15 November 2015

‘Right Out of California’ Book Review: On the Big Business Roots of Modern Conservatism

By Gabriel Thompson

“Right Out of California: The 1930s and the Big Business Roots of Modern Conservatism”
A book by Kathryn S. Olmsted

On a January evening in 1934, an attorney with the ACLU named A.L. Wirin was due to speak in Brawley, a small city in the vast desert east of San Diego. His subject was the U.S. Constitution and the right of workers to strike. Wirin’s was not an academic lecture: Two weeks earlier, 5,000 lettuce workers — the vast majority from Mexico — had refused to enter the fields surrounding Brawley, demanding 35 cents an hour (the equivalent of about $6 today). In response, police arrested strikers, and vigilantes broke up rallies with tear gas and clubs, while labor organizers darted from one worker’s home to the next, trying to both maintain morale and stay alive. “If you checked into a hotel in Brawley, no matter what name you used, you were sticking your neck into a noose,” recalled Pat Chambers, one of the most talented farmworker organizers of the period.


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