This collection richly documents the most tumultuous and important years in the history of farm labor organizing. The Work Department records, which are especially rich in correspondence and internal organizing reports from around the country, are essential to any study of the United Farm Workers union. Included are papers that span the years 1969-1975, a period in which the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC) grew into a union recognized as such by the AFL-CIO. Highlights of those critical years include the historic July 1970 agreement with the grape industry; the Salinas and San Marias Valleys' vegetable strike, said to be the largest farm labor strike in California history; the national lettuce boycott, and the famous 1973 grape strike. Teamster and police violence during that strike resulted in 44 shootings, 400 beatings, and 3000 arrests, as well as the deaths of strikers Nagi Daifullah and Juan De La Cruz. The grape victory and the new confidence in the vegetable fields prompted farm workers from around the country to begin to ask for UFW help organizing agriculture. Determination to decide union representation by farm worker votes, rather than leadership deals, led the UFW, in 1975, to fight and win the California legislature's approval of the groundbreaking Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALA).
According to a 1973 document found in these papers, the Work Department was one of eleven departments that contributed to the functioning of the union. The others were Administration, Accounting, Data Processing, El Macriado, El Taller Grafico, Legal, Negotiations, Transportation and Purchasing, Research and Information, and Security. Minutes of meetings of department heads can be found within this collection and help contextualize the Work Department's activities.