“It’s ironic that those who till the soil, cultivate and harvest the fruits, vegetables, and other foods that fill your tables with abundance have nothing left for themselves.” – Cesar Chavez
“Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world.” – Dolores Huerta
“Organizing is providing people with the opportunity to become aware of their own capabilities and potential.” – Fred Ross, Sr.
The United Farm Workers (UFW) was created in 1962 through the close collaboration that developed between Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and Fred Ross, Sr. This movement created meaningful change for Latino, Filipino and African American workers.
The UFW continues to this day throughout California and Oregon focusing on equity and access higher wages and better working conditions. This stalwart organization had its beginning when Fred Ross Sr., a grassroots organizer, met Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta who were intensely focused on chang- ing the deplorable conditions of farm workers.
Fred Ross was born in 1910 and grew up in Los Angeles, California. In 1937, with little employment during the Great Depression, Ross accepted a job with the State Relief Organization doing social work. Later he quit that job and worked for Farm Security Administration where Ross encountered dire poverty.
In 1947 Saul Alinsky, founder of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), hired Fred Ross as an organizer. Fred then formed the Community Service Organization (CSO) in Los Angeles. Fred’s key strategy was to hold “house meetings” and helped 50,000 migrant workers to obtain citizenship.
In 1952 Ross was introduced to Cesar Chavez. Their relationship was awkward at first and trusting of the “gringo” came slowly. Ultimately Chavez said, “Fred Ross did such a good job explaining how poor people could build power, I could taste it.”
Dolores Huerta was born in New Mexico in 1930. Just as Cesar Chavez she was raised with a deep spiritual background. Huerta was committed to justice and equality, and she became the common glue that solidified the friendship of Chavez and Ross.