Strike: the farm workers fight for their rights
By Larry Dane Brimmer
Grades 9 thru 12
I used an ARC given by the publisher to write this review.
In 1965, a group of Filipino and Chicano farm workers, unhappy with their deplorable working conditions and substandard wages organized a strike against the grape industry. The strike, which lasted over five years, would evolve into a nation-wide boycott of grapes in all forms, including wine. At the head of this strike was Cesar Chavez. Skillfully researched, Brimmer traces the strike, the role Chavez played in standing up to the big food growers, the development of the United Farm Workers of America (UFWA), and Chavez ongoing fight against the agribusinesses until his death in 1993.
Brimmer is no stranger to writing quality nonfiction. Cathy and I have reviewed many of his titles on this blog. In Strike, black & white archival photographs and words of the workers, organizers, and growers complement the riveting text. Back matter includes author’s note, bibliography, timeline, source notes, and index.
According to Brimmer, Chavez was not a very dynamic speaker. Yet, he was dedicated and possessed a strong belief that farm workers should be treated with fairness. Though a quiet individual, Chavez often was unwilling to relinquish any control, even in the organizations that were precursors to UFWA. He also believed in nonviolence and gave up many opportunities for employment that would have brought he and his family a comfortable lifestyle. At the time of his death, Chavez was disillusioned with the constant attempts by the growers to undermine any progress in improving the working conditions for workers. He complained that for every step forward, they took two steps back. Even today, working conditions in many fields have gotten worse as the influence of the United Farm Workers has shrunk. Growers refuse to treat the workers with respect. More concerned with their profits, growers refuse to pay a living wage, provide cold fresh water, and stop using harmful pesticides.
Stike is an essential addition to library collections. Add it to any unit on American history, social justice, formation of unions, and agribusiness (Monsanto). Also, though this may be a stretch, I would include Strike in a display with dystopian fiction. It does have a lot of the elements teens enjoy: hopelessness, grim working and horrible living conditions, the minority revolt against big business, fighting, and…an unlikely hero.
¡Sí, se puedo! (Yes, It can be done!)