¡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 5 (Part 14)

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #100-444762, Section 5 (Part 14)
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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 a memo dated September 26, 1969, the FBI's field office in Sacramento disseminated information concerning César Chávez's tour of the United States in support of the Delano grape strike. Chávez's trip consisted of visits to 40 cities, as well as a stop in Washington, D.C., where the labor leader reported to Congress about the struggles of the farm workers movement and testified about growers' use of dangerous pesticides.

Attached to the FBI's memo was a copy of a September 26 article from The Los Angeles Times, "Cesar Chavez Begins 7-Week Tour of U.S." The article notes Chávez's optimism about the widespread national support received by the grape strike, though he was less confident about the possibility of the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC) resuming negotiations with 12 grape growers. In addition, Chávez discussed his plans to testify before Congress on October 1 that the union had "clear evidence that growers are poisoning workers and contaminating table grapes by the increasing use of pesticides." Chávez also spoke about pressing Congress on extending to farm workers the ability to join labor unions and collectively bargain, a right from which they were excluded under the National Labor Relations Act (1935).

On the following page of the memo, the FBI indicates that two sources were not aware of any individuals from the Los Angeles area who planned to participate in UFWOC activities in Washington, D.C., from September 26 to October 1.

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