¡Sí Se Puede! Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight on César Chávez & the UFW
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FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: Cross References File (Part 2)

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: Cross References File (Part 2)
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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.


This series of FBI documents relate to various claims of civil rights violations, including incidents associated with the escalation of violence between the United Farm Workers (UFW) and the Teamsters union in the Coachella Valley during the summer of 1973, as well as a matter in which UFW protesters were cited for disorderly conduct at a food market picket in Dayton, Ohio, in 1974.

The 1973 clash between the UFW and the Teamsters was sparked when growers signed sweetheart deals with the Teamsters without elections after the UFW's three-year grape contracts came up for renewal. A strike ensued and violence soon intensified. On August 21, the FBI's Sacramento office reported that various growers had requested the FBI to investigate the UFW "for conspiracy to violate rights of the growers in that the UFW has conspired to commit violence in violation of the right of farm laborers to work and growers to maintain and harvest crops."

Due to the violence resulting from the strike, César Chávez called it off and organized a second nationwide boycott against table grapes, wine, and lettuce. In a memo dated November 11, 1974, the FBI's Cincinnati office reported that UFW demonstrators were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct at a protest of non-union grapes, lettuce, and wine at Fazio's Food Market. The UFW alleged that the demonstrators' arrest was an unconstitutional violation of free speech. The charges against the UFW protestors were eventually dropped.
 

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