|She sees white people!|
Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez is a racist. It isn't a charge I like bandying about -- because it so often misused and because I think that consideration of race is a most un-American of charges, but I submit to you, ladies and gentlemen, the evidence so that you might make your own estimation. Here's the quotation:
“The Vietnamese and the Republicans are, with an intensity, trying to take this seat from which we have done so much for our community — to take this seat and give it to this Van Tran, who is very anti-immigrant and very anti-Hispanic.” [Emphasis added].Yes, you read that right. Former Assemblyman Van Tran, born in Saigon, South Vietnam, is anti-immigrant. Sanchez, born in Lynnewood, California, is presumably pro-immigrant. Of course what Sanchez really means is that Tran is anti-illegal immigrant, while she is for him. In the days of old, we called this treason; in 2011, we call it Democratic race politics. And it worked -- Sanchez was re-elected, despite her race-baiting.
Sanchez isn't finished, though.
This Monday, at Pomona College, she talked about how she met Cesar Chavez, who is an "icon of the world," over lunch. For Sanchez, Chavez is a "very unassuming man, but obviously a very strong and very incredible for us, really for a lot of the Latinos, the Martin Luther King of our culture." She called for a national holiday for Cesar Chavez and blamed the Republicans for considering Chavez a union leader and not a great civil rights leader. "The reality was that he was really a great civil rights leader," says Sanchez.
She also called former Congressman Bob Dornan, from whom she allegedly stole an election, "one of the meanest men ever to serve in Congress." She argues that she was targeted by the House of Representatives because she "was a woman and a Latina." She then rattled off of the various ethnic-Americans she has in office and criticized the lack of diversity in Washington. It's always "Anglo-males," she lamented. She says she "gasped" when she came to Congress and saw it was full of white men. Heaven forbid.
You can watch the video of all of that here, thanks to the OC Weekly Blog.
Untitled from LatinoPolitics on Vimeo.
In this hagiography for Chavez, Sanchez forgets that Chavez was, by her standards, "anti-immigrant."
In the end, he robbed the laborers of wages – you don’t get paid when you are striking all the time – that helped drive small growers out of business and forcing them to sell to larger agribusinesses, which led almost inexorably to the mechanization of the fruit industry.
Chavez, as a union boss, faced the classic union dilemma: how do I drive up wages quickly but guarantee that the labor you claim to represent won’t be replaced?
Chavez never came up with a good answer to this dilemma. Instead he demanded that everyone in Great Central Valley in California be unionized. When the growers didn’t like this deal, they found alternatives around it.
John Gregory Dunne, the famous fiction writer, recounts how easy it was to ignore Chavez and the federal government.
The strike against Guimarra [one of the major grape growing companies] proved one thing – there wasn’t a picket line in the world that could force a grower to agree to a contract. It was next to impossible to certify a strike. Workers who were pulled out were readily replaced by scabs and green-carders—foreign nationals (in this case Mexicans) with U.S. work permits, or green cards. The pickers were usually out of town working at another farm before the applicable state agencies even arrived to verify their departure. Though green-carders were legally enjoined against working in a strike situation, they were free to work if no strike had been certified.Chavez didn’t recognize that he was beat and tried to stop stores from buying the Guimarra label. He accomplished this boycott by using the media and Democrat politicians, like Robert Kennedy who were sympathetic to his cause. Guimarra responded by “borrowing labels from other growers and using them in place of its own.” (Dunne, 101)
…it simply defied all logic for a picker to go out on strike. However grandiose (by growers standards) a picker’s hourly wage, his annual income was barely at subsistence level, if indeed that high. Given that picking is one of the most miserable jobs known to man, it is usually – for whatever social or cultural reasons – the best a picker can hold. So no matter how much he favored the union, he would have had to be a sainted fanatic to go on strike and further heighten both his own and his family’s level of misery. (John Gregory Dunne, “Memento Delano” in Regards: The Selected Nonfiction of John Gregory Dunne, p.100)
By Chavez’s count, Guimara was using 105 different labels by the end of 1967. He decided to retaliate and extended his boycott beyond Guimarra to include every California grower of table grapes.
Upset that the growers had not caved, many UFWOC members turned towards violence. Here’s how Dunne describes it.
The imperceptible erosion of the growers’ position was not particularly heady to union militants steeped in the literature of the headlines, the combat communiqués from the core cities. There was a new truculence in the air; packing crates were burned, tired slashed, scabs roughed up. Chavez was not unaware of the nascent violence. Late in February 1968, he quietly began a penitential fast to redirect the movement back onto its nonviolent course. Only on the sixth day of the fast did he alert aides to what he was doing. No one had to be apprised of its exploitative potential. (Dunne, 101)The reason that the myth of the UFWOC strike sells so well stems from the heartstrings it pulls. Dunne described the difficulties the growers experienced during the 1969 recession. With inflation high and their own debts soaring, the increased likelihood that they would have to sell their property to larger agribusinesses. We know now that many of them did just that. Chavez drove them out of business.
Of course none of this is reported in the history of that period. Dunne explains that “in the summer of 1970, high interest rates did not sing like food stamps.” (104)
The pressures against unionization provided too strong. Economics beat out social justice. Dunn describes it:
“In the narrowest sense, a union of farm workers can only lighten its members’ burden of misery. The figures are simply too relentless. … There is simply too little future in farm work. While farms grown bigger and productivity increases, the number of farm workers steadily declines. … Two years ago [written in ‘71], less than two percent of the wine grapes in Fresno County were harvested by machine; the estimate for 1971 is more than 30 percent… It is estimated that mechanical pickers will cost Fresno County farm workers nearly $2 million in wages during 1971 and that by 1973 some 4,500 heads of families will be displaced by machines.” (110)