Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Monday, November 25, 2013

FROM THE FIELDS TO NEGOTIATING TABLE



The film features Michael Peña in the title role of Cesar Chavez, the Mexican-American labor leader and co-founder of the United Farm Workers, who fought for workers’ rights and became an icon in the Latino community after his death.

My first organizing job was working for the United Farm Workers (UFW) from 1978-1980.  I was sent to the union headquarters in California for a month of training.  Cesar Chavez took the four of us who were new staff into his office and told us stories about the founding of the union.  (I almost beat him in ping pong one day but he made a huge comeback to defeat me.)  After my training I was sent back to Florida to work in a field office in Avon Park and then Apopka.  Each year Cesar would come to Florida to speak at a statewide farm worker conference that we organized. 

Many of my organizing skills come from the training I received from the UFW.  Even the Global Network's annual Keep Space for Peace Week is modeled after the UFW's Farmworker Week.  It was discovered that I was a good note taker while in California for my training so I was put on the negotiating team when I returned to Florida. Contract negotiations were between the union and the hot-shot lawyers from the Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Company (which owned Minutemaid orange juice where the UFW had a contract at that time).  I learned a lot about how union negotiations work.  Those skills have come in handy many times over the years.

I loved listening to Cesar talk.  He was very humble and soft in his speaking but at the same time he was a very strong and determined man.  

I can't wait to see this film. 

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