Bookwise, I’m at work on a biography of Fred Ross, a groundbreaking organizer who is best known for training and mentoring Cesar Chavez, the founder of the United Farm Workers. Ross did much more than that, of course, and for now you can read a basic outline of his accomplishments at Wikipedia. He’s the taller man in the photo, standing next to a young Woody Guthrie at the Arvin migrant camp near Bakersfield, which Ross managed after graduating from college. Arvin, which was then home to desperate dustbowl refugees, was the camp fictionalized by John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath. (photo credit: Seema Weatherwax)
Though mine will be the first biography of Ross, there have been a number of wonderful, and critical, books published in recent years about Chavez and the UFW, which all touch in some way upon Ross. I encourage folks to check out Miriam Pawel’s The Union of Their Dreams, Randy Shaw’s Beyond the Fields, and Frank Bardacke’s Trampling Out the Vintage. I interviewed Bardacke for The Nation about his book, which you can read here.
While plugging away on the book I’m also keeping busy with freelance writing, often for The Nation. My larger journalism project is in conjunction with Barbara Ehrenreich’s new Economic Hardship Reporting Project, where I am looking at low-wage and temporary labor.