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Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW, and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century [Hardcover]

by Randy Shaw
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 17, 2008 0520251075 978-0520251076 1
Cesar Chavez is the most prominent Latino in United States history books, and much has been written about Chavez and the United Farm Worker's heyday in the 1960s and '70s. But left untold has been their ongoing impact on 21st century social justice movements. Beyond the Fields unearths this legacy, and describes how Chavez and the UFW's imprint can be found in the modern reshaping of the American labor movement, the building of Latino political power, the transformation of Los Angeles and California politics, the fight for environmental justice, and the burgeoning national movement for immigrant rights. Many of the ideas, tactics, and strategies that Chavez and the UFW initiated or revived—including the boycott, the fast, clergy-labor partnerships and door-to-door voter outreach—are now so commonplace that their roots in the farmworkers' movement is forgotten.

This powerful book also describes how the UFW became the era's leading incubator of young activist talent, creating a generation of skilled alumni who went on to play critical roles in progressive campaigns. UFW volunteers and staff were dedicated to furthering economic justice, and many devoted their post-UFW lives working for social change. When Barack Obama adopted “Yes We Can” as his 2008 campaign theme, he confirmed that the spirit of “Si Se Puede” has never been stronger, and that it still provides the clearest roadmap for achieving greater social and economic justice in the United States.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Bay Area community organizer Shaw (Reclaiming America) examines the enduring influence of the United Farm Workers model of grassroots organization, which he pointedly credits with the majority of labors successes since the 1960s and a wellspring of 21st-century movements for democratic rights. He retells the story of Cesar Chavez and the UFWs unprecedented success in mobilizing a broad coalition as well as winning political clout and material gains for workers through such tactics as boycotts, appeals to spiritual values, fasting and community-centered organizing. Shaw describes a generation of young activists passing through the UFWs crucible of idealism, sacrifice and individual initiative, and into a lifetime of service to social justice causes; indeed, it was the very success of the UFWs campaigns that contributed, ironically, to a gradual power drain on the union in the 1980s. Leading organizers and political strategists like Susan Sachen and Marshall Ganz went on to work for other unions like SEIU or were hired away by mainstream electoral campaigns. Finally, Shaw evaluates the capacities of todays labor movement to build on the UFWs legacy of self-directed, on-the-ground training, political solidarity and far-reaching social idealism. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“A seminal new work not only for historians and devotees of the Chicano Movement, and the UFW in particular, but for all those working for progressive causes.”
(Susan Marie Green The Sixties 2010-06-23)

“Invaluable for anyone interested in the evolution of unionization over the past forty years.”
(T. A. Frank The Washington Monthly 2009-03-01)

“A useful resource for anyone interested in organizing, activism, or social movements.”
(Misslaura Daily Kos 2008-10-26)

“Examines the enduring influence of the United Farm Workers’ model of grassroots organization.” Starred Review
(Publishers Weekly 2008-11-17)

“A thoughtful, informative, and provocative book.”
(Juan R. Garc���a Journal Amer Ethnic History 2012-06-01)

“Invaluable for anyone interested in the evolution of unionization over the past forty years.”
(The Washington Monthly 2011-06-03)

“Shows the enduring value of the UFW’s approach . . . on the job and in the community.”
(Bill Knight Labor 2010-06-28)

“[An] important study.”
(Steve Early Z Magazine 2008-12-01)

“Shows the enduring value of the UFW’s approach . . . on the job and in the community.”
(Bill Knight Labor 2010-07-01)

A serious and reflective account.
(Labor Studies Journal 2011-03-31)

“Shaw’s book provides valuable history to guide activists in the battles to come, and is an inspiring read.”
(Chris Tiedemann Talking Union Blog 2009-03-10)

“A useful resource for anyone interested in organizing, activism, or social movements.”
(Misslaura Vot3r Blog 2008-10-27)

“Shaw does a stellar job of writing the history of the UFW and its key figures.”
(Victor Corral Colorlines: Race Culture Action 2009-01-01)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (September 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520251075
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520251076
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #540,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping Account of Fight for Social Justice January 5, 2009
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. For me, its greatest strength lies in the author's ability to describe organizing struggles from the past and make them feel fresh and immediate. The "Yes We Cane" chapter (which documents a labor battle in Florida) in particular was a page turner, something rare and difficult to accomplish with historical subject matter.

I also think the author accomplishes one of his stated goals, which was to canonize the important work of these UFW activists - work I would've never known about had I not read this book. The breadth and depth of information uncovered by the author is unbelievable. An all-around excellent read.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Beyond the Fields follows in the tradition of Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States by providing little known history about the UFW, its organizing tactics and its profound legacy on political activism in America over the past four decades. The book provides a historic overview of the UFW, its leaders-- particularly Cesar Chavez--, its achievements and the lasting impact of tactics developed and used by the UFW on political organizing around the country. Many of the stories of post-UFW social justice struggles in the book are riveting, including the Justice for Janitors campaign in Miami and a history of the national movement for immigrant rights. The book is particularly timely now because of the use of UFW organizing strategies in the ground game to elect Barack Obama. Great as it will be to have Obama in the White House, Obama's election isn't a magic solution to the country's many and deep social problems. Shaw's book provides valuable history to guide activists in the battles to come.
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