Library

The Jerry Cohen '63 Papers at Amherst College

Introduction

Jerry Cohen stands as one of the most influential activist lawyers in American labor relations in the second half of the 20th century.

Chávez and Cohen

 His importance derives from his key role during the Chicano Movement, when, as the nation was undergoing a Civil Rights upheaval, he focused his professional services in the betterment of the social conditions of Mexican migrant workers in the Southwest.

My friendship with him dates back to the 1990s. During a visit to California, he showered me with unforgettable anecdotes about César Chávez. Cohen was Chávez's personal attorney and invaluable companion during the decisive fights the United Farm Workers fought against owners, corporations, and the government. He approached the law as a tool for change. If it often sided with the haves, it was crucial for lawyers to push it in the opposite direction.

Over the years I've learned to value Cohen's insider's view. His vision was instrumental in the shaping of my book César Chávez: An Organizer's Tale (2008)."Why We Boycott" title page

When during a phone call he mentioned he was getting on in years was hoping to place his archives somewhere, I jumped at the possibility of bringing them to Amherst College, where Cohen arrived as a young man from Washington D.C. in 1959 and where he learned important lessons in American history that would mark him forever. The briefings, petitions, pamphlets, agreements, notebooks, photographs, and op-eds in this special collection are a reminder that the idealism of youth is the sustenance of adulthood.

Jerry Cohen's legacy proves that to sacrifice one's life for others is to find its true worth.

–Ilán Stavans
Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture (Spanish)
and Five College Fortieth Anniversary Professor; Chair of Spanish

Digital Collection

The following documents and photographs are available for browsing.
Items are listed in reverse chronological order.

Link

Title / Notes

Date

Finding aid Finding aid to the Jerry Cohen (AC 1963) Papers (updated version to be available soon)
This is the full descriptive inventory to this manuscript collection in the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections, measuring 13 linear feet in 28 boxes.
2008 Sep
Summary of UFW Judicial Cases
Detailed summary of 12 California Supreme Court cases in which the UFW was involved during the period 1967-1979, prepared by Jannah V. Manansala '03, an attorney in the Weinberg, Roger and Rosenfeld of Alameda, Calif., and with assistance of W. Daniel Boone '65. (Weinberg, Roger and Rosenfeld is currently the largest labor-side law firm in the country.)
26 pages.
2008 Sep
 
  [pdf, 231KB]
 

"Gringo Justice" by Jerry Cohen
"Gringo Justice" is a memoir written by Jerry Cohen about his work with the United Farm Workers Union, 1967-1981.
33 pages. Copyright 2008 Jerome Cohen.

2008 Feb

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Oral history interview with Jerry Cohen

 

2007 Nov 2            
Gordon, Jennifer.  "Law, Lawyers, and Labor: the United Farm Workers’ Legal Strategy in the 1960s and 1970s and the Role of Law in Union Organizing Today.” 
Fordham University School of Law Legal Studies Research Series
, 2006.
73 pages.

2006
Image Gallery Photographs and graphic designs
13 items.
 
[pdf, 649 KB]
 
 
[pdf, 531 KB]
 
[pdf, 1.32 MB]
 
 
6 op-ed pieces by Jerry Cohen
Written after his involvement with the UFW, these pieces appearing in California newspapers reflect Cohen's continuing interest in issues of social justice and labor.
1985, 1986, 1990
César Chávez et al. vs. Frank Fitzsimmons et al.
Anti-trust suit against vegetable growers.
23 pages.
1979
Teamster PactTeamster Pact
[pdf, 7 MB]
Teamster Pact
Jurisdictional agreement between the UFW and the Teamsters "designed to bring peace, stability, certainty and a sense of fair play to labor relations in the agricultural and related industries."
24 pages.
1977 Mar
UFW v Buak FruitUFW v Buak Fruit
[pdf, 6.2 MB]
UFW vs. Supreme Court of Santa Cruz County (Buak Fruit Company, Inc.)
This case argued before the California Supreme court resulted in a decision that protected First Amendment rights to picket and to visit workers in camps.
19 pages.
1975

Jacques Levy's interview with Jerry Cohen, César Chávez, Ellen Greenstone, Jerry Goldman and Sandy Nathan

1975
ALRA (see part 3.5)
California Agricultural Labor Relations Act (A.L.R.A.) 1975
"Why We Boycott" (1973)"Why We Boycott" (1973)
[pdf, 14 MB]
"Why We Boycott"
An illustrated pamphlet distributed by the UFW with an introduction by César Chávez explaining the reasons behind the grape boycott.
36 pages.
1973
[pdf, 22 MB]

Delano grape contract
A collective bargaining agreement between a group of California grape growers and the UFW.
23 pages.

1970

Digital content available in a variety of searchable formats at www.archive.org:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3-A
Part 3-B

Part 4-A
Part 4-B

Part 5-A
Part 5-B

Part 6-A
Part 6-B
Part 6-C


Part 7-A
Part 7-B


Part 8-A
Part 8-B
Part 8-C

Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Powerlessness: Hearings before the Subcommittee on Migratory Labor of the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, U.S. Senate.
Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.

 

  • Part 1:Who are the migrants?
  • Part 2: The migrant subculture
  • Part 3, A-B: efforts to organize
  • Part 4, A-B: farmworker legal problems
  • Part 5 A-B: Border commuter labor problem
  • Part 6, A-C: Pesticides and the farmworker
  • Part 7, A-B: Manpower and economic problems
  • Part 8, A-C: Who is responsible?
1969 Jul-Sep

"Pesticides: The Poisons We Eat"
A UFW pamphlet explaining the dangers of agricultural pesticides to farm workers and consumers alike.
15 pages.

1969
UFW v Kern CountyUFW v Kern County
[pdf, 3.5 MB]

UFWOC vs. Superior Court of Kern County
Petition presented to the court that sought to overturn an unconstitutional ban on the use of bullhorns, which were necessary to communicate from the picket line to workers in the fields.
10 pages.

1967 Aug
Related Online Resources
Link Hispanic-American Newspapers (Amherst College access only)
A vast database of full-text articles from the Hispanic-American press, 1808-1980.  Includes coverage of many U.F.W. activities.
1808-1980
Link Farmworker Documentation Project
www.farmworkermovement.org
"Primary source accounts by volunteers who built the movement." The site includes essays, audio or video files of oral histories, essays, digitized UFW publications (including various issues of the newspaper "El Malcriado") and a wide range of information about other archival sources related to the UFW.
 
Link

Labor Justice

"A national volunteer organization dedicated to reversing 74 years of government-sanctioned discrimination directed at farm workers and domestics because of their exclusion from the National Labor Relations Act of 1935." Co-founded by Jerry Cohen and LeRoy Chatfield.

2009
Link

UFW Archival Records

"Guide to the Collections of the United Farm Workers of America," Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University

 
Link

Jacques E. Levy Collection on César Chávez    

The collection housed at the Beinecke Rare Manuscripts Library at Yale University "consists of audiotapes, transcripts, notebooks, correspondence, documents, printed material, and writings accumulated by Levy while conducting research for his book, Cesar Chavez: Autobiography of La Causa (New York: Norton, [1975])."

1959-1997
 

Efforts to reform the National Labor Relations Act

Letter written by JerryCohen to the Secretary of Labor urging reform of the NLRA to include farmworkers and domestic laborers; the response from the Office of Labor-Management Standards; and an Op-Ed piece from the New York Times on the subject.

2009