Dolores, Why David
Sometimes Wins &
The Trouble with Unity

PS140O: Projecting Power

Prof Wasow


Quiz Next Week

  • Schedule
    • Week 6, Tues 2/20
    • Week 9, Tues 3/12
    • Week 12, Tues 4/9


  • Why just Smooha intro?
  • Developing a “model” vocabulary

    • King & Smith: social orders, racial orders, two coalitions

    • Young & Mesier: predatory state and contract state (North), plural society (Furnivall & van den Berghe)

  • Why not discuss Israel?

    • Film in Week 3 was 12 Years a Slave

    • More generally, we’re interested in models more than any one case (e.g., Darden & Gryzmala-Busse)

Model Thinking

  • Why “model thinking”?
    • “Evidence shows that people who think with models consistently outperform those who don’t. And, moreover people who think with lots of models outperform people who use only one.”
      — Scott E Page, University of Michigan
  • On bcourses, two critiques of Smooha with alternate models

  • Will consider revisions for next year

Revisiting Sidanius & Pratto

Cooperation & Coercion

  • Sidanius & Pratto do not dispute that coercion is a key part of how group-based hierarchy is maintained

  • However, coercion is not the only means of maintaining a stratified order

  • Legitimizing myths do a lot of work to maintain order

  • “Poetry is that, it’s that thing that reaches your heart. I always say, if you want people to change the way they act, change the way they think. You want to change the way they think, change the way they feel.”
    Kwame Alexander, NPR, 1/26/24

Puzzle of UFW


  • How did the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) / United Farm Workers (UFW) succeed in creating a movement and union for farm workers when the AFL-CIO and Teamsters failed?

Who is Marshall Ganz?

  • Ganz was born into a Jewish family in Bay City, Michigan, in 1943. After the family moved to California, they lived in Fresno and Bakersfield
  • His father was a rabbi and his mother a teacher. For three years after World War II, his family lived in occupied Germany, where his father served as a US Army chaplain working with displaced persons
  • Having encountered survivors of the Holocaust, his parents taught Marshall about the dangers of racism and anti-Semitism.

Who is Marshall Ganz?

  • Ganz entered Harvard in the fall of 1960

  • He left before graduating in 1964 to volunteer for the Freedom Summer project

  • In fall 1965 Ganz returned to California to work with Cesar Chavez to organize agricultural workers

  • Served in a variety of positions for the United Farm Workers of America

Three Waves

  • “Three waves of farm labor organizing had come and gone since 1900. In fact, farm workers tried to organize almost every time a labor shortage created an opportunity for them to make demands on their employers.”

None Take Root

  • “At each of those moments, ethnic labor associations, radical networks, and the American Federation of Labor (AFL) were involved, but in competition rather than collaboration. And—until the 1960s—each effort failed before a union could establish itself.”


  • “Growers integrated a system of labor contractors and crew bosses into an overarching network of centralized labor bureaus. By setting wages for almost every major crop and growing area in the state, the bureaus cut labor costs by 10–30 percent over the decade.”

  • “At the same time, the growers were organizing their firms, cooperatives, and associations horizontally by product—crop, region, and industry—and vertically by process: growing, packing, shipping, processing, and marketing.”

Growers Captured the State

  • “California growers institutionalized their grip on state politics through a reapportionment plan adopted by the state’s voters in 1926. The plan, promoted by a coalition of northern California and rural legislators in response to the rapid growth of Los Angeles, provided that no county could be represented by more than one state senator and no more than three counties could be combined into a single senate district. This meant that 6 percent of the voters would elect a majority of 40 senators, while Los Angeles County, with 39 percent of the electorate, would elect one.”

Chapter 1: How David Beat Goliath

  • Argument:
    • the UFW’s strategy was more compatible and innovative than the comparable unions which brought them success even though the UFW had the fewest resources
  • Possible factors:
    • political environment of the 1960s?
    • charisma of leadership?
    • framing of the message?

Ganz: “Strategy Capacity”

  • The strategic capacity of the UFW allowed it to rise above other organizations and be victorious as a social movement

  • “Students of strategy point to the UFW’s innovative redefinition of the arena of conflict, which linked farm workers to supporters through consumer boycotts.”

Motivation, Salient Knowledge, Learning

  • “UFW’s leadership devised more effective strategy, in fact a stream of effective strategy. The UFW was able to do this because the motivation of its leaders was greater than that of their rivals; they had better access to salient knowledge; and their deliberations became venues for learning. These are the three elements of what I call strategic capacity—the ability to devise good strategy.”

Example: Montogomery Bus Boycott

  • “In 1955, for example, in Montgomery, Alabama, the site of the bus boycott that launched the modern civil rights movement, black community members held few resources. But everyone who rode the bus to work, most of whom were black, had the resource of bus fare. As long as each person used this resource individually, it gave its holder a ride on the bus, but no power. By mobilizing this resource collectively—and withholding it—community leaders found that they could make the bus company dependent on the community, thus transforming its resources into the power to require the company to desegregate its buses.”

From Union to Movement

  • “When faced with the crisis created by a grape strike called at the initiative of the rival AFL-CIO, the NFWA’s leaders transformed their association into a social movement. This deepened their own motivation and that of farm workers and supporters, expanded their access to a diversity of relevant information, and expanded opportunities for them to learn from experience. Leaders of the AFL-CIO’s farm worker organizing committee, on the other hand, proved unable to change and, as a result, their organization ended up absorbed by the UFW.”

Strategy Helped Grow Coalition

  • “The strike would be nonviolent. This was new to the farm worker community and to agricultural strikes in general. Chavez had long been interested in Gandhi; reframing the Delano strike as a Gandhi-like nonviolent struggle helped the NFWA to garner support from church groups.”

Strategy Rooted in Culture

  • Framing of the message: rooted in religious, ethnic, and political culture and messaging rather than a traditional union.

  • Framed as a social movement toward civil rights rather than a struggle for better wages and working conditions.

  • To gain power, mobilize available resources including culture, religion, language and community ties

  • Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) rep insisted, “This is a trade union dispute, not a civil rights movement or a religious crusade.”

Organizing through Culture

  • “I loved the Friday night meetings. They were like revivals. There was all this great fun, and reports and speeches. A strong sense of solidarity. We’re all in it together…”

Contrast with AWOC

  • “Of course, AWOC also held daily strike meetings. But they were dull affairs focused on administrative questions, the distribution of strike benefits, and picket line attendance. And although ethnic identity did contribute to the solidarity of AWOC’s Filipino base, it was not embraced by the organization led by Anglos Smith and Green, neither of whom understood its value.”


  • “As proposals flew around the room, someone suggested we follow the example of the New Mexico miners who had traveled to New York to set up a mining camp in front of the company headquarters on Wall Street…”

William Kircher of AFL-CIO on March

  • “I got some old clothes, and I figured the best goddam way to find out what was going on was to avoid the experts and live with the people, so I walked with them, and I talked with them…. I happen to be a practicing Catholic and I go to Mass on a daily basis if I can, and here we were, going to Mass every morning, meeting every night, and Cesar began to talk [to me] more….”

William Kircher of AFL-CIO on March

  • “The whole thing had a strong, cultural religious thing, yet it was organizing people…. Chavez knew… that to approach the organization of these people like an organizer going into an auto plant some place, was ridiculous…. while Chavez directed their attention to their economic needs, he pulled them together through… the cultural religious form.”

Crowdsource: In Dolores, what were some examples of culture as a source of strength?

Let’s hear from: Rasheeda, Zainab, Anata, Tamara

Crowdsource: Were there examples of culture as a possible source of weakness?

Let’s hear from: Wyatt, Jonn, Tristan, Aissata


Video Essay: Jonn Segovia, Alisa Mack, Chris Ojeda, Carlos Lepe, Wilfredo Zuloaga-Hernandez


Discussion: How was Dolores similar to or different from the prior four movies?

Let’s hear from: Karen, Wilfredo, Jordan, Layla

Was Dolores a Hagiography?

  1. biography of saints or venerated persons

  2. idealizing or idolizing biography