American Catholicism and Farm Labor Activism: The Farm Labor Aid Committee of Indiana as a Case Study

by McLochlin, Dustin C.

Abstract (Summary)
While scholars have studied the United Farm Workers (UFW) in California from many angles, boycott activity outside of California is neglected in these studies. This thesis seeks to reorient the current literature on the UFW to the activity of outside supporters of the farm workers struggles in California. Specifically, this thesis investigates the actions of one advocacy group in Northern Indiana, the Farm Labor Aid Committee (FLAC), that moved to bolster boycott support in the Midwestern state in support of the UFW. By studying this group, one sees the connection between a national movement and its networks of local support. This thesis argues that the Catholic Church proved crucial for mobilizing supporters in Northern Indiana to the causes of migrant workers in California. Inspired by liberation theology, and the UFWs use of Catholic iconography, many Catholic Church members felt compelled to dedicate their time to publicly demonstrating their support for the UFW and its boycott efforts. FLAC remained active throughout the late-1960s and early-1970s in supporting the activity of the national boycott. In the early years of the committee, the leadership focused solely on supporting the actions of the UFW and publicizing the activity of the union in Indiana. But as the movement progressed in the 1970s, FLAC moved to support an expansion of the UFW and farm labor organizing into Indiana. Ultimately, FLAC failed to contribute to any unionization in Indiana, but the activity of the small committee points to the strength of Catholicism in uniting a racially diverse group designed to support a union far removed from its home state. By providing networks of communication and unifying imagery with Catholic iconography, white Catholic students in South Bend, Indiana felt compelled to support largely Mexican-American migrant farm workers in California.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Bowling Green State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:farm labor midwest ufw migrant


Date of Publication:01/01/2008

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