¡Sí Se Puede! Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight on César Chávez & the UFW
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FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #100-444762, Section 6 (Part 7)

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #100-444762, Section 6 (Part 7)
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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.

These documents consist of copies of telegrams from the summer of 1973 sent to acting FBI director William Ruckelshaus regarding the escalation of violence in the Coachella Valley in a dispute between the United Farm Workers (UFW) and the Teamsters union. The clash between the two unions was sparked when growers signed sweetheart deals with the Teamsters without elections after the UFW's three-year grape contracts came up for renewal. The ensuing strike and worsening violence promoted Chavez to call off the strike and begin a second nationwide grape boycott.

All of the telegrams request that Ruckelshaus or Clarence M. Kelley (who was sworn in as the second director of the FBI on July 9, 1973) open an investigation of Teamster violence against UFW members. One telegram dated June 27 describes the actions of the Teamsters as "terrorism" and asks that the Bureau take measures to protect the rights of the UFW. In Ruckelshaus's responses to the telegrams, he writes that the FBI is unable to assist in the matter due to the lack of indication that federal law had been violated.

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