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 May 1968, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) field office in San Francisco circulated documents related to a protest by the United Farm Workers (UFW) during U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark's appearance in San Francisco on May 29. Since 1965, the UFW had been organizing strikes and boycotts against California grape growers in order to gain better working conditions, higher wages, and collective bargaining rights. During this strike, the UFW called on the Department of Justice to prevent growers from employing foreign workers as strikebreakers and to investigate allegations of civil rights violations by local law enforcement against strikers.
Sent by the San Francisco field office to FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., a teletype dated May 23, 1968, reported that the UFW was planning to picket Ramsey's speech to the National Conference of Social Workers at the Hilton Hotel. The FBI had received the information from a representative of UFW director César Chávez and had passed it to the Secret Service and other "appropriate intelligence agencies." In a letter dated May 24, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover warned Clark of the planned protests.
In documents dated May 30 and 31, the San Francisco field office described the events surrounding the UFW demonstrations and Clark's address. With more than 360 picketers surrounding the hotel, the attorney general's speech was interrupted by a protestor with a bullhorn, who recited a pledge to boycott California grapes. Although the document noted that "the majority of the audience resented the interruptions," it stated that no one was arrested.