Letters to the Editor


Dear Sir:

The article by Richard Forbes, “Work, Workers, and Missions,” is so false a report on the labor scene here in California that one can only wonder at the intelligence or motives of Mr. Forbes. The article is too long for a detailed reply, but a couple of central points will indicate its errors.

Forbes says of UFWOC, the Chavez group, “Many migrants are fearful that union demands for higher pay will be so great that employers will be bankrupted and there will be no jobs.” The reality is this: Chavez demanded $1.65 an hour for grape-pickers and a 40 hour week. But the California grape pickers at the same time were making at least $1.40 per box, averaging three to six boxes per hour, and workers were receiving from $21.50 to $29.10 a day, usually preferring to work 10 hours. Union workers would receive only $13.20 a day. Can you wonder why the workers organized a resistance group to UFWOC? Why did the union ask for less pay than the workers are already getting? And why has Chavez said that he does not want his union to be covered by the National Labor Relations Act? (See Christianity Today, May 9, 1969, p. 42, for a report of this fact.) Is it not because his is not a legitimate labor union but a revolutionary movement whose purpose is disruption? This is the report of the “migrant” workers, who resent Chavez and his tactics.

Forbes’ idea that the farm worker is outside the church and “a sinner, at work for false gods, who lives out this vital relationship of his life on terms dictated, unchallenged by institutions at work for false gods,” and whose life is “in good part shaped by his job in the field” is nonsense. There is often no less church membership among migrant workers than among other peoples. The idea that the farm worker is “the worker for pay and his employer…the worker for profit” is also nonsense. The farm worker works for profit also. Recently, a Reformed layman and church officer told me of his start not too long ago as a fruit picker. By hard work and thrift, with his wife this Mexican-American b\lilt up enough capital to go into business for himself. Many Christian Reformed farmers and businessmen of California got their start picking fruit.

A more serious question must be raised concerning TORCH AND TRUMPET: what possessed the editors to include so much theological fog and smoke into a reformed periodical? Forbes’ talk about “the sin-enshrouded job of the migrant farm-workers” is an offense against sound thinking and good theology. Forbes makes clear that for him the elimination of that shroud of sin means Christ plus some kind of labor-union, and then, somehow, Chavez’ revolutionary movement comes out replacing Christ or representing him best of all! On top of that, Forbes justifies the coercion of UFWOC against the grape-pickers because “in the end a powerful union will force for American workers the greater material rewards their labor deserves.” But, as we have seen, UFWOC wants less wages for farm workers but more control over the economy, the revolutionary power to disrupt and destroy. Forbes’ program, and Chavez’ program, adds up to loss for the worker, the farmer, and the country, and a victory for revolutionary socialism.

One final fact: the “migrant” farm worker of California is not very “migrant”: 90% of the 5000 grape-pickers of the Delano area where Chavez struck live the year-round in the valley. Of this Forbes is unaware; indeed, the only two facts cited in his entire article are the names of the UFWOC and the opposing AWFWA, slim foundations for so wordy and emphatic an article!