¡Sí Se Puede! Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight on César Chávez & the UFW
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FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #58-10898

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #58-10898
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The primary source document described below, which can be viewed by clicking the thumbnail at right, is part of a 1,434-page file on César Chávez and the farmworker movement compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) between 1965 and 1973. The FBI's surveillance of Chávez, which paralleled larger efforts to prove that protest groups of the civil rights era had been infiltrated by subversive influences, was unable to uncover any evidence of communism or corruption in the activities of Chávez and his followers.

The FBI's dossier on Chávez was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which contains provisions that allowed the FBI to withhold portions of the documents from public view. Indeed, many parts—and in some cases, entire pages—have been excised from the files. Nevertheless, the collection provides a compelling window into the efforts of the farmworker movement, as well as the values and methods of the FBI itself.

By the 1980s, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had compiled several hundreds of pages of information on César Chávez and the United Farm Workers Union (UFW) from its active investigation into communist influences on the agricultural labor movement in the 1960s and 1970s. During that time, Chávez and his supporters launched strikes, boycotts, and other demonstrations against farmers and ranchers in order to gain collective bargaining rights, better working conditions, and higher wages. As a result of these protests, some growers agreed to recognize unions and negotiate new contracts for migrant farm workers. After monitoring the farm labor unions for about a decade, the FBI was unable to find any evidence of disloyalty and had ceased its active investigation into communist ties to the UFW by the late 1970s.

On February 4, 1982, the Washington field office sent information to the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., regarding possible incidents of bribery or conflict of interest in relation to the UFW's National Farmworkers Service Center in Keene, California. The transmission described a letter by K. William O'Connor, the Inspector General of Community Services Administration, and a letterhead memorandum that was to be forwarded to the assistant U.S. attorney of the fraud section; however, these documents appear to be withheld under examption 7(c) of the Freedom of Information Act, which permits withholding information that could "constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."

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