Gretchen Laue


Like many, Gretchen had ended up working for the UFW by accident. Her old Dodge panel truck, a second hand U.S. Forest Service vehicle, had broken down in Boston, stranding Gretchen and Bobby the German shepard.  They had made it all the way from Oregon, driving on back roads to see the country.  She slept in the bed she had built into the back of the truck and wrote on the fold-up desk she had constructed.   She was particularly proud of her homemade washing machine, copied from John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley – a trash can strapped to the side of the truck with a bungee cord that agitated clothes in soapy water while she drove.


The Boston dealership that was supposed to fix her truck ripped her off instead. Gretchen was outraged, more because they took advantage of a single out-of-town woman than because of the money. She wanted to stay in Boston long enough to take the dealership to court, but she was broke. A friend had recently asked Gretchen her philosophy of life. Be a good person and smile a lot, she said. Her friend was appalled. So Gretchen was looking for meaning as much as a free place to live when she happened upon a sign soliciting UFW volunteers willing to work for room and board.

excerpt from The Union of Their Dreams.

Gretchen and friends in the Boston boycott house.

Gretchen's Journal Entry.pdf

By the time Gretchen took notes five years later on how to negotiate contracts, she had become an organizer - drawn deeply into the world of the California farm workers she sought to help.