Friday, July 18, 2008

Was Obama Advisor Ganz "Kicked Out" by Cesar Chavez?

Did Ganz Stage an Overthrow of Cesar Chavez?

The Official Web Page of the United Farm Workers of America

"Marshall Ganz was kicked out for trying to stage an overthrow of the Unions leadership because he had a difference of opinion. differences of opinion are respected, internal overthrows are not. Pawel says that the "purge" was about control for Cesar when in fact it was about control for Ganz who wanted to be a great leader like Cesar."


The Official Web Page of the United Farm Workers of America

In a message dated 1/12/2006 3:50:07 P.M. Pacific Standard Time,

Dear Editor,

I have been following your recent four part series "UFW: A Broken Contract" very closely and am upset about the irresponsible journalism by the Writer Miriam Pawel. The piece poses itself as responsible investigative journalism but reeks of opinion, misinformation, personal ties between the writer and interviewees, and political agenda. I take issue with such a four part attack being published on the front page of such a major and respected newspaper like the L.A. Times which commits itself to responsible journalism. I also have many issues with the piece itself and the information it provides.

First of all I take issue with the first day of the attack in which Ms. Pawel criticizes the UFW's attempt to build a Pan-Latino movement and not just organize workers in the fields. This effort should not be criticized but commended especially as the Latino population continues to grow and become the majority of the population in the sate of California. the need for social change in our state and our communities is not limited to just the agricultural fields. A vision and focus on the bigger picture is respectable and not to be criticized. Just as Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King jr. had visions of social change that stretched past the fields of California and the segregated south, so too do today's leaders of the UFW share a vision of larger social change that reaches across the country to all levels of society. positive change for the entire Latino population is positive change for the farm as well. secondly, Ms pawel criticizes the union for building political clout. without political clout and the ability to lobby, legislative change is difficult if not next to impossible. Most unions contribute funds to candidates but how many actually have the ability to run campaigns for a candidate in areas where the Union has strong support? the UFW's ability to actually do something like that should not be considered entrepreneurial or viewed as a money making venture. rather, it should be viewed as a testament to the work the union has done over the years to build its political base so that it can run campaigns and be a force in state politics. it is to be commended not criticized.

Another issue I have with the first part of the attack written by Pawel is her criticism of the UFW's Radio Campesina network of radio stations throughout the southwest. Clearly as a top columnist and editor for the times Ms. Pawel is aware of the power and ability of media to reach the masses. if she wasn't she would not have wasted her time writing such a slanderous piece and placing it in a four part series on the front page of a major publication like the times. however, her criticism ignores the power of media and the UFW's leadership's ability to recognize the power of media in reaching people especially in the era of information. having the Radio Campesina network gives the union the unique opportunity to be able to reach listeners and supporters throughout the state and the southwest. this ability is especially important during election years and boycotts and is an ability many unions or organizations would love to have especially given the importance of media and its role in shaping the world we live in. during the age of information and high speed media in which news reaches viewers, listeners, and readers faster than ever the UFW should be commended for its successful radio network and not attacked.

In the second day of the attack, Pawel attacks the UFW's fundraising efforts and paints the Chavez family as corrupt individuals that embezzle funds. the family breakdown of who does what and what their roles are look like a mafia organization breakdown. this is wrong! this is slanderous. these are people who have dedicated their lives to the movement created by their father. many of them could have gone on and been highly successful in many other fields. instead they stick by the cause and strive to build economic and social justice. Pawel criticizes the union for having about a dozen family members as paid staff but does not make any mention of the fact that these people have been with the UFW since their childhood. she also does not mention what a small percentage these family members comprise compared to the over 400 other paid staff the UFW has on its payroll. she paints the picture as if the Chavez family is a group of millionaires living high up in the Tehachapi mountains in big expensive houses when in fact they live only a short walk away from the humble house they grew up in. in regards to the amount of money they actually make as salary, Pawel acknowledges that the Chavez's make less than similar officers in comparable organizations. of course this acknowledgement gets only one sentence and is nestled in the four page attack. clearly her intentions for the second day of the attack are to hurt the UFW's monetary support base and discourage others from making donations to the UFW. Pawel says that they exploit the image of the founder to get rich when in fact they invoke his name to build a bigger support base. Pawel does the only exploiting. she exploits information and quotes to enrich her political agenda and her reputation as a hard hitting journalist. the UFW should be commended for its ability to fundraise the way it does not attacked!

In the third day of the attack Pawel claims that the problems facing the UFW began 30 years ago when many of its new leaders were "purged". In fact, the problems that face the UFW have been around since before the UFW was ever founded and are the reason that all previous attempts to organize agricultural workers had failed. the problems that face the union and make their ability to organize difficult have nothing to do with the removal of Marshall Ganz or Eliseo Medina. instead the problems stem from a constant influx of new workers creating a high turnover rate in the fields, the unwillingness of growers to negotiate contracts or make concessions to workers, lack of public awareness and support, opposition to labor from governors Reagan, Wilson, and now Schwarzenegger, and the lack of politicians willing to make a stand in the capital. Furthermore, she questions the UFW's and Cesar's leadership in the late 70's when the union was height its peak calling Cesar "erratic". having a bigger picture that stretches beyond the fields is not erratic leadership and it is wrong for Pawel to characterize such a great leader and icon like Cesar Chavez in such a negative light. he had a vision and although people like Ganz may not of understood his vision it was still there.

Furthermore, Pawel criticizes the "purge" and says the UFW leadership had lost tough with the workers in the field because they were so far away. she sympathizes with Ganz as if he were. he might have been a good organizer but he could never have been in tough with the workers as much as Cesar was. Cesar was a farm, born from farmworkers. that is something he always has in common with the workers no matter where the UFW headquarters was. Ganz could never have that nor could he ever really understand the plight of the farmworkers because he was a college volunteer from an IVY League school on the east coast. Coincidentally Pawel is also an alumnus from the same university. its ironic how Ganz is painted as such a great leader and Cesar Chavez is painted as erratic. Furthermore, Ganz was not kicked out because of his difference of opinion. differences of opinion were and continue to be respected. that was one of the positives about playing "the game" that Cesar brought to the staff. Marshall Ganz was kicked out for trying to stage an overthrow of the Unions leadership because he had a difference of opinion. differences of opinion are respected, internal overthrows are not. Pawel says that the "purge" was about control for Cesar when in fact it was about control for Ganz who wanted to be a great leader like Cesar. he was wrong and still is wrong to this day. however, this side of the story does not get heard and does not get reported when Pawel only quotes her friends and gives one side of the story. traditionally history is written by the winners but in this case Pawel only interviewed the losers of a power struggle to paint them as victims and trash the current leadership of the UFW. part three is full of opinion but does not give both sides of the story, and as everyone knows there is two sides to every story. her story paints Chavez as erratic and sympathizes with Ganz. Cesar was a humble leader and a quiet man while Ganz did and continues to push his image and his agenda. he wanted to be Cesar but never could. Perhaps Ms. Pawel's objectivity is fogged by her ivy league connection to her friend Marshall Ganz.

The fourth day of the attack is less harsh but I still have many issues with it. the title " a success story but not in the fields" diminishes and casts aside all of the acheivements the UFW has made over the years. Eliseo medina is a success story as are many that were with the union in its early days. but why is it that he is a success story and not the Chavez family? they too came from nothing to build something great out of their lives, the only difference is they stuck with the union and are still with the union. once again the picture Pawel paints is slanted and paints one group in a positive light and the other in a very negative light. she builds up Medina so much perhaps because of her personal ties to him. any Google search will tell you that she is good friends with Medina's wife. isn't that hypocritical to criticize one groups personal ties while ignoring the fact that your personal ties are the directive force behind such slanderous attacks? perhaps because of her ties to medina, the vice-president of the SEIU, she builds him up and tears down the UFW and Chavez so that Medina can make a move against the union with declining membership? its possible.the paper says that in 1986 medina and the SEIU took over a rival union which was failing and declining in membership. he boasts " the minnow swallowed the whale". most recently the SEIU took over/merged with the United Domestic workers union (UDW). so it is entirely possible for Pawel to write such a damaging piece citing only failures and misappropriation of funds in an effort to damage one groups support base and build up the man and his group, Medina, who she has close personal ties to. she has praised his leadership abilities, she has praised his successes which should be praised and commended. but when juxtaposed with the so called failures of the other group Pawel's motivation has to be questioned. Consider the source is something people are taught to do when sifting through information and that is especially true in pawel four part attack on the UFW.

The UFW has made many achievements over the years and with such anti- labor governors as Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson such accomplishments should not be cast aside and taken for granted. with no help at the highest peaks of state government and with growers unwilling to negotiate, such small victories like forcing growers to provide toilets and drinking water for workers become big victories. it makes the big victories, like the repeal of the bracero program and the outlawing of pesticide spraying while the workers work, huge victories, especially when the state and its growers have fought tooth and nail not to give anything to the workers. Pawel points out that in real dollars workers making today's minimum wage make less than union workers at the peak of the union. but she makes no mention of the next to nothing wages the workers made before the UFW Much more than the tangible gains earned by farmworkers, the farmworker movement helped fuel the Chicano Civil Rights movement. this movement gave the older generation of Chicanos a sense of pride many never felt before and continues to give the current generation a sense of pride, hope, and direction for the future. this aspect of the movement is one that people like Pawel and Ganz can never understand.

Lastly, such an opinionated piece shows where Ms. Pawel stands politically and who her ties are with. True investigative pieces are not as agenda driven as this piece. Her body of work including her piece damaging democratic Mayor of new York City, Mario Cuomo, show her political alliances to the republican party and bring into question her motivation for writing such an attack at the beginning of an election year. Clearly her motivation is to damage the political base the UFW has in order to neutralize its effectiveness in the upcoming elections. That is called being a political pundit, a talking head, not a responsible journalist. Responsible journalism calls for a Birdseye, objective view of all of the issues at hand and does not focus solely on numbers nor the opinions of those that were kicked out of the Union for dissent. it definitely does not call for attacks to be made because of personal ties to the dissenters. as any sociologist, statistician, or newsperson will tell you, numbers and stats can be placed together to tell any story the writer wants it to Pawel's case she is well aware of that and the readers of the times need to be aware of that fact also. She tries to make the numbers speak of failure and corruption in an effort to tarnish the Chavez image and legacy in an effort to hurt future funding efforts and damage its political base. By only giving one side of the story Pawel paints the slanted picture she desire and does not give readers an accurate glance at the UFW. Perhaps opinions by volunteers that have stuck with the union and did not leave would give a more complete snapshot of the UFW instead of bitter opinions from lawyers and organizers that wanted pay raises. Perhaps Ms. Pawel should use her voice for good, and for change instead of trashing a Union that makes those efforts. perhaps she should focus her work on the Enron's and Halliburton's of the world that in fact do get rich by backroom dealings. I don't buy her piece or her story and the readers of the times shouldn't as well. attached is my name and address. if Ms Pawel so desires because of my criticism of her special report she can mail me a pigs head as she did to a Newsday columnist in 1997 for also being critical of her work. my name and address are attached.

Si Se Puede! Que Viva Cesar Chavez!

Danny Ybarra II

El Cajon, Ca 92019


Famed organizer Marshall Ganz sees history in the making

The longtime UFW activist, who was there when RFK was shot, is now putting his passion to work for Barack Obama.
By Scott Martelle, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
June 15, 2008
CAMBRIDGE, MASS. -- Forty years ago Marshall Ganz, a top field organizer for Cesar Chavez's United Farm Workers union, watched in confusion as Bobby Kennedy left a stage at Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel.

Ganz was supposed to whisk him away to thank a roomful of farmworker volunteers who had just helped him win the 1968 California Democratic presidential primary. But Kennedy was heading toward the kitchen.

Before Ganz could catch up, the room erupted in screams and yells. Robert F. Kennedy had been shot.

"Talk about feeling history just falling through your fingers," Ganz said.

Ganz is sitting at his kitchen table as he tells the story, one in a series of personal narratives from his life as a rabbi's son in 1950s Bakersfield, a civil rights worker in Mississippi in the 1960s and, later, a key figure in the United Farm Workers' boycotts.

They are stories of faith and betrayal, love and hate, hope and disillusionment.

And if Barack Obama succeeds in his historic quest for the White House, the Illinois senator will owe a large debt to Ganz's passion for such narratives -- and for the way this graying, portly man taught Obama's top field organizers to weave thousands of individual volunteers' stories into a social movement.

Ganz, 65, has no official role in the Obama campaign. But when key Obama organizers run into a problem, they look to Ganz, who teaches organizing and leadership at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

When the Obama campaign held a series of "Camp Obama" training sessions around the country last summer, Ganz was brought in to hold two-day discussions of personal narrative and leadership.

Campaign officials estimate that 200 to 300 organizers were trained at about a dozen Camp Obamas -- three of them co-led by Ganz.

The effort's biggest success came in caucus states like Iowa, where tightknit organizations were better able to get people to the meeting sites.

But grass-roots efforts also paid off in South Carolina and Wisconsin and helped keep the margin small in Indiana.

Ganz's "style of organizing really does speak to who Barack is as a candidate," said Obama field organizer Buffy Wicks, 30, who ran the campaign's grass-roots efforts in California and Texas.

"Marshall really believes in empowering people and teaching them how to become community organizers."

Maggie Fleming, who attended a Camp Obama last summer, said: "Marshall is able to bring this bigger picture of his work with civil rights and with the farmworkers and [connect] people to this idea that this is bigger than just one candidate."

Fleming, 28, the assistant director of a nonprofit environmental education group, later helped form the core of Obama's grass-roots committee in Oakland.

Ganz encourages volunteers to share their own life stories with voters, in the belief that by speaking from the heart, they turn the tedious -- phone-banking, door-knocking -- into a communal mission. It's not policy but passion that he teaches.

"It's counterintuitive," Ganz said. "At Camp Obama the tendency is, 'I need to know all of the arguments.' No. You need to learn to talk from your own experiences. It's a very empowering thing."

For Ganz too. He sees the campaign as a chance to turn back the hands of time.



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