Friday, April 21, 2017

Talking Points to Veterans on Writing

Below are talking points I delivered to military veterans of California State University Channel Islands.

Follow directions.

Read, read, and read more. Non-fiction and fiction, short stories, op-eds, magazines (The New Yorker is a must). Charles Dickens, Harper Lee, Edgar Allen Poe (gloomy stories), Gloria Anzaldua, Rodolfo Anaya, George Orwell, Mary Twain, Willa Cather, Richard Wright.
As you read:
• Study how stories are constructed from start to finish. How do paragraphs vary? How are punctuation marks used and manipulated, especially the comma.

• Read books on writing. E.B. White's _Elements of Style_ is a good start. I loved Stephen King’s book on writing titled, _On Writing_. _The Dead Zone_ was also one of the first books I read cover to cover and scared me through the whole process.

• Increase your vocabulary and notice how ideas are conveyed, and even toyed with, by words.

•To start your writing bullet points are fine. Each bullet point can be a page or paragraph of your main idea (thesis, argument). As you move forward, tease out your ideas and then eliminate the bullets.

Writing is hard. Take if from people like Franz Kafka and Emily Dickinson who described it as painful (at least Kafka did) and wrote for themselves and not others. Kafka almost destroyed all his writings at one point. And Dickinson stashed away many of hers, only to be discovered recently--I read this in The New Yorker a few months back. I love her poem _Because I Could Not Stop for Death_. This is a reflection of my saturnine side, hence Poe.

Allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes. But at the same time be careful in what you want to communicate by way the written word. Don’t be afraid of what others might think. The hell with those who will be offended, even your friends. So write boldly, honestly, and clearly. Be vulnerable. This is what makes writing interesting.

For term papers, write drafts (more than 2-3, at least).

The outline. When do you create one? Before? As you go? Both?

Follow carefully the directions of professor’s as stated in their instruction sheets. Most spend a chingo of time creating them. It is wonder how many students ignore my instructions and as a result fall short of assignment expectations.
Furthermore, as you move forward in the development of your finished paper,:
*meet the minimum pages of writing. Keep in mind that a minimum page of required writing could and most likely will translate into, at best, a minimum passing score.

*State clearly your thesis/main Idea/theoretical framework/argument of your project. This may/will change as you develop your paper.
*One way to achieve immortality is to leave a body of writing. You never know where it may end up.

Proof read your writing, especially if you’re are a lousy keyboarder as I am. For a good example of this, see above.

In conclusion, avoid starting your writing with hackneyed phrases, especially in regards to the weather.


Sunday, April 9, 2017

No Puente Program in VC: What's Up With That?

Since returning to Ventura County in 2001, I continue to be baffled why the Ventura County Community College District fails (as well as area high school distritcts) to have a Puente Program. It has proven to significantly enhance the transfer of students to four year colleges and university. Cypress College (where I previously worked for 9 years) fought for it when I was there--thanks to the intrepid leadership of Dr. Enriqueta Ramos and MEChA. Today, Cypress College's Puente Program is strong and continues to have outstanding rates of transfer, especially when compared to the overall dismal rate of transfer in the California Community College system.

Even Puente alumni in VC don't champion this cause. What's up with that?


Monday, January 2, 2017

Trucha (Look Out): You’re Being Watched—Too!

According to Turning Point USA, I am one of two hundred professors, “who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” Consequently, by way of its dubious Professor Watchlist, TPUSA contends that its purpose is to inform alumni, parents, and students of, “specific incidents and names of professors that advance a radical agenda in lecture halls.”

But TPUSA’s insidious real aim is to intimidate and single out educators to complement President-elect Donald Trump’s rising number of like registries for their faith, in the case of Muslims, journalists, and employees within the State Department and Department of Energy who advocate, respectively, for the rights of women and the LGBT community as well as the health of our planet.

The creation of lists that target intellectuals and educators echoes loudly in history. One reverberation is described by historian Karl Dietrich Bracher in his classic work The German Dictatorship: The Origins, Structure and Effects of National Socialism (1970). Another is in the movie the Killing Fields (1984) based on New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg’s coverage of Cambodia’s civil war of the 1970s.

In the former, Hitler—who was no socialist but used the label to attract the left behind working-class of Germany—and his Nazis killed targeted professors, intellectuals, and bureaucrats that he believed threatened his regime. For the latter, a scene demonstrates how Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge tricked imprisoned teachers and other professionals into identifying themselves only to be executed by suffocation.

Lesson: thinkers threaten totalitarian rulers. So members of the intelligentsia must be branded and dealt with accordingly.

Charlie Kirk, the 25 year old Founder and Executive Director of TPUSA, culled my name for identification from a Campus Reform post written by Anthony Gockowski who utilized a cooked version of my extra-credit assignment of the spring 2016 semester for a US History survey course. Gockowski also misrepresented its guidelines.

The exercise—one of several such opportunities I offer to promote civic engagement, critical thinking, and effective writing—encouraged students to contact their assembly and senate representatives in the California legislature to express how tuition of the California State University affected them and their families.

From this experience, I envisioned first-generation college students learning to format a business letter, discover (if they did not already know) who their elected representatives in the legislature were, and understand how to petition their government for a redress of grievances, if they had any.

Contrary to Campus Reform’s mendacious blog post, my instructions did not mandate the content of student letters. As context, however, I did provide essays I wrote on the subject that argued for a fully subsidized system of public higher education.

But in the Age of Trump and his gaslighting propaganda (i.e., a program of deception and deceit) and that of his surrogates, what does truth and accuracy have to do with anything?

Despite the disingenuous spotlight of TPUSA and Campus Reform, I again offered the business letter to elected official exercise as an extra-credit option this past fall semester. Like in previous semesters, the letters articulated the economic and psychological stress that high tuition cost of the CSU places on them and their family. To stay in enrolled in college, students work longer hours, incur unforgiveable debt in the tens of thousands of dollars, and their parents and grandparents burn through college funds, often in the first year, to provide their children with a higher education that my generation enjoyed at a fraction of the cost.

And this is just for one person in a family who dares to pursue a university degree.

As a graduate of the CSU in the 1980s, I cannot imagine starting my career or continuing onto graduate school as a twenty-something year old $20,000, $30,000 or more in student loan debt. With this in mind, I wonder how many willing and able young people have decided to forego a college education altogether as a result.

But that is the goal of right-wing groups such as TPSU, Campus Reform, and their millionaire benefactors that include people and groups of the likes of investor and Donald Trump supporter Foster Freiss, in the case of TPSU, and Leadership Institute founder and also Trump supporter Morton C. Blackwell.

Like the idea of universal health care, this gaggle of Ayn Rand objectivist adherents wish to promote a market economy where oligarchs further enrich themselves in a fully privatized system of education off the backs of working-class students and parents saddled with intergenerational debt.

An educated citizenry that speaks to power, is civically engaged, and draws lessons from the past would expose the fictions that define the reality of such right-wing groups. In fact, in the late 1960s it was their demigod Ronald Reagan who proposed higher tuition costs and education budget cuts as California governor to stem student activism.

Moreover, such political conservatives dread the historical reference of a public higher education in California once being virtually free prior to the 1980s.

So what’s the solution? Like the sponsors of TPUSA and LI, people of financial means that believe that an affordable public higher education is vital to the production of an engaged and informed citizenry need to develop, fund, and support the work of the counterparts of Kirk and Gockowski. Otherwise, publicly funded systems of education, health, and retirement will be completely abolished. Gross profit margins will then be the sole priority of private sector run social services over the needs of people.

Meanwhile, I will continue my letter writing extra-credit assignment as well have my US History students study primary documents from the following list that consist: James Madison’s Federalist #10, Henry David Thoreau’s On Civil Disobedience, Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, Andrew Carnegie’s essay on Wealth, Emma Goldman and John Most’s Anarchy Defended by Anarchists, Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, and the Black Panther Party’s 10-Point Platform and Program.

Such informed dissent of the past is our only hope for a more just future.

Amigos805 LatinoLA History News Network RawStory

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

History of Professors: Stories to Connect with Students, especially First Gens. Pt. 1

California State University Channel Islands (CI) enjoys the opportunity to compete for millions of federal government dollars as a designated Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). Since 2007 over $26 million dollars have flowed into my campus via daedal grant proposals grafted by student-centered Science and Social Science professors. In addition to the augmentation of the university’s capacity to serve all students, the advancement of recruitment, retention, and graduation initiatives with HSI money is key, especially for those who are the first in their family (a.k.a, first gens) to pursue a baccalaureate degree. One way professors can undergird this errand is for them to share their life narratives as a means to tether their experiences with that of their students.
As a first gen university graduate, the family histories that my professors shared with the class allowed me to connect with them as persons with resonating tales of family trials and triumphs. For example, as an undergraduate at California State University, Fresno, Dr. John W. Bohnstedt, in a lecture on the rise of the Third Reich, shared how his family were German refugees prior to the start WWII. As a journalist married to a patriotic German Jewish woman, making his two children (Johann and his sister) Jews, Professor Bohnstedt’s father anticipated the lethal pogroms of the Nazis. Hence, as a former WWI prisoner of war in the United States, impressed by how well his captors treated its enemy, he sought refuge for his family in America. But our nation restricted the entrance of such refugees. But eventually, the Bohnstedt family entered the US in 1940 via the backdoor of Latin America, Panama specifically.

Immediately upon his matriculation into a Minnesota school, the young Johann Wolfgang Bohnstedt was no more. To commence his Americanization, campus officials renamed him John W. Bohnstedt. In 1945, he entered the US Army and eventually earned a higher education by way of the GI Bill.

These stories intrigued me. So I eagerly attended Professor Bohnstedt’s classes to hear other sagas of his ethnic, immigrant, refugee life. His German mannerisms and accent also fascinated me, especially when he addressed me with a deliberate, “Hallo, FRONK.

As he lectured, he periodically paced from each side of the classroom, slightly bent forward due to his scoliosis. In the contemplation of an idea, he placed the thumb and index finger of one hand on his chin and the palm of the other on his hip as he pulled back one side of his coat revealing the buttoned-up vest of his three-piece suit.

During a lecture on European Communism, he drolly recounted why he disliked, actually hated, communist. Apparently, when Johann was a boy, his mother and father, in need of a respite from parenting, he said, vacationed without him and his sister. So the Bohnstedt parents placed their children in the care of a nanny whose husband was a German communist. Each morning, Johann ventured to the kitchen of his caretakers for his favorite treat—a slice of headcheese. But one sunrise someone emptied the headcheese platter. Professor Bohnstedt then averred to the class, with practiced timing and a sonorous German enunciated English, “I was angry that my treat was gone. Then I thought to myself, ‘That god damned communist ate my headcheese.’” The class erupted and he smiled.

Therefore, Dr. Bohnstedt professed a history that ventured beyond the often prosaic narratives in books, or, worse, scholarly articles. His family’s story brought the events of the past to life. The movements of the World Wars of the 20 century and the era of Otto Von Bismarck, for that matter, in the 19th did not seem as distant in time as I was in the presence of a person whose grandparents most likely lived in 1870s Germany. I also learned of an immigrant experience other than that of my family’s. German Jews of the early twentieth century, similar yet at the same time different from Mexicans, were also the unwanted other in the United States who, overtime, would be incorporated into the nation’s polis. Anti-Semitism highlighted by Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass) took on a powerful resonance due to the privilege of hearing from a professor whose refugee origins was an associated result of nationalized hate.

Consequently, to capture the imagination of my students, I share my stories, when fitting, based in a family of mixed citizenship and immigrant residency. As a first gen, I share how my US born dad and Mexican immigrant mom promoted a college education to their children. At the dinner table, my parents directed me away from high school shop classes where the majority of Mexican origin students had been tracked. Their expectation for me were college prep courses.

But once at the university, I discovered I was not fully prepared for success. I recall one afternoon on the fourth floor of the Fresno State library. I agonized to write the first sentence of the first paragraph of the first page of a research paper. I broke down emotionally and contemplated dropping out of school. Simultaneously, however, I could not quit. My parents had sacrificed too much for me to fail. As a result, I completed a sub-standard research paper that earned an F. Thank god I did well enough on other assignments and attended each session without fail allowing me a passing course grade. From then on, my academic habits and skills steadily improved as did my grades as I learned how to apply the same energy invested in my collegiate sport, wrestling, to academic learning. This story of struggle resonates with students. I know this because they tell me so.

So to hook the imagination of students, teachers need to share their stories. An honest window into your life history will not only inspire your students but also tie them further to you and the campus on their path toward graduation.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Beyond Tokenism

“It could be worse,” a friend responded after I bemoaned the near futility in the elevation of the ratio of tenure-track (full-time) faculty from Historically Underrepresented Groups (HUGs). After years of trainings, expert speakers, discussions, and back channel debates on diversity, the character of the faculty at my campus, California State University Channel Islands, shifted only a tad.

For example, for the academic year of 2014-15, Whites made up 61% of the full-time faculty. HUGs professors—identified as African American (2%), Asian (5%), and Hispanic (14%)—totaled 21%. The remaining 18% consisted of people of unknown origin or of two or more races.

Despite gains made in the 2015-16 hiring cycle—six (38%) out of sixteen newly recruited tenure track faculty (men and women) are identified HUGs—the diversity needle moved only by an increment due to the retirements and resignation of existing minority professors.

Hence, after a concerted effort on the part of committed colleagues to diversify the tenure-track faculty, in the academic year of 2016-17, Whites will continue to dominate at 57%. The proportion of Hispanics will grow to 17%, Asian to 8% and African Americans will stagnate at 2%.

Meanwhile, 53% of the student body consists of HUGs, with Hispanics being the largest at 45%, followed by Asians at 5%, and African Americans 3%. Pacific Islanders and Native Americans combine for a total of 0.5%.

The demographic imbalance between faculty and students stands in bold relief as CSU Channel Islands enjoys, and will continue to accept, millions of federal dollars for being a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) to augment its capacity to serve all, not just Hispanics.

For a college or university to be designated a HSI, at least 25% of the student body must be of Hispanic origin. In California, according to HACU (the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities), 98 private and public campuses of higher learning earned this label.

In Ventura County, two of the three community colleges, Oxnard and Ventura, are HSIs. The third, Moorpark, is poised to soon be bestowed this brand in order to apply for much needed federal grants like those received by its sister colleges.

But like my campus, the tenure-track faculty of the Ventura County Community College District (VCCD) fails to reflect its students.

Indeed, seventy-two percent of the students at Oxnard College consist of Hispanic students, but only 31% of the full-time faculty is from this group. At Moorpark College, 32% of the students are Hispanic and only 13% of the faculty is the same. And at Ventura College 58% of the students is Hispanic but only 15% of the faculty are.

So, as in academe in general, Whites dominate the ranks of faculty at all three campuses of the VCCCD.

Unfortunately, resistance exists on colleges and universities in and out of Ventura County to have a professoriate that reflects the makeup of the students. In fact, a conviction of tokenism prevails.

I have listened to the rejoinder from White professors that a HUGs member existed in a department; therefore no more diversity was needed. Faculty colleagues of color and students have relayed to me similar conversations.

Interestingly, White faculty who disdain the notion of a mandated quota of minority hiring, tacitly adhere to a de facto system in this regard. In other words, if a minority is hired in a department, Mission Accomplished. That’s it. No more!

This “one and done” logic does not apply to White faculty. A dominant number of such faculty, both men and women, can exist in a department without question or anxiety. This is the face of privilege.

Nonetheless, the demand for a diverse and more representative full-time faculty on college campuses is not just for the noble cause of representation—the central tenet of our democracy. These are relatively good paying jobs with enviable plans of vacation, health, and pension.

This is particularly true as the private sector has steadily degraded, if not eliminated, such basic packages that sustain a middle class quality of life. Consequently, HUGs want to enjoy the remaining nice things in life too.

So what is the solution?

First trustees and regents of public institutions of higher education need to send an unequivocal and consistent message that their colleges and universities must hire more full-time HUGs faculty. From this declaration, systems executives, campus presidents, and their managers must hold department chairs and faculty search committees accountable. If no HUGs are recommended to be considered for appointment, executive administrators need to exercise their authority to abort searches.

If a departmental pool of applicants is repeatedly deficient of minority applicants, especially in the humanities and social sciences, where the odds are greater for such finds, a plan of action must be implemented. This could entail department chairs and members of the faculty scrutinizing and comparing job announcements that resulted in HUGs hires.

Faculty can also frequent professional meetings to recruit HUGs applicants. This is in addition to networking with graduate programs to solicit prospective and recent HUGs masters and doctorate degree holders.

As one chemistry colleague recently declared, “We need to go beyond fishing for minority faculty candidates.”

I agree. Now is the time to scuba dive for more HUGs.


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Functionary and Pol Overseers for the 1%

To prepare residents for the 21st century, California’s leaders lack vision. Instead of leading the charge that demands the full funding of its systems of public higher education, Janet Napolitano, President of the University of California, and Timothy White, Chancellor of the California State University, scoff at this notion.

California State University Chancellor Timothy White and University of California President Janet Napolitano LONG BEACH PRESS-TELEGRAM

In late January, in a conversation to recruit more underrepresented students and inform them how to pay for the ever-increasing price of tuition, White stated, “Nobody likes the word that begins with a T [i.e., taxes] . . . I'm an idealist and want to maintain costs as low as possible for students, but I'm also a realist.”

Similarly, and shortly afterward, when asked about Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ tuition-free public college promise, Napolitano responded, “I don't think it's feasible… I appreciate the sentiment ... but you've got to ask, who pays?"

I don’t know what to make of the myopia of these two who helm, respectively, the largest and one the most prestigious public university systems in the world.

To answer Napolitano’s question, the following constituents can pay a squarer share:

• Commercial property owners, disproportionate beneficiaries under Proposition 13
• Like in Texas and Alaska, fossil fuel corporations that reap huge profits from California’s reserves
• Corporation that enjoy tax subsidies
• Wall Street speculators by way of a fraction of a percent tax on trading as proposed by Bernie Sanders

But the vapidity of White and Napolitano mirrors the pusillanimous character of the political establishment of California.

This abandonment is particularly frustrating as Hispanic pols are not only increasingly elected into the California legislature but also holding posts that could make such policies a reality.

For example, Kevin DeLeon is Senate Pro Tem and, just recently, Anthony Rendon became Assembly speaker. In addition, Assemblymember Jose Medina chairs the Higher Education committee.

But only Bernie Sanders champions a tuition-free public higher education.

While a new cycle of state officials enjoy the fruits of elected office, Hispanic students are enrolling in the CSU and UC in historic numbers. So much so that CSU and UC campuses throughout the state are winning the coveted designation Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI): CSU Channel Islands (my university), CSU Chico, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Santa Cruz to name a few.

To be a HSI, 25% of a university’s full time equivalent student population must be Hispanic. Once a HSI, it is eligible for sorely needed federal grants to augment its capacity to serve all students.

So as the CSU and UC lure in millions of federal HSI dollars, they are financially sticking it to all students who, on average, are assuming over $20,000 of debt.

Napolitano herself admits that 55% of UC undergraduates assume such a debt. This may not be much for a UC president with a salary package approaching $600,000, plus a $10,000 monthly housing allowance and $9,000 annually for car expenses. (White’s annual salary is $430,000 ) But for a twenty-something, working-class, first-generation college student this is huge.

Why don’t Sacramento legislators and university executives direct the cause for a tuition-free public higher education?

Could it be that they dread to offend real estate interests, utility companies, financiers, and other corporate interests that bankroll their political campaigns and donate to their university foundations?

In exchange for their financial contributions, these elites demand that elected officials and university functionaries not promote the reformation of the state’s tax code to make a public higher education once again virtually tuition free.

This is done by way of lobbying in and out of the cloistered rooms of the state capital and college campuses.

In my historical research of the Ernesto Galarza papers at Stanford University, I came across a document that stated that once a non-profit agency accepted donations from utility companies it sold its soul.

This intrigued me.

Then I noticed how my university regularly received donations from gas and electric companies among other corporate benefactors.

Then a few years later, I examined the papers of Charles C. Teague at UCLA. Teague captained the Limoneira Ranch Company in Ventura County and founded the Associated Farmers, an organization created to bust labor unions.

As a citrus baron, Teague raised financial support from finance, insurance, railroad, and petro-chemical companies to not only destroy unions but also influence Sacramento politicians to defeat workmen’s compensation, minimum wage, occupational safety, and other pro-labor legislation.

If history is a prologue to the present, I suspect a similar pressure-group dynamic muzzles Sacramento politicos and people like White and Napolitano from calling for a reformed tax structure so that today’s young people will not be burdened with crushing intergenerational student-loan debt.

So what’s the solution?

Every college student, parent, and grandparent who cares must contact Governor Jerry Brown and their state representatives to demand a tuition-free CSU and UC education. Vote Smart at can tell you who represents you.


Ventura County Star

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Movement Before El Movimiento: Farmworker Advocacy and Organization Programs in Ventura County, California, 1961-1967

This paper is a selection from a book manuscript tentatively titled, The Battle of San Buenaventura: The Chicana/o Movement in Ventura County, California, 1961-1975. In addition to the geographic examination of el movimiento from the perspective of the northern portion of Southern California and its linkages with larger currents of the time, the book will attempt complicate the generational organization in the historiography. In other words, I contend that el moviemiento entailed the activism of people from the Mexicanist, Mexican American, and Chicana/o generations.

In 1958, Saul Alinsky, founder of the Industrial Areas Foundation, and Ralph Helstein, president of the United Packinghouse Workers of America, recruited César Chávez to establish a Community Service Organization chapter in Ventura County. They envisioned Chávez’ organization of the Mexican community undergirding a unionization campaign in the area’s packinghouses. Despite his incredulous acceptance of the assignment, Chávez ultimately created a vibrant CSO that momentarily disrupted the agricultural industry’s exploitation of the Bracero Program.

During this campaign, Chávez experienced a conversion from a community organizer to one of agricultural labor. In the process, he also developed a network of true believers. Indeed, after he quit his dear CSO in 1962 to establish a union of his dreams, the National Farm Workers Association, he periodically returned to Ventura County to stump for Democratic candidates as well as to provide, largely, moral support to strikes that erupted in the industries of citrus, eggs, strawberries, and vegetables during the early 1970s. Chávez consulted leaders in several of these disputes, and in other instances became more directly involved.

These walkouts, however, counted upon a foundation of labor activism prior to Chávez’s return. After the completion of the CSO battle in 1959, for example, he remained in contact with people that supported him. In fact, John Soria, Chavez’s former CSO assistant in Oxnard, along with others, created the Farm Labor Service Center and futilely attempted to persuade Chávez in May of 1962 to return to Ventura County to realize his union hopes there instead of Delano.

Nevertheless, Katherine Peake, a Santa Barbara philanthropist and former wife of Clive Knowles (the director of the United Packing House Workers of America), financially backed the Farm Labor Service Center as it fought against the agricultural industry’s reversion to the employment of braceros at the expense of domestic workers. Peake also tapped into her Los Angeles network of activists, celebrities, and politicos such as Steve Allen, Max Mont, Dore Schary, John Anson Ford, and Rod Serling to fund the Service Center.

Eventually, in 1965, Peake and Soria obtained the sponsorship of the Emergency Committee to Aid Farm Workers in Los Angeles to establish the Farmworkers Opportunity Project. This enabled Peake and Soria to obtain War on Poverty grants to found Operation San Buenaventura to implement a curriculum of job training, labor organizing, English language, and civics for farmworker families.

To this end, Peake and Daniel Lund, who served as the executive director of the Emergency Committee, recruited Peter Lauwerys of Visalia to direct the Farmworkers Opportunity Project headquartered in the La Colonia barrio of Oxnard. This organization worked in partnership with the US Manpower Development and Training Agency, the California state Departments of Employment and Education as well as the Oxnard High School District to effect a $600,000 grant (adjusted for inflation equaling $4.5 million) to recruit and train 600 unemployed Ventura County farmworkers for year around jobs in the citrus industry. Student cohorts of 40 were trained in tree pruning, fumigation, and other technical skills. During this time, the program paid the students as part of their on-the-job training in the orchards of Ventura County. This addressed the demand of growers who continually sobbed that a shortage of labor existed within the industry after the end of the Bracero Program.

Under Lauwerys’ direction and with War on Poverty grant money, the Opportunity Project hired counselors (many former farmworkers or the children of such) and provided students recruited from the fields and orchards of the county with generous stipends. This not only liberated people from the grind of agricultural work but also created career opportunities for them outside of it. In addition, the Opportunity Project primed citizens and residents to be civically engaged. This served as a basis for the labor uprisings in Ventura County during the first half of the 1970s.

Consequently, in 1969 Lauwerys, a self-described “professional agitator,” defined the Opportunity Project’s mission to integrate the farmworker community into the greater polis of Ventura County. Like the CSO, the project also sought to endow disadvantaged groups, farmworker and non-farmworker alike, by informing them of their rights and guide them through a praxis to collectively solve problems that affected them. Furthermore, the Opportunity Project embarked on CSO-like house meetings to identify issues in the community, reflect upon them, and brainstorm solutions.

Toward this goal, Opportunity Project students, many of them citrus workers, spent half their paid time to complete the vocational component of the program; the remaining portion encompassed classroom instruction in civics, English, and other academic subjects. Hence, similar to the CSO, the Service Center of the Opportunity Project provided support to farmworkers not only in terms of the economic self-sufficiency but also community empowerment by the cultivation of civic leaders.

Under the umbrella of the Opportunity Project, Lauwerys created Operation Harvest Hand. This program employed counselors to advise farmworkers in not only the location of employment but also how to collectively bargain for improved work conditions. The leadership of the Emergency Committee, under which the Opportunity Project existed, contacted César Chávez to coordinate its efforts with his union. In this regard, Operation Harvest Hand laid the foundation for the development of a subsequent farmworkers movement in Ventura County.

The next year, in 1966, the Office of Economic Opportunity headed by Sergeant Shriver in Washington, DC, authorized $95,431 (adjusted for inflation nearly $700,000) to fund the work of Operation Buenaventura, an additional War on Poverty project focused on servicing the demands of migrants. Peake, as the program’s director, situated the program’s office at 506 Cooper Road in the heart of the segregated Mexican community of La Colonia. Like the Opportunity Project, Operation Buenaventura was a service center and leadership program for migrant agricultural workers and residents. It instructed non-English speaking heads of households (men and women) on how to navigate bureaucracies in relation to the filing of taxes, the attainment of driver’s licenses, and the location of employment. While providing a stipend, the program also educated agricultural immigrant families on how to locate public and private housing as well as improve their residency.

To guide Operation Buenaventura, Peake formed an advisory committee, half of which were farmworkers. The others were friends that consisted of a cross-cultural group of educators, community activists, and clergy. And while the leadership of Operation Buenaventura and the Opportunity Project consisted of people not originally from Ventura County, the paid counselors were largely, but not exclusively, area residents of Mexican origin. The counselors recruited farmworkers in the fields and orchards of Ventura County. From this pool of clients, the counselors then selected community aides to outreach additional farmworkers to provide guidance in relation to employment and social services. The counselors also accompanied clients to resolve problems with public and private agencies. From this, the counselors identified farmworkers to train in the “leadership of self-organization.”

But not all the students of the Opportunity Project were farmworkers. Non-farmworkers and the spouses and children of farmworkers were eligible to participate. Each student received $45 (approximately $331 adjusted for inflation) for 30 hours of weekly instruction plus mileage to attend the classes conducted at Oxnard High School. The pay increased by $10 after the completion of the first week of class. Students with a spouse and children were eligible to receive up to $75 ($551.00 adjusted for inflation) a week.

Offending Goliath
This program offended the bosses of the Oxnard Press-Courier and agricultural industry. In May of 1966, the newspaper ran a three part exposé on the work of Operation Buenaventura, the Opportunity Project, as well as Peake, Lund, and Lauwerys. The newspaper framed the lead story, “Farm worker programs- - -success or waste?” and characterized the attainment of the OEO grant as a con. Eerily, the newspaper listed the home addresses of Lauwerys, Lund, and Peake along with the marital status and amount and sources of income of each. The article written by John McCormick labeled the three as interlopers, do-gooders, and agitators.

The exposé also condemned the financial and educational enablement of the Mexican-origin community to be civically engaged and unfettered from the domination of agricultural employers. Indeed, the bias of the newspaper aligned with the sentiments of the larger complex of agriculture when it published:

Whether the operations have been successful during their first year with federal financing is something that is difficult to determine. In the eyes of the three heads, each is a success story.
Farmers and many laborers disagree violently. They claim the money has been poured down the tubes, a complete waste and a blot against government leadership in financial management.
Mrs. Katherine Peake, Dan Lund and Peter Lauwerys are the three who have guided and planned every move of the two ventures.
All three share the same desire to elevate the farm laborer in mentality, education, and social position. They have each been active in farm strikes in California before their respective programs were ever financed by the government.

Inversely read, by extension of the Oxnard Press-Courier, growers condemned the work of the Operation Buenaventura and the Opportunity Project because the satraps of the industry desired to preserve the complete subordination of farmworkers. The industry refused to tolerate the elevation of the farmworkers in all, or any, aspect, of their being. This was the sin of Peake, Lund, and Lauwerys. The unspecified criticism of the industry in relation to the alleged involvement of the three in strikes, if true, failed to contextualize their causation: i.e., prohibitively low wages that made it nearly impossible for workers to sustain families, inhuman conditions, no benefits of health insurance and pension, and the constant importation of competitors to depress the wage rate.

Beyond the services provided by the Opportunity Project, in 1965 the counselors documented the testimonies of farmworker families that voiced a counterhegemonic perspective of agricultural life suppressed by growers’ associations, ranch managers, and an industry-friendly press. Before the documentation of these testimonies, the systemic oppression experienced by farmworkers and their families, as told by them, remained largely confined within the lore of such communities. Hence, “The Lie of the Land, to borrow from historian Don Mitchell, dominated the popular gestalt: a symmetry and verdure of the fields and orchards of the county, dotted by faceless outsiders dawned with weathered clothing for protection against beating sun rays, biting cold, and the residue of pesticides.

A recurrent narrative documented by Opportunity Project counselors detailed how the industry slashed the wages of farmworkers and assigned their jobs to newly imported workers from Texas or Mexico after the coup de grace of the Bracero Program in 1964. Indeed, Ramon Magdalena of Santa Paula, who worked at the Burpee Seed Company, detailed his pay being cut from $1.40 (adjusted for inflation $10.20) to $1.25 (about $9) an hour. This sort of reduction occurred after employers successfully recruited additional workers from Texas or Mexico. After which, an employer ostensibly drove “locals” from job sites with the choice of working at the new wage rate or quit.

This permitted functionaries of the agricultural industry, spokespersons and often advisory board members on federal and state employment agencies, appointed by elected officials that enjoyed the campaign contributions of growers, to make the plausible argument that labor shortages plagued the production of food.

The testimonies also revealed that when workers lived in grower-owned labor camps they and their families lived under the constant and arbitrary threat of eviction when one or more workers in a family fell ill or missed a day to attend to personal matters in relation to medical treatment or their education. Even if three out of four members of a family lived and worked at a camp and one was absent for whatever reason (to attend to personal matters in relation to medical treatment or their education) the ranch manager or supervisor of an operation threatened the entire household with eviction. Indeed, company-housing agreements embedded an “ouster clause” that stipulated, according to one 1966 Oxnard Press- Courier report that, “the occupancy of the house ‘after cessation of employment,’ or ‘during any labor dispute,’ was at the discretion of the ranch.”

Justice for Farmworkers
In 1963, Al Rojas, originally from Tulare County, attended a community meeting organized by John Soria who worked for the Emergency Committee to Aid Farm Workers. The issue at hand was to mobilize the community to demand that the city desegregate it schools and provide safe railroad crossing technology for the children of La Colonia that traversed the tracks on Oxnard Boulevard to attend middle schools on the Westside. This was particularly urgent as the boulevard was an extension of the Pacific Coast Route 1 highway. It was at this meeting that Soria befriended Rojas. From this point, Rojas became involved with Operation Buenaventura and the Farm Worker Opportunity Project. In fact, he was one of 12 community aides of the Opportunity Project. Overtime, Lauwerys, who was a skilled grant writer, obtained War on Poverty funding for the creation of the Citizens Against Poverty (CAP) project. The leaders and employees of the three projects supported the larger interest of farmworkers throughout the state.

In January of 1966, Rojas and members of CAP picketed Oxnard and Santa Paula stores that carried Schenley table grapes, wine, and liquor stores in support of the Chavez’ farmworkers strike against the Schenley Company in Delano, California. In November, CAP also picketed grocery and liquor stores in Oxnard and Santa Paula to support the National Farm Workers Association’s Delano grape pickers strike. A wife of a farmer bought grapes at the Mayfair market in Oxnard to throw them at the picketers. CAP activists also appealed to stores to not carry agricultural products from Delano.

The UFW Before the UFW: Egg City, 1967
The next year, on Thursday morning July 13th 1967, 100 workers at one of the nation’s largest egg producers, Egg City. The plant, near the unincorporated community of Moorpark, housed one million hens and employed total of 250 people when the dispute erupted. The strikers demanded the recognition of the United Farm Workers (an organization created by Oscar Gonzalez and independent of Chavez’ outfit in Delano) as their bargaining agent. Julius Goldman, owner of the plant, held that only 20 workers walked out and outside agitators forced the other 80 to follow. Goldman also declared the strike illegal under the Taft-Hartley Act. Gonzalez in turn accused Goldman of employing undocumented (“wetback”) workers.

With the leadership training gained from the programs of Lauwerys, Rojas joined Gonzalez to lead the strike at Egg City. Support also came from the Santa Barbara Committee to Aid Farm Workers. It was from this organization that Gonzalez and Rojas raised $197 (approximately $1,400 adjusted for inflation) and food to support the striking workers. Carol Curiel and former Democratic congressional candidate Stanley Sheinbaum addressed the group. Sheinbaum stated, “These people get as little as $1.15 an hour [adjusted for inflation $8.15]. They are trying to do something for themselves. They are desperate. There is no such thing as a strike fund. You can't save much for a rainy day on $1.15.”

As the strike developed, Al Rojas, vice-president of Gonzalez’ UFW, established picket lines at Egg City and the State Employment Office in Oxnard. The nine-person picket line in Oxnard was to protest the agency’s delay to certify the strike. The picketers also delivered a petition with 65 signatures that formally declared the existence of a labor dispute at Egg City. Rojas also established picket lines at the Border Patrol office in Oxnard’s Wagon Wheel Junction and the Department of Immigration in Ventura to protest the employment of “wetbacks” at Egg City. On the sixth day of the strike, Rojas called the United States Department of Justice to complain about Egg City’s use of undocumented immigrant workers at the plant. Rojas stated to the Oxnard Press-Courier, “Wetbacks have been working here for over three weeks and are living in the town right now.” The protest was then taken to the office of Congressman Charles Teague. Twelve picketers were established there.

The publicity that the UFW in Ventura County raised regarding Egg City’s employment of undocumented workers succeeded. In a Wednesday July 19 Oxnard Press-Courier report titled, “5 ‘Wetbacks’ Arrested At Egg City,” assistant chief patrol inspector of the Border Patrol in Oxnard, Dale Swancutt, stated that on July 18 five undocumented workers were arrested as part of a “routine check.” The same report also detailed that on the same day of the arrest the State Employment office had certified the strike. This prohibited state employment offices from referring potential employees to Egg City.

As events developed, the Oxnard branch of the Superior Court of Ventura County granted an injunction against the UFW in relation to the strike at Egg City. The injunction, which actually was a temporary restraining order requested by Goldman, prohibited the UFW from entering the Egg City plant. The order, however, did not prohibit the union from picketing the facility.

With the injunction in place, Julius Goldman undercut the organizing efforts of Al Rojas and Oscar Gonzales, who he labeled as an “outside agitator,” by agreeing to raise the wages of his workers. Goldman faulted Rojas and Gonzales with not allowing the strikers to accept his offer. On Wednesday, July 26, 1967 the strikers and Goldman reached a settlement. Goldman agreed to raise the minimum wage at the plant to $1.45. The agreement between also entailed the establishment of a grievance committee and the workers refusal to be represented by the UFW. Local Moorpark merchants Ruben Castro and Ed Menashe mediated the discussion between Goldman and a seven member “grievance committee,” with Benny Garica as its spokesperson, who represented the seventy strikers.

In response to the settlement, Al Rojas and Oscar Gonzales organized a two day protest march from the streets of Oxnard, to the communities of Saticoy, Fillmore, and Santa Paula, and concluded in Moorpark. But for all intents and purposes, the labor dispute was over.

This was movement before el movimiento in Ventura County.