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I Don't Know * Silence * Positive Deviance * Premonitions & The Extraordinary * The Transcendentalists Club

I Don't Know, But Maybe We Do

The year is 1966. The grape fields of California are ablaze with conflict and tension. Cesar Chavez and his fledgling United Farm Workers are seeking negotiations through collective bargaining elections with the DiGiorgio Corporation—the largest grower of table grapes in the nation. Many new workers are frightened, already indentured by the company who paid their way from Mexico and now living in DiGiorgio’s labor camps. They support their brothers and sisters in the United Farm Workers who are seeking a better life, but they have children to feed and no passage home.

The farm labor camps, row on row of cinder block housing, are located on company property. There are watchtowers overlooking the camps, silent reminders of earlier days when the Japanese were interned in these same buildings during World War IIII. There are no longer guards in the towers but there are guards at the gates. Because the camps are on private property,
United Farm Worker organizers have been barred from entry—barred from engaging in conversations with the workers inside—barred from discussing the workers’ democratic rights under the law to vote for the United Farm Workers to represent them in conversations with the growers. A paradox—workers have the right to vote in the first election in agricultural history but not the means to share in the conversation needed to make an informed choice on behalf of a better life for themselves and their families.

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