Primary Sources


Part I:

The Grape Strike

September 1965 – July 1970

The first six chapters tell the story of the Delano grape strike, the national grape boycott, and the improbable triumph at the end of the five-year strike -- the historic signing of hundreds of contracts between the union and grape growers.


Part II:

Growing Pains

August 1970 – April 1973

Chapters 7 through 9 chronicle the expansion of the union into the vegetable fields and ensuing battles with the Teamsters, the difficulties in administering the grape contracts, and Chavez’s decision to move the union headquarters to a remote, bucolic compound.


Part III:

War, Again

April 1973 – June 1975

The union again battles the Teamsters and the growers in Chapters 10 through 14, losing almost all contracts but ultimately exerting enough pressure through the boycott, mass civil disobedience, and political allies to forces a resolution, as California passes the first law in the country protecting farmworkers’ rights to organize and join unions.


Part IV:

The New World

June, 1975 – February, 1977

In Chapters 15 through 18, the union moves in two different directions – some leaders in the field offices figure out how to win elections and play by the new set of rules imposed by the state law, while Chavez focuses increasingly on how to preserve the movement spirit and build community, and begins to purge longtime union staff members.


  • Chavez autographed story about Harris poll showing 17 million people boycotting grapes and lettuce, December 1975 Harris poll.pdf

  • Affidavit by Eliseo in support of giving the union organizers access to workers in the fields, September 1976 Access affidavit.pdf

  • Notes from meeting where Chavez reshuffled leadership and adopted a goal of 100,000 members within two years, November 1976. Meeting notes.pdf

  • Tributes to Chris at surprise party for his fifteen years with the National Farm Worker Ministry, November 1976 Pudge tribute and Chavez tribute.pdf

  • Nick and Virginia Jones’ resignation letter and follow-up, November 1976 Jones letters.pdf

  • Question-and-answer sheet by Chris for boycotters and supporters, June 1976 Chris QandA.pdf

Part V:

A Movement or a Union?

March 1977 - July 1978

The split becomes more evident and problematic in Chapters 19 through 21, as the demands of members and administrative responsibilities increase, the union is unable to stabilize itself, and Chavez’s growing frustration drives him into an alliance with Synanon, a drug-treatment-program-turned-cult, as he makes a commitment to preserve the all-volunteer movement at any cost.


  • Gretchen’s notes, plans and responses on the Hemet Wholesale boycott, spring 1977 Hemet campaign.pdf

  • Police report and court transcript of Sandy’s arrest at the Salinas jail, September 1977 Sandy arrest and Sandy transcript.pdf

  • Chris letter justifying Chavez’s trip to the Phillipines, September 1977 Phillipines.pdf

  • Chris report to the farm worker ministry board about Chavez’s conviction that the union must cast off the old and build community, November 1977. Chris report.pdf

  • Jerry’s enumeration of his responsibilities, February 1978 Jerry letter.pdf

  • Chris’s explanation of the Game, April 1978 The Game.pdf

  • Chris note about the legal department and the Game, May 1978 Legal department games.pdf

  • Sandy’s letter asking for a raise, May 1978 Sandy letter.pdf

  • Letter from lawyers asking for clarification of their status, November 1978. Lawyers letter.pdf

  • Interview with Chavez in Soujourners magazine about the importance of community and religion, distributed by Chris Sojourners.pdf

Part VI:

Up From the Fields

August 1978 – January 1989

The fight shifts to the lettuce fields in Chapters 22 through 28, as a group leaders emerge during a bitter, prolonged strike, become the first generation of farmworkers paid to work for the union, challenge Chavez’s decisions, and end up banished, facing him in court.







About The Sources

Much of “The Union of Their Dreams” is based on primary source documents – letters, memos, stories, transcripts and notes written at the time that events in the book were occurring. Some of the papers that I relied on to tell the story are in libraries; this page has links to more information about the major archives. Other documents are in the personal collections of more than a dozen people who shared with me their scrapbooks, journals, notebooks, and files. In many cases, I quoted short passages from these sources in the book. Here is a selection of the full documents from which those quotes were drawn.

They are arranged chrono- logically, in the order in which they appear in the book, and divided into six parts that correspond with the major sections of the book.