In the history of human enterprise, there can have been no more benevolent employer than the University of California in the 1960s and ’70s, yet to hear my father and his English-department pals talk about the place, you would have thought they were working at the Triangle shirtwaist factory. ...
I spent a lot of my free time working for the United Farm Workers.
Everything about the UFW and its struggle was right-sized for a girl: it involved fruits and vegetables, it concerned the most elementary concepts of right and wrong, it was something you could do with your mom, and most of your organizing could be conducted just outside the grocery store, which meant you could always duck inside for a Tootsie Pop. The cement apron outside a grocery store, where one is often accosted—in a manner both winsome and bullying—by teams of Brownies pressing their cookies on you, was once my barricade and my bully pulpit.
In fact, no one could be more irrelevant to the California of today, and particularly to its poor, Hispanic immigrant population, than Chavez. He linked improvement of workers’ lives to a limitation on the bottomless labor pool, but today, low-wage, marginalized, and exploited workers from Mexico and Central America number not in the tens of thousands, as in the ’60s, but in the millions. Globalization is the epitome of capitalism, and nowhere is it more alive than in California.