The publication of The Story of PCUN and the Farmworker Movement in Oregon, a history of Oregon’s largest farmworkers’ union written by University of Oregon anthropology professor Lynn Stephen, will be showcased at a grand opening celebration of PCUN’s new CAPACES Leadership Institute on August 25, 2012, at 5 p.m. at 356 Young Street in Woodburn, Oregon. PCUN, the acronym for Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United), launched the planning for CAPACES offices in 2008, the capital campaign in 2009 and the construction in 2011, and is now just a few weeks away from completion and celebration.
As a part of PCUN, the CAPACES Leadership Institute is designed to create a new generation of young leaders who will guide PCUN and its eight sister organizations into the future. With its trademark “Si, Se Puede” (Yes, I Can!) spirit, the 27-year-old farmworkers’ union has been moving toward this important moment of capacity building for more than four years. According to PCUN secretary-treasurer Larry Kleinman, the organization has enjoyed wide community and national backing, with some 1,300 volunteers and support from 278 donors, 14 foundations, and two-dozen construction businesses. For the grand opening celebration on August 25, Kleinman anticipates attendance by a number of dignitaries, possibly including U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, along with many other supporters and community members.
Stephen’s recently released book highlights the history of PCUN and the larger context of Oregon and U.S. history. PCUN and the farmworker movement in Oregon began with the U.S. Bracero Program in the 1940s, which transformed Oregon’s agricultural labor force; generated organizing, activism and other farmworker movements; and was the impetus for settled Mexican communities in Willamette Valley towns such as Woodburn, St. Paul, Independence and Gervais. The book can be downloaded online in PDF format and will soon be available for purchase at the UO Duck Store
Stephen writes that the story of PCUN “is told from the perspective of those who were active in founding and participating in it—including farmworkers, field organizers, staff and those who worked closely with the organization.” The book documents the insights and experiences of Oregon’s Latino population, which grew from 2.5 percent of the population in 1980 to nearly 12 percent in 2010. In some counties, such as Marion County, where PCUN is based, Latinos account for as much as 25 percent of the population.
In the book, Stephen describes PCUN as being “a crucial part of Latino history in Oregon over the past three decades. From a small office providing legal services for immigrant workers to being a national leader in defending the rights of farmworkers and immigrants, PCUN has become a role model for the positive integration of Latino immigrants in the U.S.”
The book is based on 19 lengthy interviews, observations of organizational meetings, visits to the fields and many informal conversations, as well as a study of PCUN’s extensive archives, which include newspaper clippings, correspondence, videos, and photographs. The book includes 58 historic photographs and posters from PCUN.
UO has a lengthy and significant history with PCUN. Professor Stephen and students in her anthropology classes began recording the history of PCUN in 1999. In June 2011, the UO’s then-president Richard Lariviere and PCUN president Ramón Ramírez signed documents marking the transfer of historic papers of PCUN to the UO Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives. The PCUN papers are now accessible to the public for study and research through Special Collections. An outgrowth of the relationship has been the Oregon Latino Heritage Collaborative, a historic partnership between UO and PCUN meant to open “new avenues to preserve, share, research, study, and narrate Latino communities’ history as Oregon and American history.”