On Labor Day, Unions Back Fred Ross Project

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Photo shows Cesar Chavez and Fred Ross Sr.

Cesar Chavez and Fred Ross Sr.

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Film Offers Powerful Strategies to Organize Success

Labor Day is a great time to reflect on how unions are helping to build the next generation of labor movements. This requires exposing new activists and workers to successful labor campaigns. This goal is being pursued by many labor unions including UNITE HERE (Machinists), SEIU, IAM, IAM (Machinists), CNA, UFCW Local 770, and LIUNA(Laborers). supporting a filmFred Ross Sr. continues to organize.

It’s a particularly creative and strategic use of union funds.

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Ross initiated the house meeting. Ross developed an electoral outreach strategy to elect the first Latino Los Angeles City Council member in 1949. He then trained Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta as organizers,  along with many other key farmworker activists. Ross has left a remarkable legacy whose lessons fully apply to today’s labor activists.

But how can future generations of organizers learn these lessons. That’s what the film on Fred Ross Sr. accomplishes.

In January, I wrote about the launch of the film project ( See “Film on Fred Ross Will Inspire Young Organizers,”January 24, 2022 Over $500,000 has already been raised. Apart from unions, foundations and social justice groups, the Cesar Chavez Foundation recently donated $50,000, and the California Latino Caucus actively raised funds.

The film’s fundraising taps perfectly into the rising pro-union moodAll across the country. It has also allowed Ray Telles, the director, to start filming without waiting for full funding.

Telles shared with me last week that he discovered Ross’s legacy while filming in Atlanta. “We were profiling Raise Up/ Fight for 15 for the Fred Ross Sr. film. We followed three women who work for a Dollar General Store in South Carolina-Tara Thompson, Keisha Brown and Taiwana Mulligan. Their situation has been very difficult and they only make $11 an hour. They are now organizing for a union and for a $15 wage. When we interviewed Ms. Mulligan I asked her if she knew who Fred Ross was. She said of course. When I asked her  to tell her story about how they went about organizing she said; ‘Well, I had a few of my coworkers come over to my house and we had a little meeting.’”

Fred Ross Jr. also pointed out the connection between the film’s powerful stories and organizing multi-racial unions and organizations as part of Amazon’s Fight Back spirit. “We are making plans to show the film as part of organizing training campaigns – bringing out my Dad’s Axioms for Organizers to new generations of activists. It’s also been very inspiring to see California farmworkers marchingWith strong labor, faith leaders as well as students, we have a broad coalition of support to demand that Governor Newsom sign AB2183. This fair election bill is being supported once again by strong labor, students, and faith leaders.

Ross refers to the nearly one-month march to Sacramento that UFW began in August. It  recalled Cesar Chavez’s legendary 1966 march that put the farmworkers’ movement on the national map.

I’ve followed the farmworkers movement since the 1970’s. I was so moved at its activist power, that I began to follow it. wrote a bookIts ongoing legacy. The recent march-and-vigil was a strong example of this, because it demonstrated strong labor and activist support for farmworkers.

The film’s funding has been its own organizing campaign. This film may be the first to be funded by a national network built by labor organizers reaching out directly to their unions, friends, and networks.  There are over 500 donors already!

Are you one of them, too? If not, don’t feel left out. Donate today!

If you are part of a social organization that is not labor-related, this film will inspire and train new members and organizers. The Public Interest Network is a national training network for activists through the Student PIRGsThe benefit of showing the Ross film at campuses was immediately recognized by Ross Film Network. The Network supported their support by contributing to this film.

This film will also be shown to activists from all fields. It has value to those working in local, state, national and even international arenas (both Ross’s played major roles in the 1980’s Central American Peace Campaign).

Let’s get it done!  You can celebrate Labor Day 2022 by donating personally or asking your group. donate!

Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw’s most recent book is Generation Priced Out. He is also the author of four books on activism: The Activist’s Handbook, Winning Social Change in the 21st Century and Beyond the Fields, Cesar Chavez, the UFW, and the Struggle For Justice in the 21st Century. He is also author of The Tenderloin, which focuses on the intersection of crime, gender, and resistance in the heart of San Francisco.

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