In September 1962, the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) convened its first convention in Fresno, California, initiating a multiracial movement that would result in the creation of United Farm Workers and the first contracts for farm workers in the state of California. Led by Cesar Chavez, the union contributed a number of innovations to the art of social protest, including the most successful consumer boycott in the history of the United States. Chavez often referred to the boycott as “capitalism in reverse” for its power to turn ordinary shoppers into union allies.
Garcia discusses the accomplishments of the movement, including the benefits gained through the formation of a diverse organization that welcomed contributions from numerous ethnic and racial groups, men and women, young and old. For a time, the UFW was the realization of Martin Luther King Jr.’s beloved community. Garcia demonstrates that the community became increasingly difficult to maintain for Chavez as the state of California became more involved in adjudicating labor disputes in the mid-1970s. Although Chavez and the UFW ultimately failed to establish a permanent union, the boycott offers important lessons to those wishing to build a new food justice movement today.