You are here


Case Study: How Working Conditions Change: Chávez and the UFW

You are here:

In this unit, which centers on informational text standards RI.7.2, RI.7.3, and RI.7.5, students will read and analyze a speech by César Chávez. In response to the difficult working and living conditions faced by agricultural workers, Chávez helped found the United Farm Workers in the 1960s. In 1984, Chávez gave his Commonwealth Club Address, which argues that the UFW has been and will continue to be a powerful institution that improves the lives of farmworkers and empowers the Latino community.

This is primarily a reading unit, and it focuses on students’ ability to determine the central ideas of a text and analyze how they are developed, understand how people and events interact in that text, and consider how an author organizes a text so that each section of the text relates to the central claim. As students read the speech, they will add to a new anchor chart about how consumers, workers, government, and businesses (the focus of Unit 3) affect working conditions. They also will analyze how Chávez uses specific tools of rhetoric to develop his central claim and will discuss the structure of the speech.

In the Mid-Unit 2 Assessment, students will answer selected-response questions for a section of Chávez’s speech that the class has not yet discussed. In the End of Unit 2 Assessment, they will apply their understanding of text structure to analyze a new speech by Chávez. Both assessments focus on RI.7.2, RI.7.3, and RI.7.5, but the mid-unit assessment focuses more on RI.7.2 and RI.7.3 while the end of unit assessment focuses more on RI.7.5. The lessons in this unit are adapted from lessons developed by Odell Education (see stand-alone documents on


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How do working conditions change?
  • What role do consumers, governments, business owners, and workers play in improving working conditions?
  • How does a speaker develop and organize his central claim?
  • Workers, the government, businesses, and consumers can all bring about change in working conditions.
  • Closely reading and discussing an excerpt of a longer text helps to deepen your understanding of the text as a whole.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards. However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies and science content that may align to additional teaching during other parts of the day. These intentional connections are described below.


Texts included in the unit

Texts that are included in the lesson materials.

Cover Text Quantity Publisher
Common-wealth Club Address
by César Chávez
"Are Your Clothes Made in Sweatshops?”
by Oxfam Australia
Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez
by Kathleen Krull
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2003
ISBN: 978-0152014377
“An Apparel Factory Defies Sweatshop Label, but Can It Thrive?”
by Steven Greenhouse
The New York Times, 2010
“In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad”
by Charles Duhigg and David Barboza
The New York Times, 2012
“Ethical Style: How Is My T-Shirt Made?”
by Tabea Kay
GOOD, 2012
Cesar Chavez, “The Wrath of Grapes,” speech given in May 1986
by Cesar Chavez
César Chávez, “Statement at Pacific Lutheran University,” speech given in March 1989
by César Chávez

Optional Activities

Invite a local union organizer to speak with your students about how unions work and how they affect working conditions.


  • For an online fieldwork experience, visit the website of the United Farm Workers at
  • If there are any food boycotts happening in your community, consider taking students to a store that carries this type of product to talk with the manager about the boycott and how that store in particular and the industry in general has decided to respond. For example, many stores are considering how to respond to consumer concerns about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), even though these are not federally regulated.



  • Consider partnering with the social studies teacher for a cross-disciplinary investigation of this time in history.
  • Consider partnering with the science teacher for an investigation of the impacts of different methods of agricultural production.

Our newest K-5 curricula is available on a new site,
This website will be decommissioned in June 2018. Sign up for updates.