"Shuman Says Farm Workers' Group Denies Freedom of Choice"


Charles B. Shuman, center, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation is joined by AFBF secretary-treasurer Roger Fleming, right, in a meeting with President John F. Kennedy.

Courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

While the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) received widespread support from various sections of the country, the grape growers of California were not without their supporters as well. Among their most staunch advocates was the American Farm Bureau Federation, a nonprofit farmers' organization that opposed the work of the NFWA. In an address to the Los Angeles County Farm Bureau in 1966, national president Charles B. Shuman accused the NFWA of wanting to be the sole representative of workers and of opposing workers' elections for union representatives. "These goon tactics are certainly not in the real interest of the workers and unfairly penalize thousands of agricultural producers who are not directly involved in the labor union's strong-arm war to establish a monopoly," Shuman said. 

These thoughts made up part of the AFBF’s statement on the issues in California, which approved of counter boycott acts and the right of sellers to offer the brands of their choice, as well as the right of consumers to purchase the brands they wanted. Shuman went on to accuse the Johnson administration of catering to the needs of labor and not assisting the growers, and said that farm labor was in short supply, which would force farmers to explore alternative means to harvest their crops.


Shuman speech article
Courtesy of ACUA

Shuman’s remarks came at a time in the history of the farm labor struggle when the Teamsters Union was the only union approved by many growers in California, often without the vote of farm laborers; thus, which group really wanted free, secret ballot elections for union representation?



1. What contradiction, if any, exists between Shuman’s criticism of the NFWA boycott as one that is against free union elections and the fact that the Teamsters Union was at the time the only approved union by many growers?