January 8, 2006


UFW: A BROKEN CONTRACT: Farmworkers Reap Little as Union Strays From Its Roots
: The movement built by Cesar Chavez has failed to expand on its early successes organizing poor rural laborers. As their plight is used to attract donations that benefit others, services for those in the fields are left to languish. (Miriam Pawel, January 8, 2006, LA Times)

Thirty-five years after [Cesar] Chavez riveted the nation, the strikes and fasts are just history, the organizers who packed jails and prayed over produce in supermarket aisles are gone, their righteous pleas reduced to plaintive laments.

What remains is the name, the eagle and the trademark chant of "Sí se puede" ("Yes, it can be done") — a slogan that rings hollow as UFW leaders make excuses for their failure to organize California farmworkers.

Today, a Times investigation has found, Chavez's heirs run a web of tax-exempt organizations that exploit his legacy and invoke the harsh lives of farmworkers to raise millions of dollars in public and private money.

The money does little to improve the lives of California farmworkers, who still struggle with the most basic health and housing needs and try to get by on seasonal, minimum-wage jobs.

Most of the funds go to burnish the Chavez image and expand the family business, a multimillion-dollar enterprise with an annual payroll of $12 million that includes a dozen Chavez relatives.

You mean union leaders are in it for themselves, not the workers? Shocking.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 8, 2006 6:01 PM

Thank God I was sitting down.

Posted by: erp at January 8, 2006 6:28 PM

Not excusing this by any means, but is this so much different from the Red Cross and United Way whose executives are paid hundreds of thousands to allocate charitable contributions from the poor and middle class?

Not to mention Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and the other watermelon collection of do-gooders who pay themselves exorbitant salaries.

Posted by: obc at January 8, 2006 7:42 PM

No, it's the same.

Posted by: oj at January 8, 2006 7:47 PM

The difference between the charities and this union is that this union gets its money from the very people it is ripping on and they can't get away from paying their dues. If they don't pay the dues, they are subject to discipline from the very union that is ripping them off. At least the charities go outside for their money and don't take it by force.

Posted by: dick at January 8, 2006 9:42 PM

Sounds like Ralph Nader and Al Sharpton and also the King family.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 8, 2006 9:42 PM

Jim, How could you omit Jesse?

Posted by: ed at January 8, 2006 11:40 PM

Executives at charity organizations may or may not be overpaid, as a group, but many such organizations are very large, with enormous budgets and many, complex, activities and operations.

Paying marginally competent people small salaries, instead of very competent people large salaries, would be penny-wise and pound-foolish, since far more money would be wasted on bungled and inefficient operations.

Which is not to say that there aren't plenty of people getting far too much money at smaller charities and NGOs.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at January 9, 2006 7:51 AM

Yesterday on Fox News Sunday Bill Kristol said something like every social movement begins as a rebellion, becomes an establishment, and winds up as a racket.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at January 9, 2006 10:55 PM