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The War in the Valley: Farm Labor Organizing in a Hostile Anti-Union Environment


Modern Mexican labor migration is a result of overlapping neocolonial and internal-colonial relationships. Mexican and undocumented individuals overwhelmingly make up the farm worker labor force in the United States. Agricultural labor has historically been exploitative. Although organizing efforts by the United Farm Workers in the 1960’s and 1970’s brought about legal reforms in California, by the 1980’s the United Farm Workers had almost completely stopped organizing farm workers. This study takes a historical approach to demonstrate how cycles of protest deposit organizing templates that were later used by both documented and undocumented farm workers from a town in California’s Central Valley to organize and gain union representation in a climate of rural labor unionization decline. The findings indicate workers/organizers’ motivations in wanting fair wages, worksite safety, and to be treated with respect and dignity, along with access to salient knowledge of workers maltreatment, and heuristic use of this knowledge combined for a successful union organizing campaign at La Cuesta Verde Ginning Company. Nonetheless, a local struggle is not enough to overcome the system of interactive colonialism, as new forms of domination become established.

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