Re “UFW Must March to the Beat of a New Generation,” Opinion, May 1:
How incredibly naive of Ruben Navarrette Jr. to think that those who criticize the United Farm Workers are simply acting on “a desire to make an ailing UFW ‘better.’ ” Who exactly are these good-hearted critics Navarrette is referring to? Is it California’s powerful agribusiness industry? Is it the California Table Grape Commission, which has repeatedly waged disinformation campaigns against the union? Is it the bureaucratic Agricultural Labor Relations Board, known to stall UFW certifications for years? The grower-backed governors, George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson?
Listen closely to your grandfather’s stories, Mr. Navarrette, and you’ll find that from its beginnings the UFW has been the target of relentless criticism--even violence--from those threatened by its simple call for justice and dignity. A call that has been heeded by many, many young persons like myself who find the UFW’s message vital and relevant and who are thankful we will never have to follow our own grandfathers into the fields. To stand back and criticize the UFW in the name of goodwill, as Navarrette perceives himself to be doing, is pure hypocrisy.
Navarrette’s article on the United Farm Workers Union presents only a partial picture of the union and its supporters. The gutting of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board by Govs. Deukmejian and Wilson removed effective legal protection for the UFW. Relaxed immigration laws, promoted by then-U.S. Sen. Wilson, were effectively used to undercut the union. The tactical decisions the union made in relation to the boycott need to be considered in this historical context.
Navarrette is right that the UFW needs to admit past mistakes and learn from them. However, I cannot understand why he feels the need to insult the UFW and the millions of its supporters by telling them they need to “put to rest the spirit of their dead leader and learn to think for themselves again.” Long after the new generational beat has faded, working Americans of all ethnic groups will remember Cesar Chavez as a great American and an inspiration for those who organize. And farm workers and non-farm workers alike will be better off because of Chavez.
JOHN R. HANNA