Chavez Backs Coors Protest, Cancels Talk
Farm labor leader Cesar Chavez has canceled a speaking date at the League of United Latin American Citizens national convention in Anaheim because of planned picketing by labor and several Latino groups angry that the league has accepted money from Adolph Coors Co.
Chavez told organizers of the convention, which began Wednesday, that he would not cross picket lines to address the convention Saturday. About 7,000 members are expected to attend the 56th Annual league convention being held through Sunday at the Anaheim Marriott.
Protest organizers said they object to an agreement reached last October by Coors and six Latino groups under which it will invest $350 million in the Latino community over the next five years. The investment is tied to the amount of Coors beer purchased by Latinos.
Coors has been boycotted by the AFL-CIO since 1977 because of alleged anti-union activities. Some Latino groups discontinued the boycott after the Coors agreement was announced.
The league was not among the Latino groups that signed the Coors agreement. Nativo Lopez, a league spokesman for several Orange County chapters, attacked it at that time as a “sham agreement.” On Wednesday, Manuel Marquez, convention chairman, said he is glad that the Coors company, which gave about $60,000 to help underwrite the convention, is among a list of 10 major contributors giving corporate gifts of $50,000 or more.
“This protest will hurt,” he admitted. He added that the league did not want to block Coors’ participation, however, because “that would have been discriminating, and that’s against our stated goals. We opened the door to everybody. We can’t just shut the door to Coors.”
Marquez said he sat on negotiation teams that scoured the corporate world for major contributors for two years in preparation for this week’s convention. “It’s very hard to raise money. These people (protesters) think it’s easy. It’s not. We got turned down by many, many corporations. I’m glad that Coors has decided to sponsor us.”
Earlier in the day, groups representing the AFL-CIO in Los Angeles and Orange counties, the Orange County Labor Council, and an organization of Latino students at California State University, Fullerton, announced their plans to hold an “informational picket” from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday. About 200 people are expected to line the sidewalk in front of the convention hotel.
Coalition spokeswoman Stephanie Lopez of Fullerton said the protest is planned to counter Coors’ “hypocrisy” and “sleight of hand” agreements with the Latino community that she said have served as corporate public relations tools. The coalition also opposes Coors’ labor practices and the Coors family’s support of right-wing political causes that hurt minorities, she said.
“Several months ago the Coors brewing company used such a strategy to divert attention away from the family’s history of supporting ultraconservative positions on issues of social justice for women, blacks, Latinos and the workers of America,” Lopez said.
“This was accomplished with a slick Madison Avenue campaign that included the signing of agreements with certain organizations in the black and Latino communities.” Donald Shook, Coors’ spokesman in Denver, denied that Coors is using minority communities to help its public relations image.
“We’re returning sales revenue back to the minority communities in a fair-share agreement program,” Shook said.
He added that Coors’ employment force is 14% minority and about 8.5% Latino at Coors’ breweries worldwide.
It is not the first time that ALF-CIO plans to picket a Coors-related function have stirred controversy. In February, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley canceled a scheduled appearance at a fund-raising dinner for the Latin Business Assn. in Los Angeles because Bradley decided to honor labor’s position.