Puerto Rico, Hawai'i, and California share the experiences of conquest and annexation to the United States in the nineteenth century and mass organizational struggles by rural workers in the twentieth. Organized Agriculture and the Labor Movement before the UFW offers a comparative examination of those struggles, which were the era's longest and most protracted campaigns by agricultural workers, supported by organized labor, to establish a collective presence and realize the fruits of democracy.
Dionicio Nodín Valdés examines critical links between the earlier conquests and the later organizing campaigns while he corrects a number of popular misconceptions about agriculture, farmworkers, and organized labor. He shows that agricultural workers have engaged in continuous efforts to gain a place in the institutional life of the nation, that unions succeeded before the United Farm Workers and César Chávez, and that the labor movement played a major role in those efforts. He also offers a window into understanding crucial limitations of institutional democracy in the United States, and demonstrates that the widespread lack of participation in the nation's institutions by agricultural workers has not been due to a lack of volition, but rather to employers' continuous efforts to prevent worker empowerment.
Organized Agriculture and the Labor Movement before the UFW demonstrates how employers benefitted not only from power and wealth, but also from imperialism in both its domestic and international manifestations. It also demonstrates how workers at times successfully overcame growers' advantages, although they were ultimately unable to sustain movements and gain a permanent institutional presence in Puerto Rico and California.
Dionicio Nodín Valdés is Professor of History at Michigan State University. He has written extensively on labor and social history, including the books Barrios Norteños: St. Paul and Midwestern Mexican Communities in the Twentieth Century and Al Norte: Agricultural Workers in the Great Lakes Region, 1917–1990.
This book is an extremely well-researched history with a compelling mission to bring three distinct areas of the United States together into a single story…Valdés’s study is an important contribution to the field of agricultural labor history.
~American Historical Review
Chapter 1. Colonizing a Movement: The Federación Libre de Trabajo in Puerto Rico
Chapter 2. Dreams of Democratic Unionism: The Confederación General de Trabajadores and Puerto Rican Agricultural Workers
Chapter 3. Up from Colonialism: Hawaiian Plantation Agriculture and the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union
Chapter 4. Challenges and Survival: Sustaining Agricultural Unionism in Hawai'i
Chapter 5. Marked in the Annals of the Labor Movement: The National Farm Labor Union, Organized Labor, and the DiGiorgio Strike
Chapter 6. From Factory to Industrial Area: Areawide Organizing in the San Joaquin and Imperial Valleys
Retrospective and Prospectus
Glossary: Acronyms, Abbreviations, and Short Terms
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