¡Sí Se Puede! Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight on César Chávez & the UFW
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FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #44-57102 (Part 3)

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #44-57102 (Part 3)
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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.

In August 1973, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) field office in Detroit obtained a report by the Wayne State University Task Force on Farmworkers as part of the bureau's investigation into civil rights violations against United Farm Workers (UFW) strikers. The taskforce was comprised of six students and members of Catholic Campus Ministry at Wayne State University and Eastern Michigan University, who travelled to Coachella Valley to understand the ongoing labor dispute between the Teamsters Union and the UFW. The taskforce released "The Coachella Experience," a six-page report of its findings and conclusions.

According to an August 15 memo by the Detroit field office, a source (whose identity has been concealed) reported that he had not witnessed any incidents during his trip to Coachella and had supplied a copy of his report, presumably "The Coachella Experience." The taskforce report provided information about the grape industry in California and competing claims by the teamsters and the UFW that they represent the interests of laborers in negotiations with the grape growers. It noted that both sides were "guilty of 'disturbing the peace' to some degree," but cited several cases of harassment and violence by teamsters against UFW supporters.  The taskforce concluded that the teamsters did not "understand the needs of farmworkers, nor do they plan on representing them fairly when it comes to a showdown with the growers." Additionally, the report urged support for the UFW boycott of grapes and lettuce.

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