America’s Social Arsonist: Fred Ross and Grassroots Organizing in the Twentieth Century

UC Berkeley Labor Center
This event is co-sponsored by the UC Berkeley Center for Latin American Studies.

Book Talk: Gabriel Thompson and Fred Ross Jr.
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
UC Berkeley Labor Center
2521 Channing Way
5:30–7:00 PM

“A good organizer is a social arsonist who goes around setting people on fire.” —Fred Ross

Raised by conservative parents who hoped he would “stay with his own kind,” Fred Ross instead became one of the most influential community organizers in American history. His activism began alongside Dust Bowl migrants, where he managed the same labor camp that inspired John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. During World War II, Ross worked for the release of interned Japanese Americans, and after the war, he dedicated his life to building the political power of Latinos across California. Labor organizing in the United States was forever changed when Ross met a young Cesar Chavez and encouraged him to become an organizer. Ross’s influence continues through the thousands of leaders and organizers trained directly by him or those who learned from him. Today, they are working for immigrant rights, human rights, labor, environmental justice, and in electoral politics.

“Any organizer who has conducted a voter registration and turnout campaign, held a house meeting to recruit grassroots activists, or launched a boycott to pressure a powerful person or institution, owes a debt of gratitude to Ross.” – Peter Dreier in The American Prospect

Gabriel Thompson is an award-winning journalist and the author of several books, including Working in the Shadows, which chronicled a year-long investigation of the working conditions faced by Latino immigrants.

Fred Ross Jr. is a long-time labor and community organizer who has worked with the United Farm Workers, founded Neighbor to Neighbor, and is currently an organizer for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1245. He was trained and mentored by his father Fred Ross Sr. and Cesar Chavez.

This event is free and open to the public. Please register for the event.