Sunday, January 15, 2006

UFW second response re: Miriam Pawel

Puzzled by Miriam Pawel’s L.A. Times series
            We are grateful to the hundreds of good people who know our work and have contacted us expressing outrage at Miriam Pawel’s recent series in the Los Angeles Times. For a few, the articles have raised concerns, and we appreciate you contacting us directly so we can answer any questions. Please email us at and we will respond.
            • Pawel’s main premise—that the United Farm Workers is “failing to organize California farm workers”—is directly contradicted by reporting from no less than 22 Los Angeles Times reporters and two columnists between April 25, 1994 (when the current UFW organizing drive began) and Sept. 23, 2005.  These stories chronicle substantial UFW organizing, election, strike and boycott activities plus new union contracts and legislative victories.
            Either all the stories by those L.A. Times reporters are wrong or Pawel’s stories are wrong. They both can’t be right. There is a long list of accomplishments and facts in that L.A. Times coverage raising serious questions about Pawel’s reporting.  Please see citations for just 48 of the 1994-2005 news articles and columns by Times writers on UFW activities by subject matter with headlines, reporters’ names and dates at
• Among other things, L.A. Times stories from 1994 to 2005 chronicle:
—A string of UFW election victories and campaigns to win contracts, with workers at 32 companies voting for the union in secret ballot elections and dozens of important UFW contract successes, including the largest strawberry, rose, winery and mushroom firms in California and the nation.
           —Fierce grower resistance to farm worker organizing.
           —The UFW’s major organizing campaign among Central Valley table grape workers last summer that produced modest pay hikes and a near win in the largest private-sector union election in the nation last year, at Giummara.
           —New laws and regulations aiding farm workers the UFW won since 1999, from seat belts in farm labor vehicles and fresh protections for farm workers cheated by farm labor contractors to an historic binding mediation law and new pesticide protections for farm workers. The UFW even convinced Republican Gov. Schwarzenegger in 2005 to issue an emergency regulation to prevent further heat deaths of farm workers and all outdoor employees.
            • If Pawel was telling the full story of the UFW and the Farm Worker Movement, her writing would have reflected it.  You decide:
            —Tuesday’s story totaled 121 column inches.  Only 5 inches contained facts or perspective provided by the UFW.
            —Monday’s article was 135.5 column inches. Just 8.5 inches were from the Farm Worker Movement.
            —Sunday’s story was 132 column inches. Only 10 inches were from the Farm Worker Movement.
We plan to take these facts and much more to the editors of the L.A. Times and demand the full story of the UFW, Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement be told. We’re never satisfied with the progress we have made. But we’re proud of what we have accomplished and remain committed to overcoming the many challenges we face. We hope you will join us. Please send your letter to the editor of the L.A. Times if you have not already done so. (A much more detailed refutation is being prepared and we will share it with you.)