United Farm Workers at 50: Does this legendary union still matter?

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UFW merchandise for sale at the convention

This weekend, United Farm Workers’ delegates gathered in a convention hall in Bakersfield to observe the 50th anniversary of the union and celebrate the life and achievements of UFW founder Cesar Chavez. In the 1960s and 70s, the UFW made labor history by organizing poor and exploited farm workers across California and the Southwest, a group of workers that were once viewed as impossible to organize. It was work that turned Chavez into one of the most identifiable figures in organized labor and the face of the Mexican-American civil rights movement.

But over the past two decades membership in the UFW has plummeted to fewer than 5,000 members, and many say the union has lost it’s clout and hunger to organize.  This weekend’s convention was used by the union as a way to honor its past, while also sending the signal that it was still relevant. I drove up to Bakersfield to see how the UFW is doing more than three decades after its greatest victories.

There are over 400,000 farm workers in California, only a small percentage of them are unionized
Marc Grossman, a long-time aide and spokesman for Cesar Chavez, in Chavez's Office

Below, tour Chavez’ office with Marc Grossman.

2,000 delegates attended the UFW convention
Writer Luis Valdez on stage at the convention
UFW veterans were honored during the convention
UFW merchandise for sale at the convention