of the Kennedy Library, Present: Richard Chavez and Mack Lyons. https://libraries.ucsd.edu/farmworkermovement/media/oral_history/CECRFK%20ORAL%20HISTORY%20PT.2.pdf 528 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 170. 529 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien part 2. 530 Walter Sheridan, interview with Roberta Greene. 531 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 170. !104
remind them to vote.532 Chavez said about his campaign organization, "We had a tight organization. It was a machine. We just turned it on and produced."533 Latinos and African Americans were overwhelmingly in support of Kennedy. Kennedy had a strong track record of standing up for these two communities. This was reinforced during the campaign, as Kennedy's strategy had a heavy emphasis on personally touching those communities and the people in the communities.534 He often pointed to the plight of these minority groups as precipitating his run for office. In these ways, Kennedy had achieved the love and admiration of these two minority groups. Farm workers recount that in their door-to-door campaigning, they were overwhelmingly met with strong support for Kennedy which was derived organically.535 Helen Chavez recounted campaigning saying that, "Everybody really liked him and thought that he would make a good president. And everybody would say that they were going to vote for him. The response was very good. I don't think we got any no's in that area."536 The get out the vote effort was incredibly successful due in large part to the fact that there was a lot enthusiasm for the farm workers union in East L.A.537 Many people volunteered to join them in their campaigning. Additionally, the support of the farm workers union helped to propel even further support for Kennedy. The support for the farm workers was often translated into support for Kennedy. 532 Paraphrased from Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 170. 533 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 534 Peter Edelman, interview. 535 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 170. 536 Helen Chavez, interview. 537 "Cesar and Martin, March '68." !105
The farm workers would approach the people whom they were addressing, announcing that they were from Delano with the farm workers. At this point, people were excited. Chavez said, "We were extremely popular. They knew all about the farm workers and they liked them very much because they're only about [a] generation removed from farm work."538 Chavez said, "We used to say, `I'm from Delano with the farm workers.' `Oh, the farm workers!' Just like that. `Yes,' in Spanish. And we'd say, `We're going to ask you to work for Kennedy,' `Oh, wonderful. Sure. Sure.'"539 Helen Chavez said that she thought that the fact that they were from the union helped generate positive responses and an outpouring of volunteer support. Chavez said these positive responses and volunteers she received "had a lot to do with us."540 She said, "Saying where we were from and that the Union--by then, the Union was-- people knew a lot about the Union and knew what Cйsar was doing. And so, knowing that we endorsed him, I think that helped a lot, and then we had a lot of people that were out there volunteering to go help."541 In this way, the farm workers paired with Kennedy formed a campaign force which was difficult to beat. On election day, Cesar Chavez and 3,500 union members worked in L.A. in a highlyspirited a get-out-the-vote effort.542 The farm workers went to their assigned precincts, reminded people to vote for Kennedy, and offered people rides to their voting places.543 Farm workers said 538 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 170. 539 "Cesar and Martin, March '68." 540 Helen Chavez oral history 541 Helen Chavez oral history 542 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 543 Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 171. !106
"Cesar Chavez says today's the day to vote for Robert Kennedy."544 Twenty cars drove through East Los Angeles making announcements in Spanish over loudspeakers.545 Kennedy campaign coordinator Walter Sheridan said of the effort, "So his whole thing was that they would get, literally drag every Mexican-American in East Los Angeles to the polls, and they did."546 At one o'clock, the farm workers began to march through Los Angeles, led by Chavez and a mariachi band that was driven on a truck.547 After making three or four stops over the span of about ten minutes, the march had amassed 300 people.548 There was overwhelming support for Kennedy in the districts they visited. Chavez recounted that in black neighborhoods and housing projects people "were 1000% for Kennedy there."549 Chavez engaged the crowds, rallying support for Kennedy. He pointed to those holding "Viva Kennedy" signs, and told them, "This next song is dedicated to you, if you're going to vote for Kennedy."550 He yelled to the crowds saying, "How many have voted?" and, "What about your aunt, your father, your mother, your 544 Frank Mankiewicz, interview with Larry J. Hackman, December 16, 1969, (page number), John F. Kennedy Library Oral History Program. 545 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 546 Walter Sheridan, interview with Roberta Greene, August 13, 1969, (page number), John F. Kennedy Library Oral History Program. 547 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 548 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 549 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 550 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. !107
grandfather? Everybody votes."551 Chavez said on the march, "We were working very hard, but we were very happy. It was structured so that there was a lot of happiness and a lot of spirit."552 People turned out to vote in historic numbers. Certain precincts in East L.A. and Watts were reporting 100 percent turnout--two times the normal rate--by 4 or 5pm, and were closing the polls.553 When Kennedy campaign press secretary Frank Mankiewitz heard that polls were closing, he sent out people to see what was the matter.554 His messengers came back laughing, to which Mankiewitz asked them what was so funny.555 They reported back that the polls had closed because 100% of the people had voted-- something that had never occurred in the history of the state.556 Many pointed to the registration effort by the farm workers as a key factor in Kennedy's winning California. Schrade said, "it was just because Chavez and Ted Watkins were out working those precincts and the fact that people really wanted to get out and vote...that's why the polls were closed early and that's where the votes came from and were important tin the race against McCarthy."557 He said about the victory, "It was just a great moment. that whole relationship with Chavez, Huerta and Watkins was really important to winning California."558 551 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien part 2. 552 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 553 Jorge Mariscal, "Cesar and Martin, March '68."; Pawel, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, 171. 554 Paul Schrade, interview. 555 Paul Schrade, interview. 556 Paul Schrade, interview. 557 Paul Schrade, interview. 558 Paul Schrade, interview. !108
People were impressed by the registration efforts. Frank Burns said, "The Cesar Chavez people did a hell of a job, the most effective and most honest registration I'd ever seen conducted; they turned back money, if you can believe it. They did a good job, but there wasn't much time to do it in."559 This tactic would be replicated in future campaigns. The GOTV technique was utilized in the "Humphrey for President, Art Torres for Assembly, Bradley for Governor, No on Proposition 22, Brown for Governor, Brown for President, Yes on 14, Dellums for Congress, Bobby Seale for Mayor, Jack O'Connell for Assembly" campaigns--among many other campaigns.560 The farm workers campaign effort was driven by the mass enthusiasm of its volunteers. The farm workers campaign was unique in that its efforts did not require significant funding. Chavez called the amount spent in Los Angeles "peanuts," and noted that it was 1/10 the money of JFK's presidential campaign.561 This was rare for a union campaign.562 What was essential to the farm workers' success were the numbers of dedicated volunteers they had on the ground. Chavez said that for every person working for John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign, they had 50 for RFK, adding "It was electrifying. The polls will show you. That line is very seldom crossed."563 559 Frank Burns, interview with Larry J. Hackman, April 17, 1970, Robert F. Kennedy Oral History Project of the John F. Kennedy Library Oral History Program. 560 "Commentary." 561 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 562 Schrade, interview. 563 Joseph Palermo, In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2013), 226. !109
Senator Kennedy was unique in that he was the first person whom the farm workers would politically trust. Chavez said that Robert Kennedy was the only politician he ever truly trusted because he provided his support without being asked and when it was not in his interest.564 Dolores Huerta said, "The UFWOC supported Robert F. Kennedy's Presidential primary campaign in 1968 because we felt he would make a difference. We wouldn't support any politician."565 "He [Kennedy] had a sense of what was wrong and had the courage to enforce 'the law,'" Huerta added.566 In 1968, the farm workers and Chavez had embraced Robert Kennedy as a partner whom they loved. Kennedy was also different in that he crossed the boundary of being perceived as a politician, and instead, was viewed as a member of the farm worker movement and a friend. Chavez noted that this was a unique feeling for a politician. "It's that line that you very seldom cross. I've never seen a politician cross that line and I don't think that I'll ever live to see another public figure."567 Chavez said, "With Senator Robert Kennedy it was like he was ours."568 Chavez also said, "It would be that kind of close, like the kind of closeness that creates tearing him to pieces, little by little just wanting him all for you and that kind of thing...We liked him very-- we loved him very much."569 The farm workers felt a unique affection for Kennedy, 564 Marc Grossman, interview. 565 El Macriendo, October, 1970, Farmworker Documentation Project, https://libraries.ucsd.edu/ farmworkermovement/ufwarchives/elmalcriado/1970/ October%201,%201970%20%20No%208_PDF.pdf 566 El Macriendo, October, 1970, Farmworker Documentation Project. 567 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 568 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 569 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 1! 10
which Chavez and others characterized as idolization. Chavez also said, "It was like respect, admiration, love, idolized. God, I can't explain it. It's just--I do know that it will probably be a long, long time."570 There was lots of enthusiasm for Kennedy amongst farm workers.571 Chavez noted that this was something he observed in other groups as well. "It's strange, I've never seen anything like it. It wasn't only our group, because I did a lot of speaking for him..."572 This deep affection was visible in the crowds that swarmed around Kennedy.573 These feelings of admiration translated into "unlimited love and excitement" within the effort and a spirit driving a campaign that was also extremely dedicated in that participants worked hard day and night. Helen Chavez said that one of the highlights of her life was walking precincts for Kennedy in East L.A..574 Her son, Paul Chavez, said that every time she passed the City Terrace, neighborhood where she had walked for Kennedy, she pointed it out and said that she was so proud, and that people were genuinely excited to be involved during the campaign.575 Helen wasn't someone to get excited.576 She also was not predisposed to support politicians, or to campaign, as she was shy.577 However, Helen liked campaigning for Kennedy because she liked him. She said that it was difficult because she was so shy "It was in the beginning," adding, "but 570 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien part 2. 571 Paul Chavez, interview. 572 Paul Chavez, interview. 573 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 574 Paul Chavez, interview. 575 Paul Chavez, interview. 576 Paul Chavez, interview. 577 Paul Chavez, interview.; Helen Chavez, interview with Marc Grossman. !111
like I say, for Bobby Kennedy, I went all out. I admired him. I admired him because he had come up to meet with Cйsar and to be with him when he broke his fast, and had talked to him, you know, not to fast, because he was going to harm himself, and how they had sent out Dr. [Janet] Travell."578 (Dr. Travell, a renowned specialist in back pain, had treated President Kennedy and was sent to California by the Kennedy family to help Cesar with his chronic and debilitating back condition.)579 Helen added, "I said, if they're willing to take the time to be so generous, and so kind, you know, we have to go out and do all this work for this great man. And he would have made a great president...he would have been the best."580 Helen recounted that in walking precincts, there were a "A lot of hills up and down,"581 but that "for him, I didn't mind it."582 She said, "That was one campaign that I didn't mind doing. I enjoyed it. I gave all my heart to it because I really admired him."583 Kennedy was the last person for whom Helen Chavez walked a precinct. 584 The farm workers were willing to sacrifice for the campaign effort. Cesar Chavez said, "The campaign wasn't done on money, you know. It was done just on an awful lot of sacrifice."585 The farm workers picked up from their homes and families, and moved into 578 Helen Chavez, interview with Marc Grossman. 579 Helen Chavez, interview with Marc Grossman.; Marc Grossman, interview. 580 Helen Chavez, interview with Marc Grossman. 581 Helen Chavez, interview with Marc Grossman. 582 Helen Chavez, interview with Marc Grossman. 583 Helen Chavez, interview with Marc Grossman. 584 Helen Chavez, interview with Marc Grossman. 585 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 1! 12
churches and other places in East Los Angeles in order to campaign. One hundred or more farm workers slept in one church basement, which was filled with mattresses.586 Some slept in sleeping bags.587 They created a makeshift kitchen, lived out of suitcases, and had no place to shower.588 Richard Chavez, Cesar's brother, called the living conditions miserable.589 Cesar Chavez was supposed to be a major part of the victory celebration in California. The hard work and successful efforts of the farm workers were recognized by the Kennedy team as hugely impactful, and they wanted to honor Chavez and the farm workers. Sheridan said on Chavez, "all he ever asked in return was that he and his people be invited to the victory celebration."590 On Election Day, Cesar Chavez was told by Sheridan that Kennedy's campaign manager Steve Smith was eager to have Chavez be a part of the victory celebration.591 Chavez, staying true to his character, replied asking whether the mariachi band could come, as the union had voted that it should be included in the festivities.592 When Sheridan told Chavez that Smith said a mariachi band wouldn't fit with the event, Chavez said, "Oh, that's too bad. But it's all right, we just won't come."593 Sheridan responded to Chavez saying, "Well, bring your goddamn 586 Helen Chavez, interview with Marc Grossman. 587 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 588 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 589 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. 590 Walter Sheridan, interview with Roberta Greene. 591 Walter Sheridan, interview with Roberta Greene. 592 Walter Sheridan, interview with Roberta Greene, August 13, 1969, (page number), John F. Kennedy Library Oral History Program. 593 Walter Sheridan, interview with Roberta Greene. 1! 13
band."594 Two hundred farm workers, the mariachi band, and Cesar Chavez marched through the lobby of the Ambassador Hotel to join the VIP reception.595 At the reception, the mariachi band replaced the Dixieland band that was on stage.596 Sheridan said of the scene, "So we finally--it was really a struggle--got the mariachi band up on the stage, and they took over, and it was just fantastic."597 While Chavez wanted the farm workers' effort to be recognized, Chavez himself felt embarrassed at the scene.598 He was even more embarrassed when people began chanting, "We want Chavez!"599 Either way, the farm workers' vivacious energy and enthusiasm was not to be ignored. When Kennedy heard that he had won, he sent a search party looking for Chavez in order to ask him to be on stage with him during the victory speech.600 Chavez had left, to be go with his wife, Helen Chavez, to the victory parties of local candidates also on the ballot that day, and then to return to the church rectory in East Los Angeles where they were staying.601 The last time Chavez spoke with Kennedy was during the Mass of Thanksgiving in Delano on March 10.602 Dolores Huerta took Chavez's place on stage.603 At the podium, Kennedy thanked "Cesar Chavez 594 Walter Sheridan, interview with Roberta Greene. 595 Walter Sheridan, interview with Roberta Greene. 596 Walter Sheridan, interview with Roberta Greene. 597 Walter Sheridan, interview with Roberta Greene. 598 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien part 2. 599 Day, Forty Acres: Cesar Chavez and the Farm Workers. 600 Walter Sheridan, interview with Roberta Greene. 601 Marc Grossman, interview. 602 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien, Part 1. 603 Cesar Chavez, interview with Dennis J. O'Brien part 2. 1! 14
and Bert Corona....and Dolores Huerta who is an old friend of mine."604 Kennedy sought to fully acknowledge the farm workers whom he loved in his victory speech and celebration. Shortly after delivering his speech, Kennedy was killed, and the nation spiraled into mourning and turmoil after the loss of its beloved champion for justice and compassion. Robert Kennedy's brother, Senator Edward M. Kennedy said in his eulogy, "My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it." He also quoted Robert Kennedy who said, "Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not." Robert Kennedy had excited people who cared about justice, compassion, and love. His death brought overwhelming sadness, as people recognized they had lost a hero who truly cared about bridging divides, righting wrongs, and healing those who were suffering. When he learned that Kennedy had passed away, Chavez felt the loss acutely. He hugged his wife Helen Chavez, saying "We lost a great man. Someone that would have brought good for our people."605 Kennedy had dreamed the same dream as Chavez--that all people ought to live with dignity--and had asked why not? Chavez would continue to push others to realize that dream, but would never have the same kind of friend who truly shared the vision as he had with Robert F. Kennedy. 604 "Cesar and Martin, March '68." 605 Helen Chavez, interview with Marc Grossman. 1! 15
Conclusion Why should we care about two men who worked on a remote social justice issue 50 years ago, and whose quest failed--Kennedy's to become president in order to address injustice, alleviate poverty, and end the Vietnam War; and Chavez's to transform the lives of farm workers. Today, farm workers suffer much of the same injustices and working conditions as they did in 1968. So why did their efforts matter? It matters because these men, through their work, their commitment, their sacrifice, their courage to overcome challenges, offer us guidance on how to live with integrity and teach us to join the struggle for justice and peace. These men believed that their purpose was to be of service to others and they were able to break down barriers in the pursuit of what was important. At the essence of that pursuit was the notion of treating people with dignity. This is why when Kennedy came to the farm workers, he did not tell them how he was going to help them, but asked them what he could do for them. Kennedy did not approach the farm workers as a constituency, but as a people who deserved dignity, and who could teach him how to be of service. The story of these two men is not about outcomes, but is about the shared journey towards justice of two iconic figures whose integrity, commitment to peace, and willingness to sacrifice offers a roadmap not only for our country to live up to its greatest ideals, but also for each of us to become our best selves. Despite their "differences in background, the two men were rather alien: both short, shy, familial, devout, opponents of violence, with strong veins of melancholy and fatalism."606 606 Schlesigner, Robert F. Kennedy and His Times, 792. 1! 16
At the Senate hearings in Delano, when Kennedy took on the Kern County Sheriff, suggesting that he and the district attorney read the Constitution of the United States, Chavez recognized in Kennedy not only an ally who was willing to take on entrenched power on behalf of farm workers, but a force for good. Over the next two years, as Kennedy's Senate office continuously responded immediately to concerns and requests for help from Chavez, Huerta, and their colleagues, they developed a working relationship based upon mutual trust, respect, and common cause. As a result of his exposure to farm worker issues from Chavez, Kennedy's interest in the issues grew, and he visited farm working communities in upstate New York, was appalled by the conditions there, and vowed to seek justice in the form of federal legislation. When Chavez embarked on the fast, Kennedy, a devout Catholic, who before he had met his wife, Ethel, had considered becoming a priest, recognized the sacrifice Chavez was making.607 Not only on behalf of farm workers, but also in penance for those farm workers who were calling for violence. By that time, Kennedy, who had had a hand in sending troops to Vietnam and endured the unbearable pain of the loss of his brother to a man with a gun, had become committed to nonviolence and immediately answered Chavez's call to come to his side to break the fast. Kennedy had decided to run for president in the days leading up to breaking the fast. His commitment to that decision was reaffirmed when he was once again reunited with Chavez and the farm workers. Their love was mutual and when Kennedy announced, Chavez took the extraordinary step of suspending union activities in order to support Kennedy's bid. It was in no 607 Kerry Kennedy, interview. 1! 17
small part due to the unprecedented turnout of the Latino vote thanks to Chavez and his troops that Kennedy won the all-important California primary on June 5, 1968. As an indication of the high-esteem, affection, and gratitude Kennedy felt towards the farm workers, Dolores Huerta stood next to him on the podium at the Ambassador Hotel when he accepted victory that night. Today, when our country is riven by division based upon race, nationality, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, religion, and political party, we have much to learn from the relationship between Cesar Chavez and Bobby Kennedy. It is in recognizing a shared humanity, that the fears of difference which drives rage dissipates. Kennedy was the first and last politician in American history to garner strong support from working class whites while allying himself with a leader of immigrants. This story of Kennedy and Chavez is instructive to all who search for a way to heal the divisions in our country. 1! 18
Works Cited Primary Sources Article, "Big Changes Loom In Farm Labor Economy," Harry Bernstein, March 22, 1965. Papers of Robert F. Kennedy. Senate Papers. Legislative Subject Files. Box 71, Folder: "Migratory Labor California 1/1967-2/1967". John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Briefing, "Briefing Sheet For Hearings By United States Senate Subcommittee of Migratory Labor," March 14, 1966. Papers of Robert F. Kennedy. Senate Papers. Legislative Subject Files. Box 71, Folder: "Migratory Labor: California Hearings, Subcommittee on Migratory Labor". John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Brooks, Wendy. "The Story of Wendy Goepel Brooks, Cesar Chavez, and La Huelga." Farmworker Documentation Project. https://libraries.ucsd.edu/farmworkermovement/ essays/essays/007%20Brooks_Wendy.pdf Burns, Frank. Interview with Larry J. Hackman. April 17, 1970. Robert F. Kennedy Oral History Project of the John F. Kennedy Library Oral History Program. Bustos, Roberto. "The March to Sacramento." Accessed April 1, 2016. Farmworker Movement Documentation Project. https://libraries.ucsd.edu/farmworkermovement/wp-content/ uploads/2012/05/THE-MARCH-TO-SACRAMENTO.pdf Chavez, Cesar. "Address to the Commonwealth Club of California." Speech, San Francisco, CA, November 9, 1984. Cesar Chavez Foundation. http://www.chavezfoundation.org/ _cms.php? mode=view&b_code=001008000000000&b_no=16&page=1&field=&key=&n=7 Chavez, Cesar. Interview with Dennis J. O'Brien. January 28, 1970. Delano, California. Robert F. Kennedy Oral History Program of the Kennedy Library. https://libraries.ucsd.edu/ farmworkermovement/media/oral_history/CEC-RFK%20ORAL%20HISTORY.pdf Chavez, Cesar. Interview with Dennis J. O'Brien Part 2. January 28, 1970. Delano, California. Robert F. Kennedy Oral History Program of the Kennedy Library. https:// libraries.ucsd.edu/farmworkermovement/media/oral_history/CECRFK%20ORAL%20HISTORY%20PT.2.pdf Chavez, Cesar. Letter to E.L. Barr. "Letter from Delano." Farmworker Documentation Project. https://libraries.ucsd.edu/farmworkermovement/essays/essays/ Letter%20From%20Delano.pdf 1! 19
Chavez, Cesar. "Peregrinacion, Penitencia, Revolucion." Cesar Chavez Foundation. http:// www.chavezfoundation.org/_cms.php? mode=view&b_code=001008000000000&b_no=10&page=1&field=&key=&n=2 Chavez, Cesar. "1984 Cesar Chavez Address to the Commonwealth Club of California." Speech. San Francisco, CA, November 9, 1984. Cesar Chavez Foundation. http:// www.chavezfoundation.org/_cms.php? mode=view&b_code=001008000000000&b_no=16&page=1&field=&key=&n=8 Chavez, Helen. (Wife of Cesar Chavez). Marc Grossman, interview.. October 27, 2006. La Paz, California. Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs at Wayne State University. Chavez, Paul. (Son of Cesar Chavez and President and Chairman of the Cesar Chavez Foundation). Interview with Mariah Kennedy Cuomo. March 30, 2017. Providence, Rhode Island. Edelman, Peter. Interview with Larry Hackman. February 13, 1973. Robert F. Kennedy Oral History Project of the John F. Kennedy Library Oral History Program. Edelman, Peter. (Legislative Assistant to Senator Robert F. Kennedy from 1964 - 1968). Interview with Mariah Kennedy Cuomo. March 30, 2017. Providence, Rhode Island. El Macriendo. March 3, 1966. Farmworker Documentation Project. https://libraries.ucsd.edu/ farmworkermovement/ufwarchives/elmalcriado/1966/March%203,%201966.pdf El Macriendo. October, 1970. Farmworker Documentation Project. https://libraries.ucsd.edu/ farmworkermovement/ufwarchives/elmalcriado/1970/ October%201,%201970%20%20No%208_PDF.pdf Kennedy, Ethel. Interview with Mariah Kennedy Cuomo. April 6, 2017. Providence, Rhode Island. Letter, Peter Edelman to Harry Van Arsdale, February 2, 1967. Papers of Robert F. Kennedy. Senate Papers. Legislative Subject Files. Box 71, Folder: "Migratory Labor California 1/1967-2/1967". John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Memorandum, Peter Edelman to Robert F. Kennedy, March 14, 1966. Papers of Robert F. Kennedy. Senate Papers. Legislative Subject Files. Box 71, Folder: "Migratory Labor: California Hearings, Subcommittee on Migratory Labor". John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. !120
Flores Rivera, Abby. "Francisco Garcia: Farm Worker Troubadour Vol. 1 (Essay + Songs + Translation + Photos)." 2010. UC SD Farmworker Movement Documentation Project. https://libraries.ucsd.edu/farmworkermovement/category/commentary/francisco-garciafarm-worker-troubadour/ Ganz, Marshall. (Former UFW organizer from 1965 to 1981). Interview with Mariah Kennedy Cuomo. April 1, 2017. Providence, Rhode Island. Grossman, Marc. (Chavez's spokesman and personal aide). Interview with Mariah Kennedy Cuomo. March 23, 2017. Providence, Rhode Island. Huerta, Dolores. (Co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association). Interview with Mariah Kennedy Cuomo. March 12, 2017. New York, New York. Kennedy, Ethel. (Wife of Robert F. Kennedy). Oral History interview. April 2, 2017. CR 140, SR 67, Farm worker Movement Documentation Project. https://libraries.ucsd.edu/ farmworkermovement/media/oral_history/ParadigmTranscripts/KennedyEthel.pdf Kennedy, Kerry. (Daughter of Robert F. Kennedy and President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights). Interview with Mariah Kennedy Cuomo. April 2, 2017. New York, New York. Kennedy, Robert F. "Remarks at the University of Kansas." Speech, Lawrence,Kansas, March 18, 1968. John F. Kennedy Library. https://www.jfklibrary.org/Research/Research-Aids/ Ready-Reference/RFK-Speeches/Remarks-of-Robert-F-Kennedy-at-the-University-ofKansas-March-18-1968.aspx Kennedy, Robert F. "Robert F. Kennedy Statement on Cesar Chavez March 10, 1968." Delano, CA, March 10, 1968. National Archives Catalogue. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/ 194027 "Robert Kennedy Took On Kern County Sheriff United Farm Workers" United Farm Workers, August 18, 2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G66myWragTg Speech, "Remarks of Senator Robert F. Kennedy," March 24, 1968. Papers of Robert F. Kennedy. Senate Papers. Speeches and Press Releases. Box 4, Folder: "1965-1958, 3/21/1968-3/31/1968". John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Mankiewicz, Frank. Interview with Larry J. Hackman. December 16, 1969. John F. Kennedy Library Oral History Program. Schrade, Paul. (United Auto Workers Western Director). Interview with Mariah Kennedy Cuomo. March 27, 2017. Providence, Rhode Island. !121
Sheridan, Walter. Interview with Roberta Greene. August 13, 1969. John F. Kennedy Library Oral History Program. Valdez, Luis. "The Plan of Delano," Farmworker Documentation Project, https:// libraries.ucsd.edu/farmworkermovement/essays/essays/Plan%20of%20Delano.pdf Secondary Sources Agtang, Lorraine. "COMMENTARY: UFW is a tribute to the real solidarity achieved between Latinos and Filipinos." Northwest Asian Weekly, December 20, 2013. http:// nwasianweekly.com/2013/12/commentary-ufw-tribute-real-solidarity-achieved-latinosfilipinos/ Krebs, A.V. "La Causa The Word Was Made Flesh." Farmworker Movement Documentation Project. https://libraries.ucsd.edu/farmworkermovement/essays/essays/ KREBS%20MANUSCRIPT%20LA%20CAUSA.pdf Bender, Steve. One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cйsar Chбvez, and the Dream of Dignity. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2008. Brazil, Eric. "UFW Labors to Find Growth." SF Gate, June 6, 1999. http://www.sfgate.com/ bayarea/article/UFW-labors-to-find-growth-3080480.php Bruns, Roger. Encyclopedia of Cesar Chavez: The Farm Workers' Fight for Rights and Justice. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2013. "Bull Connor Statement," NBC, https://www.nbclearn.com/portal/site/k-12/flatview? cuecard=1310 United Farm Workers. "Cesar's Biography." Accessed April 5, 2017, http:// chavezfoundation.org/_cms.php? mode=view&b_code=007003000000000&b_no=1902&page=1&field=&key=&n=1 Cesar Chavez Foundation. "Cesar Chavez Foundation." Accessed December 11, 2016. http:// www.chavezfoundation.org/_page.php?code=014001000000000. Chatfield, Leroy. "Commentary." Accessed April 2, 2017. Farmworker Movement Documentation Project. https://libraries.ucsd.edu/farmworkermovement/wp-content/ uploads/2012/12/FINAL-FINAL-FINAL-GARCIA.pdf Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. "Civil Rights." Accessed April 29, 2016. http://rfkcenter.org/ robert-f-kennedy/robert-f-kennedy-legacy-education-project/civil-rights/ !122
Clarke, Thurston. The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, 2008. Day, Mark. Forty Acres: Cesar Chavez and the Farm Workers. New York, NY: Praeger Publishers Inc., 1971. "Dolores Huerta." Dolores Huerta Foundation. http://doloreshuerta.org/dolores-huerta/ Dunne, John. Delano: The Story of the California Grape Strike. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1967. Estevez, Maruja. "Helen Chбvez, Labor Rights Leader & Wife Of Cesar Chбvez, Dead At 88." Vibe, June 7, 2016. http://www.vibe.com/2016/06/helen-chavez-wife-cesar-chavezdead-88/ Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. "Farm workers' Rights." Accessed May 10, 2016. http:// rfkcenter.org/what-we-do/farmworkers-rights/. Press Release. "Father McDonnell introduced a young Cesar Chavez to social justice teachings." United Farm Workers, February 23, 2012. http://www.ufw.org/_board.php? mode=view&b_code=news_press&b_no=11813 Ferris, Susan, Ricardo Sandoval. The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Movement. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1997. Hoffman, Pat. Ministry of the Dispossessed. Los Angeles, CA: Wallace Press, 1987. https://libraries.ucsd.edu/farmworkermovement/essays/essays/ Ministry%20of%20the%20Dispossessed_PHoffman.pdf "Housing Benefits For Farm Families-Brown." Ukiah Daily Journal, March 15, 1966, https:// www.newspapers.com/image/7865106/?terms=kennedy%2Bvisalia "Introduction." Farmworker Documentation Project. https://libraries.ucsd.edu/ farmworkermovement/about/ "Governor Endorses Farm Labor Proposal." Daily Independent Journal, March 14, 1966. https:// www.newspapers.com/image/72003146/ Lee, Paul. "Senator Robert F. Kennedy Visits Delano 1968." August 2, 2010. Farmworker Movement Documentation Project. https://libraries.ucsd.edu/farmworkermovement/ category/commentary/senator-robert-kennedy-visits-delano-1968/ !123
Levy, Jaques. Cesar Chavez: Autobiography of La Causa. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 1975. Mahoney, Richard. The Kennedy Brothers: The Rise and Fall of Jack and Bobby. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing Inc., 2011. Mandeel, Elizabeth. "The Bracero Program 1942-1964." American International Journal of Contemporary Research, Vol. 4 No. 1; January 2014. http://www.aijcrnet.com/journals/ Vol_4_No_1_January_2014/17.pdf Mariscal, Jorge. "Cesar and Martin, March '68." August 2, 2010. Farmworker Movement Documentation Project. https://libraries.ucsd.edu/farmworkermovement/essays/essays/ mariscal.pdf Matthiessen, Peter. Sal si puedes: Cesar Chavez and the new American Revolution. Charlottesville, VA: the University of Virginia, 2008. Meister, Dick. "Support From Robert Kennedy." New York Herald Tribune, 1966. Accessed April 2, 2016. https://libraries.ucsd.edu/farmworkermovement/ufwarchives/meister/ 06%20UFWMeister66-5-RFK.doc.pdf "Murphy, Williams Express Shock At Linell Labor Camp." The Fresno Bee The Republican, March 15, 1966. https://www.newspapers.com/image/25796272/? terms=kennedy%2Bvisalia Palermo, Joseph. "Here's What RFK Did in California in 1968." Huffington Post January 10, 2008. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joseph-a-palermo/heres-what-rfk-did-incal_b_80931.html Palermo, Joseph. In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2013. Palermo, Joseph. Robert F. Kennedy and the Death of American Idealism. Harlow, UK: Pearson Longman, 2008. Pao, Maureen. "Cesar Chavez: The Life Behind A Legacy Of Farm Labor Rights." National Public Radio, August 12, 2016. http://www.npr.org/2016/08/02/488428577/cesar-chavezthe-life-behind-a-legacy-of-farm-labor-rights Pawel, Miriam. The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography. Bloomsbury, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014. !124
Pawel, Miriam. "Op-Ed Cesar Chavez: A life bigger than film." Los Angeles Times, April 2, 2014. http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-pawel-chavez-film-20140402story.html Reyes, Laura. "For Women, History is Happening Now." Huffington Post. March 27, 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-reyes/for-women-history-ishappening_b_6955736.html Richardson, Christopher, Ralph Luker. Historical Dictionary of the Civil Rights Movement. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2014. John F. Kennedy Library. "Robert F. Kennedy." Accessed April 2, 2017. https:// www.jfklibrary.org/JFK/The-Kennedy-Family/Robert-F-Kennedy.aspx Schlesinger, Arthur. Robert Kennedy and His Times. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1972. Shwarz, Fred. "A Potemra-Style Late-Night Movie Post." National Review, September 14, 2015. http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/423961/potemra-style-late-night-movie-post-fredschwarz Shea, Daniel, Brian Harward. Presidential Campaigns: Documents Decoded. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2013. "State Farm Housing `Deplorable.'" Pasadena Independent, March 16, 1966. https:// www.newspapers.com/image/65016938/?terms=senator%2Bwilliams%2Bsacramento Street, Richard. "The 1903 Oxnard Sugar Beet Strike: A New Ending." Labor History 39, no. 2 (05, 1998): 193-199. https://search.proquest.com/docview/221026861? accountid=9758. Tejada-Flores, Rick. "Chбvez, Cйsar." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2005. http:// www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780195156003.001.0001/ acref-9780195156003-e-139. "The Election of 1968." PBS. http://www.pbs.org/johngardner/chapters/5a.html United Farm Workers. "The Story of Cesar Chavez." Accessed April 5, 2017. http:// www.ufw.org/_page.php?menu=research&inc=history/07.html "United Farm Workers of America." International Directory of Company Histories. Encyclopedia.com. Accessed April 5, 2017. http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politicsand-business-magazines/united-farm-workers-america !125
United Farm Workers. "UFW Chronology." Accessed April 5, 2017. http://ufw.org/_page.php? menu=research&inc=_page.php?menu=research&inc=history/01.html United Farm Workers. "UFW History." Accessed April 5, 2017. http://www.ufw.org/_page.php? menu=research&inc=history/03.html "What Cesar Chavez Taught Us." October, 2006. Farmworker Movement Documentation Project. https://libraries.ucsd.edu/farmworkermovement/wp-content/uploads/ 2012/04/019AA-WHAT-CESAR-CHAVEZ-TAUGHT-US.pdf Witcover, Jules. 85 Days: The Last Campaign of Robert Kennedy. New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2016. United Farm Workers. "The 1965-1970 Delano Grape Strike and Boycott." Accessed April 5, 2017. http://www.ufw.org/_board.php? mode=view&b_code=cc_his_research&b_no=10482 !126

File: robert-f-kennedy-and-the-farmworkers-the-formation-of-robert.pdf
Title: final copy thesis mmkc
Published: Fri Apr 7 13:39:08 2017
Pages: 126
File size: 1.4 Mb


Doing history, 26 pages, 0.83 Mb

Cultural anthropology, 12 pages, 0.43 Mb
Copyright © 2018 doc.uments.com