I’ve learned that the bombshell four-part LA Times series earlier this month implying corruption in the United Farm Workers has triggered a detailed legal counter-attack from the famed union. A 101-page UFW “white paper” on the series and its allegations by veteran reporter Miriam Pawel was delivered to Times editor Dean Baquet on Friday. The union has engaged a Los Angeles law firm with a specialty in libel law, which also on Friday formally presented the publisher of the Times with a 62-page letter demanding a retraction.
In a recent conversation with UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta, she denounced the Times series. “It was completely lacking in political context,” she said. “That reporter didn’t talk to the current union workers. She didn’t concentrate on the law or the ALRB (Agricultural Labor Relations Board). She went looking for people who left many years ago and made some of them out to be great things they are not. You know, we may have made mistakes, but nobody is getting rich. The money goes into operations. Paul Chavez (Cesar’s son, head of a big UFW program) lives in a trailer.”
This is a complex and troubling story, which I’ll delve into when I’m not concentrating on election year politics. Many are disappointed that the UFW has not fulfilled the promise it seemed to have. Many, who wish ill of union organizing among some of the poorest workers in the nation, are gleeful that it has not. There is much more to say, but I’ll conclude for now by saying that the Times series, on which Pawel spent nearly a year of work is, in my opinion, at best incomplete.