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Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers Hardcover – October 24, 2011

5.0 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

Trampling Out the Vintage serves as both a cautionary and inspirational tale that delimits the profound reach of grassroots field organizing, while also detailing the inward-looking drift of a labor leadership that wound up crowding out the key concerns of the union's own members. Bardacke, a former social-justice activist, farmworker, and labor educator, is a deft and sensitive storyteller, and he's produced an affecting portrait of both Chavez and the rank-and-file agricultural workers who aided his rise to power. —Richard Greenwald


“Bardacke is a talented writer, burning with rage against injustice, and his subject is one of the most attractive and charismatic figures US politics has produced.”—Francis Beckett, Guardian

“An ... intelligent, thorough history. [Chavez’s] truth is marching on.”—The Economist

“[M]agnificent and tragic history... Bardacke’s enormously insightful and nuanced book thus radically reconfigures the social, political, and moral narrative with which most Americans have understood the history of the farm worker movement and its leadership.”—Nelson Lichtenstein, Dissent

“[T]he first comprehensive history of the rise and fall of the UFW, written from the viewpoint of the farmworkers who vitalized the movement known as ‘La Causa.’”—Eric Brazil, San Francisco Chronicle

“The best history ever written of the United Farm Workers (UFW) and Cesar Chavez. Certain to become a classic of U.S. working class history.”—Michael Yates, Upside Down World

“Frank Bardacke has written the comprehensive history of the United Farm Workers, a definitive biography of Cesar Chavez and a magnificent guide to the politics and sociology of the 1960s-80s. Deserves #1 ranking as best labor history of the year.”—Saul Landau, Daily Censored

“A radically honest, uncompromising and often painful deconstruction of the legend of Cesar Chavez, Trampling Out the Vintage is one of the long-awaited books of our time. Having spent almost a decade as an agricultural worker in California’s Pajaro Valley (where he still lives), Bardacke’s account evokes the spirit of Steinbeck, resurrecting the true heroes of La Causa—the rank and file fieldworkers—and reminding us that the grapes of wrath still remain to be harvested for social justice.”—Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums and City of Quartz

Trampling Out the Vintage is the view of a well- informed observer who worked in the lettuce fields near Salinas for six seasons, then spent another 25 years teaching English to farm workers in the Watsonville, CA area. His views on the growth and decline of the United Farm Workers union—some of which I do not share—offer important points of history and reflection for unionists today, particularly those working with the Occupy Wall Street movement ... provides several insights not previously developed in well informed books on the UFW.”—Duane Campbell, Talking Union, a Project of the DSA Labor Network

“Bardacke is a top investigative reporter with a refreshing clarity of style who employs the careful documentation of a trained historian.”—Mark Day, Salinas Californian

“[T]he most complete account yet of the rise and fall of the UFW. It is also an epic, Shakespearean drama with all of the elements of a Hollywood blockbuster. Bardacke masters an enormous amount of material to relate these events skillfully. He salts his prose with stories and characters straight out of Steinbeck.”—Marty Manley, Jam Side Down

“There’s so much marvelous stuff in Frank Bardacke’s book that’s simply not been done before. At the book’s core are the men and women who pick the crops in California’s fields and orchards. Bardacke gives those people, mostly seen only in distant fields, a huge presence, one crackling with political vitality: those surges the UFW had no idea were coming; those moments when a strike spread like wildfire across the fields. Here are the farm workers, their skill and endurance, the world they built among themselves, the ways they shaped the history of the UFW. It is their story—refreshingly, sympathetically, and beautifully told—that makes this book stand apart and will make it stand forever.”—Alexander Cockburn, coauthor of Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press

“Frank Bardacke’s long-awaited masterpiece has finally arrived, and it’s the kind of book that comes along only once in a generation, if we’re lucky. Not only is the research spectacular, but Bardacke has a rare ability to combine a nuanced analysis of the United Farm Workers as a social movement with a mastery of the political economy of California agriculture. Best of all, he’s a superb writer, who’s constructed a gripping tale full of complex characters including Catholic activists, community organizers, Chicano youth, Filipino veteran activists, white liberals, the ever-enigmatic Cesar Chavez, and most importantly, rank-and-file farmworkers themselves, who finally enter the story of the UFW as savvy and opinionated activists with their own vision of empowerment Bardacke makes you feel the exhilaration and challenges of the UFW story at every turn.”—Dana Frank, Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz

“It is the human beings that come alive here—union officials, organizers and workers—with their foibles, rivalries, and triumphs. We should not be surprised to learn that beyond his saintly portrayal, the singular and remarkable Cesar Chavez emerges as a hugely complex individual with a full range of all too human traits. An extraordinary book about an extraordinary movement and man, and a story as inspiring as it is tragic.”—Douglas Monroy, author of The Borders Within: Encounters between Mexico and the US

“In the era of so many book-a-year authors, Trampling Out the Vintage has a lifetime-achievement feel ... [It] skillfully tells the dramatic story of the rise and fall of the UFW, but what makes this a landmark book is its emphasis on the rank-and-file leaders, who are too often obscured by the long shadow cast by Chavez. It is these workers who are the heroes of Bardacke’s book—workers whose leadership was essential to the union’s success, and whose betrayal contributed to its eventual demise.”—Gabriel Thompson, The Nation

“If you buy one book this year, the book you won’t go wrong paying cash money for is Frank Bardacke’s just released Trampling Out The Vintage, the first book I’ve read in years that lives up to every pre-release superlative applied to it. It got me right from the first page, and it’s been years since I read anything that has captured my scattered attentions so thoroughly as this history of the United Farm Workers—not that “history of the United Farm Workers” even begins to describe this riveting book’s fascinating contents. If Bardacke had introduced himself as Ishmael and proceeded to write in the first person we’d be talking about a novel right up there with Moby Dick. Trampling Out The Vintage is not only the best all-round book ever written about farm labor that I’m aware of—and I’ve read all of Carey McWilliams and the rest of the “Factories in the Fields” books—this one is the kind of true history that reads like a great novel, with a large cast of fascinating and often improbable characters, plus the first detailed descriptions of farm work ever written, and intimate portraits of large figures like Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, the late Walter Reuther, the Kennedys, Chuck Diedrich and the so-called human potential movement, Catholic mysticism, campesino theater, and on and on. Everything related to this great movement is in this book, including its entirely readable history of farm labor struggle pre-dating Chavez. Bardacke, fluent in Spanish and a former farmworker himself, has devoted his life to Trampling Out The Vintage, and he really has achieved an absolute masterpiece—an accessible masterpiece, too—not a dry history that has you nodding off at the introduction (Bardacke’s intro is worth the price of admission by itself) and dead asleep a couple of pages in. If you think I’m wrong about it I’ll refund your purchase price. [Chosen as Best Book of the Year.]”—Anderson Valley Advertiser

“In his superb new book Frank Bardacke reports that by the 1970s, UFW organizing had gotten so strong that wages on some highly skilled farmworker crews earned $12 per hour—’more than 48 dollar in today’s money. Even the lowest-paid field workers in the late 1970s made more than one and a half times the minimum wage.’”—Tom Philpott, Mother Jones

“[A] detailed and impeccably researched history of the UFW ... a clear-eyed narrative and analysis of the successes and mistakes made by a group of men and women trying to organize a section of the US working class notoriously difficult to organize. [A]n expansive, readable study of one of the more meaningful struggles of the twentieth century and an instruction book for anyone interested in organizing workers to regain the wealth that they create.”—Ron Jacobs, International Socialist Review

“The UFW has been scrutinized recently but no writer approaches the breadth and depth that Bardacke achieves ... notable for its view of working class democracy and the need for strong base organization in labor unions and movements. There is much to learn about, to grieve, and to celebrate in this opus written by our union colleague Frank Bardacke.”—Tom Edminster, California Teacher

“You can take little sections out of the book and they’re the best thing ever written on the subject.”—Harold Meyerson, judge, Hillman Prize for Book Journalism

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 848 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (October 24, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844677184
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844677184
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #754,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a landmark volume: Bardacke has delivered the most important history of Mexican-American unionism as well as the most detailed history of workplace life in any major US business since David Montgomery's works of the 1960s-80s. Trampling Out the Vintage is also the poignant tale of an icon imploded, Cesar Chavez pulling down the UFW with him, or being pulled down by the impossibility of organizing agricultural labor. Bardacke, a 1960s Berkeley campus leader who took to the fields and personally introduced the long-handled hoe in Watsonville, interviewed hundreds of UFW activists and catches the nuances that only oral history can reach. It's an incredible book.
Paul Buhle
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Format: Hardcover
I have been studying and writing about the United Farm Workers since the 1970s. This is, without a doubt, the best book ever written on the UFW, Cesar Chavez, farm workers, and farm labor. Three things set it apart from other books: 1. It pays attention to farm workers themselves, the nature of their work and their history of organization against the growers. 2. Bardacke examines the life of Chavez in greater and better detail than any one else. We see that Chavez's strategies and tactics as president of the UFW flowed naturally from his past. 3. The UFW is situated in the history of the times--the War in Vietnam, the left-liberal split, the politics of the AFL-CIO, California politics. The writing is stellar, and the depth of original research is amazing. A tour de force for certain.
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For four decades, many of us who worked as volunteers for United Farm Workers union in the 1960s wondered if someone would ever come forward to separate Cesar Chavez the man from Cesar Chavez the myth. Well, that somebody is Frank Bardacke, whose book combines the skills of a top investigative journalist with a refreshing writing style and the careful documentation of a trained historian. Bardacke shows how Chavez labored painstakingly to build his movement, then eventually dismantled it, brick by brick, until he stood alone, abandoned by his staff, his volunteers, and the farm workers he sought to serve. Trampling Out the Vintage belongs in every library and school. It should be required reading for anyone interested in social movements, labor history, and ethnic studies. Bardacke's treatment of Chavez and the UFW is both an inspiring story and a cautionary tale. I hope it sparks endless debates and discussions.

Mark R.Day

(Day is the author of Forty Acres: Cesar Chavez and the Farm Workers, Praeger: 1971)
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By Marjo Tobe on December 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a magnificent history of the California farm workers' movement. It is also just plain magnificent history, akin to Taylor Branch's Parting the Waters in its sweep, and possibly better written. Different from all the recent books on Chavez and the union because, surrounded by the larger story of the political time, at its heart are the men and women who picked the crops, fashioned the tools, struck the fields, took a stand when no one expected; worked and loved and bled to shape their own history. Chavez's story is one among many, and it's astonishing: he is brilliant and flawed, a grand strategist and a blinkered Machiavellian, and fundamentally distrustful of the workers in the fields. And are the fields also a subject here! You will never eat another stalk of celery or broccoli or a wedge of iceberg lettuce without thinking about what it took to get it from the ground to your plate. This is such a moving book, so dramatic, so heartbreaking in parts, so thrilling in others, and overall just so smart. In the stacks of social movement literature, in the stacks of historical nonfiction, it is one of the finest, most stirring and tragic books ever. People talk about instant classics; this is one of them.
Do a friend a favor, do yourself a favor, and buy it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Frank Bardacke's long-anticipated history of the rise and fall of Cesar Chavez and the United Farmworkers was worth the wait. It is a masterful piece of history, the definitive account of the UFW, and places Bardacke immediately among the finest labor historians of our time. This book is not only masterful, but a labor of love that comes through on every page.

Bardacke, a respected labor activist and educator based in Watsonville California, shares little with Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, except that he too dropped out of Harvard after his freshman year and moved west to change the world. Unlike them, he joined the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and has had an abiding interest in radical politics ever since. Amazon sells a picture from this period here, taken about the time I first met him.Vintage photo of Close up of Frank Bardacke.

Bardacke became a farmworker – one of a handful of Anglos and surely one of the only former Harvard students to work the celery fields. He became fluent in Spanish and formed friendships with many of the union staff and farmworkers who appear in his book. He spent more than a decade interviewing every major participant in the drama, reading every known book on the farmworkers and scouring every archive. He received help in managing this massive project from faculty in history and politics at nearby UC Santa Cruz. The result is history as epic, almost Shakespearean drama, delivered with intelligence and compassion.
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