Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Former Chavez Ally Took His Own Path

Former Chavez Ally Took His Own Path

Where Eliseo Medina has gone, unions have grown. His successes in organizing immigrants show what farmworkers lost -- but can find again, he believes.

By Miriam Pawel, Times Staff Writer

At 21, the farmworker from Delano with an eighth-grade education hopped an airplane for the first time, with $20, a bag of UFW buttons to sell and the name of a Chicago postal worker loyal to the union cause.

The kid from the tiny town in the Central Valley who landed on John Armendariz's doorstep in 1967 was totally green — amazed at the city traffic, baffled by Chicago's El and faced with a daunting task: Get supermarkets to stop selling grapes.

Armendariz had watched his five children grapple with fear in different ways, and he wondered how Eliseo Medina would cope, without even winter clothes.

"His were real fears," Armendariz said. "How do you introduce yourself? How do you talk to people? He did an amazing job of controlling that."


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