Organizing 101, courtesy of the United Farm Workers

This year the United Farm Workers (UFW) turns 50. To help celebrate this important milestone and reflect on the union’s historic role in bringing justice and dignity into the farm fields, the UFW has launched a campaign to collect stories from supporters about their connection with this vibrant workers’ union.

Our Research Director, Erin Johansson, first worked as an organizer for UFW in San Francisco. She took the time to share with us a humorous anecdote that also conveys the deep commitment of those who have been mobilized, politicized, organized, and inspired by the UFW.

There is no better way to test the commitment of workers’ rights supporters than accidentally losing them on the way to visit a workplace.  This was one of many lessons I learned while on staff with the United Farm Workers.

My first official job out of college was with the UFW. My primary task as an  organizer was to mobilize community support for strawberry pickers, who were trying to form a union at the time. I had recruited a great group of workers’ rights supporters from the Bay Area faith community to take a tour of several strawberry farms so they could take a first-hand look at labor conditions. Or that was the plan. I unwittingly drove half of them on a two-hour detour through San Jose – in an era before cell phones, GPS, and MapQuest!  Upon our eventual arrival at the farms in Watsonville, California, much to my surprise, the abandoned half of the group greeted me with great relief and happiness that we were okay.  The faith leaders stuck in the car with me were also willing to carry on, and so we completed every stop on our trip.  They were a tired but committed group!

I gained both a sense of direction, and more seriously, an incredible foundation of organizing skills from the UFW that I still carry with me today at American Rights at Work.  And I am still fighting to ensure that all workers have rights and respect at work, including those men and women in the California strawberry fields.

We hope you enjoy Erin’s memories of working for UFW. Click here to read other stories, and share your anecdotes on UFW’s interactive website.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 11:23 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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