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National Farm Workers Association Records

Identifier: LR000221_NFW

Scope and Content

The papers of the National Farm Workers Association cover the formative years of NFWA. As would be expected from an organization that was formed to deal with the problems of Spanish speaking migrant workers much of the correspondence and literature in the collection is in Spanish.

Important subjects covered in this collection include: AFL-CIO AWOC California Migrant Ministry DiGiorgio Company Foreign Contract Labor Immigration MAPA Mexican-American Organizations NLRB OEO Pilgrimage to Sacramento Schenley Company Strikes Teamsters Union Agreements US Senate Migratory Labor Committee

Series Description: Series I, General Correspondence files, 1962-1966: Correspondence and telegrams regarding injuries, strikes, government aid, education, civil rights, immigration, boycotts, lawsuits, wages, organizing, collective bargaining, and fund raising. Includes a sub-series of correspondence between Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez.

Series II, Correspondence with NFWA Members files, 1962-1966: Correspondence with members of NFWA, mosty in California. Most of the correspondence from the members is handwritten and in Spanish.

Series III, General topic files, 1960-1967: Includes organizational records, union agreements, telegrams, boycott information, ballots, with sub-series for DiGiorgio strike and election, Schenley, Senate Hearings, and the Teamsters.


  • 1960 - 1967
  • Majority of material found within 1962 - 1966


Language of Materials

Materials in English and Spanish.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Restrictions: Researchers may encounter records of a sensitive nature – personnel files, case records and those involving investigations, legal and other private matters. Privacy laws and restrictions imposed by the Library prohibit the use of names and other personal information which might identify an individual, except with written permission from the Director and/or the donor.


The founder of the National farm Workers Association, Cesario Estrada Chavez, was born in 1927 on a family farm which had been homesteaded by his grandfather in Arizona three years before that territory achieved statehood.

Growing up during the depression, Cesar Chavez left school after the eigth grade to work full time in the fields. In 1938, his father and the family left Arizona to seek work in California. Along with his father and siblings, Chavez joined the migrant farm worker stream topping sugar beets, picking cotton, thinning lettuce with a short-handled hoe and picking grapes. They followed the crops from the Imperial valley in the south to Sacramento in the north.

A turning point in Chavez' life came with his meeting in 1952 with Fred Ross who was working in the Mexican-American barrio for the Community Services Organization (CSO). Cesar accepted a job as organizer for them. It was here that his organizing skills were honed under the tutelage of Ross and Saul Alinsky.

In 1958, Dolores Huerta, who was also working with CSO, along with several others formed the Agricultural Workers Association (AWA) which then melded with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) set up by the AFL-CIO the following year. In 1961, despite the urgings of Alinsky, the CSO voted not to support AWOC. Cesar Chaves resigned from CSO and set out to form his own union.

The National Farm Workers Associatin (NFWA) was founded in 1962 (14 Dec) at a convention called by Chavez. In 1965, AWOC struck the grape growers and Chavez joined with his NFWA. That December marked the beginning of the first grape boycott.

In August of 1966, AWOC and NFWA merged to form the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC), AFL-CIO and the next three years were marked by membership drives, grape and lettuce strikes, and boycotts.

The years since that humble beginning have been marked by successes and failures, growth and decline, good times and bad. Despite controversies about his political beliefs, his philosophy of life and his leadership tactics, Cesar Chavez remained at the head of the union he has struggled to establish and maintain for so many years.


7 Linear Feet (14 MB)


Founded by Cesar Chavez and a precursor to the United Farm Workers organization, the NFWA was formed to focus on the problems of Spanish speaking migrant workers. Their records cover the formative years of the association, marked by membership drives, grape and lettuce strikes and boycotts. Much of the material is in Spanish.


Arranged in 3 series – Series 1 (Boxes 1-2), Series 2 (Boxes 3-4), and Series 3 (Boxes 5-14). Folders are arranged alphabetically, and chronologically, depending upon the series.


The papers of the National Farm Workers Association were placed in the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs beginning in 1967. Deposits of documents from this and other entities of the Union have been made at regular intervals.

Related Materials

UFW collections

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Guide to the National Farm Workers Association Records
Processed by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA