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Jerry Cohen (AC 1963) Papers

 Collection
Identifier: MA.00179

Scope and Contents

The Jerry Cohen Papers consist of a large body of material kept by Cohen during his fourteen years as General Counsel of the United Farm Workers of America and personal attorney of César Chávez. The collection relates primarily to Cohen's participation in the legal battles for union recognition and basic labor rights fought by the UFW in the late 1960s and 1970s. It extends, however, to the year 2008, and documentation about his further practice as a labor lawyer is also present. The collection includes labor contracts, collective bargaining agreements, case files, court hearings, and extensive documentation on California's Agricultural Labor Relations Act (A.L.R.A.) passed in 1975. There is also a variety of news articles, correspondence, printed material, briefs, memos, petitions, research notes, photographs, illustrations and UFW administrative documents. The papers are organized loosely by subject into eleven series that cover the period 1960-2008. Within each series, the original folder titles were maintained, and the order in which they appear respect as much as possible the listing created by Jerry Cohen. The collection contains only non-privileged material.

Dates

  • 1960-2009

Creator

Conditions Governing Access note

The papers are open for research use, with the following exceptions: access to portions of Series 5 (Agricultural Labor Relations Act) and all of Series 6 (Transition Files) is currently restricted at the request of the donor. In addition, some particularly fragile items may be restricted for preservation purposes.

Conditions Governing Use note

Requests for permission to publish material from the Jerry Cohen Papers should be directed to the Archives and Special Collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Biographical Note

Jerome Cohen, labor lawyer and social activist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1941. He received a B.A. from Amherst College in 1963, and earned a law degree at Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley, a few years later. Cohen worked as a first-year attorney at the California Rural Legal Assistance Office (CRLA) in 1967 when he attracted César Chávez's attention and was called to join the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (U.F.W.O.C.). Acting as Chávez's personal attorney and General Counsel of the U.F.W., he played a critical role in the union's organizing drive in California and other agricultural states. One of his first contributions to the U.F.W. was the creation of a new union, the United Peanut Shelling Workers of America, as part of a strategy to avoid NLRA regulations that prohibited secondary boycotts. His ability to use the law as an offensive weapon to advance organizing goals and build power to the union prompted him to direct the U.F.W. legal department for the next fourteen years, during which he helped migrant laborers win basic rights through litigation, strikes, boycotts, and other non-violent tactics.

Cohen's work resulted in many important constitutional decisions that continue to protect farm workers to the present day. He stepped down as General Counsel of the U.F.W. in 1979, but acted as attorney and negotiator for the union until 1981. He has since then engaged in private practice.

Extent

13 Linear feet (24 archives boxes, 3 half archives boxes, 1 tape box)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract:

Chiefly legal records kept by Cohen during his 14 years as General Counsel of the United Farm Workers of America and personal attorney of César Chávez. The collection relates primarily to Cohen's participation in the legal battles for union recognition and basic labor rights fought by the U.F.W. in the late 1960s and 1970s. The collection contains only non-privileged material.

Arrangement note

The papers are organized loosely by subject into eleven series that cover the period 1960-2008. Within each series, the original folder titles were maintained, and the order in which they appear respect as much as possible the original listing created by Jerry Cohen.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

The Jerry Cohen (AC 1963) Papers were deposited by Jerry Cohen in 2007. The collection consists of the records Cohen kept during his career as General Counsel of the United Farm Workers of America and as personal attorney of its president, César Chávez. Most folder titles have been taken from the titles on the original folders in which the material arrived. In processing, the papers were organized by subject into eleven series covering the period 1960-2008.

Related Archival Materials note

At Amherst College:

  • United Farm Workers Printed Matter, 1970-1979


At Other Repositories:
  • National Farm Workers Association Collection, 1960-1967. Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University (Detroit, Mich.).


Online Resources:
  • Digital Collection: Selected documents from the Jerry Cohen Papers
  • Farm Worker Documentation Project, 1962-1993 (URL: www.farmworkermovement.org)
  • 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 Paper Electronic Library, 2006. Full text (pdf, 715 KB). Used with permission.

General Physical Description note

24 archives boxes, 3 half archives boxes, 1 tape box(13 linear ft.)

Processing Information note

The papers were processed in 2007-2008.

Title
Jerry Cohen (AC 1963) Papers, 1960-2009 Finding Aid
Status
Completed
Author
Finding aid prepared by Isadora Moura Mota, Project Archivist.
Date
2008
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Amherst College Archives & Special Collections
Robert Frost Library
61 Quadrangle Drive
Amherst MA 01002-5000
(413) 542-2299