An Organizers Tale: Speeches By César Chávez

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a great read. 288 A great compilation of speeches and writings by a great organizer and civil rights leader. A powerful and informational read 288 This book is a reminder and a warning from the not so distant past about the kind of greed for profit that causes the heartless mistreatment of others even in supposedly civilized countries and societies. 288


This was an interesting book to read for my Chicano lit class. Though enjoyable at times with how relevant it still is today, Chavez does lean very heavily into his Christian background where his speeches are very much like sermons, which I didn't mind, until it dove too far with cramming religion down my throat. I am fine with others being religious, but I, myself, am not, and always joke that I'm pretty much a godless heathen. Either way, this was a good read, if a little too Jesus-y, and remains thoroughly relevant to todays times with how corporations prefer to exploit their workers and prevent unions from being formed. 288 I have been soaking my head in Cesar Chavez for almost a month now, and it was good to end my time on him by going directly to his own words. This collection of speeches from Chavez starts with one of his first big speeches in 1965 and ends with the eulogy for his mentor, Fred Ross, just before Cesar Chavez would die himself. Many of these speeches are very good, even visionary. Indeed, the speeches towards the end could sound like a speech given by a current Latino leader today. It’s eerie how much has and has not changed in America. As good as this collection is though, there were several spelling errors and historical inaccuracies throughout this book. All of them were small errors that should’ve been fixed, but weren’t. Just be aware of them before going into this book. 288 An excellent collection of Chavez's speeches that will hopefully make his message of nonviolent social change more accessible to the American public. Check out the wonderful essay What is Democracy? in which Chavez takes on the idea of immigration as a social phenomena that can strengthen the American political system. 288 These collected speeches, statements and articles by Cesar Chavez are not the testament of a soaring orator, or a social theorist. They are the testament of a gifted and visionary Organiser who thought a great deal about what he was doing, why he was doing it, and how others of similar background to him could do it too.

Chavez and the California Farm Workers Union are a classic case of 'like talking to like' Organising. Hispanic farm workers approached by Chavez would have no doubt that they were talking to someone who shared their experience of poverty and exploitation. That was why Chavez could demand, and receive, such strong commitment from poor workers who joined their union.

Chavez was convinced that there were no shortcuts in Organising. That was his argument for a philosophy of nonviolence in protest and resistance. That was also why he criticized the role of money in organizing campaigns. He hated when campaigns ground to a halt because they 'ran out of money'. He refused big donations for Farm Worker Union campaigns, preferring to raise money directly from the workers themselves. He even asked workers for food during long Organising drives, despite those workers barely being able to feed themselves. By making the personal sacrifice, workers became truly invested in the success of their union. Chavez made a personal example of sacrifice through numerous hunger strikes for various union causes throughout his career before he died in 1993.

Chavez offers an alternative to the various 'technocratic' versions of Organising embraced by modern unions, with their focus on questions of resources, communications and decision frameworks. Chavez drew upon the language and culture of Hispanic Catholicism to make the case for asking people to make personal sacrifices for 'la causa' (the cause). It was a difficult ask even within Chavez's cultural context, however he recognized that unless workers were prepared to make sacrifices they did not have a union. The duty of organizers is to be honest with workers about what they need to do. 288 A good and special read for a time such as now. Always inspired by the words of an organizer. 288

The first major collection of writings by civil rights leader Cesar Chavez

One of the most important civil rights leaders in American history, Cesar Chavez was a firm believer in the principles of nonviolence, and he effectively employed peaceful tactics to further his cause. Through his efforts, he helped achieve dignity, fair wages, benefits, and humane working conditions for hundreds of thousands of farm workers. This extensive collection of Chavez's speeches and writings chronicles his progression and development as a leader, and includes previously unpublished material. From speeches to spread the word of the Delano Grape Strike to testimony before the House of Representatives about the hazards of pesticides, Chavez communicated in clear, direct language and motivated people everywhere with an unflagging commitment to his ideals.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators. An Organizers Tale: Speeches