By Vickie M. Fouts
Bruce Neuburger of the Bay Area has recently written a book, Lettuce Wars: Ten Years of Work and Struggle in the Fields of California. Neuburger is a former farmworker, longtime radical political activist, GI organizer, movement newspaper writer and editor, cab driver and, for the past 25 years, adult school and community college teacher. This is his first book.
In talking about the book, Neuburger states, “This book is part memoir, part history. It is an effort to bring to life some of the workers and activists with whom I shared those years, as well as to place this struggle in the broader social and political context in which it emerged and unfolded. It is an effort to reveal the mainsprings of a movement whose influence is still present today, 40 years later. And, finally, it is an effort to reveal (in the Epilogue) some of what is going on in the fields today and what that might tell us about the limits of reform.”
The publisher, Monthly Review Press, writes about the book, “In 1971, Bruce Neuburger—young, out of work, and radicalized by the ’60s counterculture in Berkeley—took a job as a farmworker on a whim. He could have hardly anticipated that he would spend the next decade laboring up and down the agricultural valleys of California, alongside the anonymous and largely immigrant workforce that feeds the nation.
“This account of his journey begins at a remarkable moment, after the birth of the United Farm Workers union and the ensuing uptick in worker militancy. As a participant in organizing efforts, strikes and boycotts, Neuburger saw firsthand the struggles of farmworkers for better wages and working conditions, and the lengths the growers would go to suppress worker unity.
“Part memoir, part informed commentary on farm labor, the U.S. labor movement and the political economy of agriculture, Lettuce Wars is a lively account written from the perspective of the fields. Neuburger portrays the people he encountered— immigrant workers, fellow radicals, company bosses, cops and goons—vividly and indelibly, lending a human aspect to the conflict between capital and labor as it played out in the fields of California.”
Neuburger will be in Fresno to discuss his book and sign copies on Sept. 21 at 2 p.m. at CAFE Infoshop (935 F St.). The event is co-sponsored by the People’s Education Project, the Fresno Brown Berets and the Fresno and Madera County Peace & Freedom Party. The event is free, but donations toward the venue costs and author’s travel expenses will be accepted gladly. Learn more about Neuburger and the book at www.lettucewars.net, Facebook.com/lettucewars and http://monthlyreview.org/press/books/pb3324/.
Vickie Fouts is a local social justice activist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 559-658-8260.