SANTA BARBARA — New research and scholarship that have altered the general understanding of the United Farm Workers (UFW) movement as well as that of labor and civil rights leader César Chávez will be the focus of a daylong conference at UC Santa Barbara on Friday, Oct. 14, the university reported on Tuesday in a media release.
“César Chávez and the United Farm Workers” will begin at 9 a.m. in the McCune Conference Room, 6020 Humanities and Social Sciences Building at UCSB. Scholars will address topics that include “The United Farm Workers and the American Public,” “The Union and Its Leadership: A Critical Appraisal,” and “Culture and Ideology Within the UFW.” The conference is free and open to the public.
“A new generation of scholars and journalists have begun to use new materials to rewrite and to illuminate the history of one of the most important social movements in 20th-century history,” said Nelson Lichtenstein, the MacArthur Foundation chair in history at UCSB and director of the campus’s Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy. “They have found that the farm workers movement led by César Chávez was far more complicated and contradictory that we have thought.”
Ralph Armbruster-Sandoval, associate professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at UCSB and a co-organizer of the symposium, noted: “At a time when farm workers are facing more challenging conditions perhaps than they did 30 years ago, there needs to be a frank and open discussion about why the UFW is so weak and ineffective today. Are the union’s contemporary problems related to decisions that Césas Chávez made? That is one key question that this conference will address.”
Taking a more critical look at Chávez’s leadership, historians and journalists have found that the farm workers of the 1960′s, ’70′s, and ’80′s were more skilled and more independent of the labor leader’s guidance than previously believed, according to Lichtenstein. “On the other hand, Chávez …