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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Fear and Mistrust: The Relationship Among Japanese American Farmers, Organized Labor, and Future Generations


The formation of the Nisei Farmers League (NFL) in the 1960s was an important event for the community of Japanese American farmers in the Central Valley of California. During the same period, the United Farm Workers (UFW) emerged as a major advocate of farm workers rights in the region. While the UFW promoted the interests of farm workers, the NFL provided Japanese American farmers a collective voice in advocating for their property rights and business interests in the aftermath of the Japanese internment. The working paper highlights the conflict between the UFW and NFL as well as the internal struggle within the Japanese American farming community using historical information from archival research and personal interviews. The working paper shows the discontent between the UFW and NFL was primarily based on the inherent mistrust of Japanese American farmers toward outsiders and the UFW's misperception that the NFL represented the interests of corporate agriculture. Additionally, the working paper reviews the ongoing struggle with the organization between different generations of farmers over the NFL's relationship with the UFW. Based on this research, the author recommends a strong multi-ethnic coalition within the NFL would enhance the organization's role in disseminating information to small farmers about workers rights in the Central Valley.

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