Throughout the 20th century, Latino American activists have been able to create and adapt labor movements in order to cater to their specific community needs. Building community and addressing the needs of Latino Americans in particular were key to the movements discussed in this paper, as it allowed them to feel more invested in the movement and feel that they were being represented, particularly in cases where the movements were led by Latino activists. The primary sources I have collected for this project demonstrate the ways in which these movements organized and built community. This essay will provide context to these sources by offering an overview of the history surrounding the events depicted in them as well as how that history relates to community-oriented activism.
The great depression was a key event in the development of labor movements as a whole in America, with many people turning to organized labor in an attempt to improve their pay and conditions. Additionally, many looked to leftist ideologies and movements as a possible solution to the economic struggles they were facing. With the formation of new movements during this period, Latino laborers had the opportunity to shape these movements into ones that better fit their specific needs. This can be seen with the movement surrounding the tobacco industry in Florida, where activists had to adapt their organizing strategies and ideologies to the large Latino population of the industry. Given that the movement was based in a southern, segregationist, state surrounding an industry with a large number of non-white laborers, activism would need to cater to different needs than unions in northern white communities. The different ethnic backgrounds of the Latino tobacco workers created difficulties in organizing a labor movement. Labor movements and unions formed in regions with less ethnic diversity, or at least less apparent ethnic diversity, would have an easier time uniting their communities, than ones with more diversity where multiple smaller communities form.
Following the Great Depression, a significant portion of the US male population was drafted into World War II. As a result of this, many industries, particularly the agricultural field, were trying to find workers to fill in for them. Often these roles were filled by women, however, agricultural fields looked to migrant workers to fill in their labor force. The Bracero program was introduced by the government to bring in Latino migrant workers to work on American farms for lower wages. The program was largely unregulated in terms of the pay and conditions the workers were working under, so farms were largely able to use the Bracero program to get cheaper labor than they would be able to get through hiring people from America. Additionally, Bracero workers were only working under short-term contracts and there was the expectation that their employment would end once more workers came back from World War II. While there was a large influx of Latino immigrants to the United States as a result of the Bracero program, there were of course Latinos in the United States prior to the program. These Latinos also felt the impact of the Bracero programs, particularly in their wages and conditions in farm work. As farms were able to hire cheaper labor through the Bracero program, these Latinos were feeling pressure to work for similarly low wages.
Between the impacts that both the Bracero program migrant workers and the other Latino laborers in the United States were feeling, there was a clear need for labor activism catering to Latino agricultural workers. As time progressed, more people who came to the US as part of the Bracero program stayed and formed the basis for larger Latino-American communities. The families and friends of people working under the Bracero program also began to migrate to the United States, typically joining Bracero program workers in their communities. This meant that even as the Bracero program officially ended, there was still a large number of Latino-Americans who were looking to work on farms. As this was happening however, there was the push for better conditions and wages in farming industries with predominantly Latino work forces. This was the basis for the formation of the farmworker’s movement in the late 1950s-60s. The United Farm Workers union was the result of a merger between the National Farm Workers Association, which was the original union headed by Cesar Chavez, and the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, which was primarily composed of Filipino workers. Given that the movement was appealing to a heavily Latino workforce, their organizing material had to cater to them. This took the form in a significant portion of their material being bilingual, in particular, many of their pamphlets have their Spanish writing come before their English. This can easily be seen with the coloring book they released to educate children on the movement. The Spanish writing is listed before the coloring picture with the English being listed underneath. While small, details like this can show that the organization was prioritizing Spanish-speaking workers when creating materials. The coloring book also shows how the United Farm Workers looked to appeal to Latino workers who were supporting families, the material serves as both an educational story for children as well as a usable thing for them to play with. By acknowledging that many of these workers had children and prioritizing Spanish writing in materials the United Farm Workers were able to better connect with Latino agricultural laborers.
Following the formation of the United Farm Workers union, the labor movement in general slowed down in the latter half of the 20th century. There was a general decrease in union membership and less strikes on the behalf of workers. However, there was a long-lasting boycott of Coors beer for several decades in the latter half of the century. Starting in the 1970s the boycott took place over anti-labor practices as well as anti-LGBT and racist rhetoric from the owner. Additionally, there were concerns over their hiring practices, as despite the region of Colorado they were based in having a relatively significant Mexican American population, the company hired very few Mexican Americans, especially in management positions. Having started in the 1970s and taking off in the 80s, the boycott serves as a representation of the waves of activism that had occurred during the era, such as the gay-rights movement, Black power movement, and the Chicano rights movement. The boycott made heavy use of memorabilia/ephemera to help spread word of the movement. The use of memorabilia also helped make the activism more community oriented. The movement used different posters to cater to different audiences, for example they would use material oriented around the company’s racism towards Mexican Americans to advertise in communities with a strong Mexican population. This indicates that leaders were aware of the need to cater to the needs and interests of each marginalized community involved rather than applying one kind of activism across the movement.
All three of these movements demonstrate ways in which labor movements were adapted or created to cater to the needs of Latino-Americans. The use of material demonstrates this, as these movements included Spanish in their memorabilia and made sure to focus on the needs and interests of Latino-Americans when creating them. Additionally, these movements identified Latino-Americans as a group worth advocating for and built strong communities of work-class Latinos to help advocate for their rights as workers.
 Sarah McNamara. 2019. “Borderland Unionism: Latina Activism in Ybor City and Tampa, Florida, 1935-1937.” Journal of American Ethnic History 38 (4): 10–32. doi:10.5406/jamerethnhist.38.4.0010. 13-14.
 Timothy Paul Bowman, “Migrant Labor.” In Culture Wars in America: An Encyclopedia of Issues, Viewpoints, and Voices, edited by Roger Chapman, and James Ciment. 2nd ed. Routledge, 2013.
 Cynthia E. Orozco, “THE MEXICAN AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, 1920–1950.” In Agent of Change: Adela Sloss-Vento, Mexican American Civil Rights Activist and Texas Feminist, 36–67. University of Texas Press, 2020.
 Alberto García 2021. “Regulating Bracero Migration: How National, Regional, and Local Political Considerations Shaped the Bracero Program.” Hispanic American Historical Review 101 (3): 433–60. doi:10.1215/00182168-9051820.
 Street, Richard S. “United Farm Workers of America.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Business, Labor, and Economic History, edited by Paul S. Boyer. Oxford University Press, Inc., 2013. https://wooster.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/oupoblae/united_farm_workers_of_america/0?institutionId=4607
 United Farm Workers, “A United Farm Workers coloring book.” Digital Public Library of America, https://dp.la/item/2f27abaeb79b6d51a21df25a3600523b.
 Allyson P. Brantley. 2019. ““Shouldn’t You Be Boycotting Coors?”: Ephemera, Boycotting Counterpublics, and the Campaign against Coors Beer.” Radical History Review 2019 (134): 142–67. doi:10.1215/01636545-7323444.142-45.
 Brantley. “Shouldn’t You Be Boycotting Coors?” 151-3