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Letter to Judge Feinberg, Drug & Hospital Employees Union, Local 1199, 1971

Letter to Judge Feinberg

Letter to Judge Feinberg

Kheel Center for Labor Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University, KHE_5206_B22F4_Feinberg
Document Description
Letter from Leon Davis, President of Local 1199, to Judge Feinberg regarding the court case of Juan P. Farinas, July 12, 1971.
What workers do Local 1199 represent?
Why is this union taking an interest in the Juan Farinas case?
What is the purpose of this letter from Local 1199?
Judge Feinberg is a member of what court?
What has already happened to Mr. Farinas?
What are the thoughts of Local 1199 on the Vietnam War?
Historical Challenges
Learn more about the Nixon administration’s relationship to American labor unions during 1970-1972 by investigating the speeches listed in the resource links below. Write a statement from the viewpoint of a labor union, responding to one of the Nixon speeches.
Research the draft that was in place during the Vietnam War and the protest that surrounded it. Compare it to the volunteer army of today.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Language Arts: Create vocabulary cards for the following terms: appeal, reduction, petition, offensive, defray.
Math: Have the students create a budget for a typical family of four. Ask students to think about how Mr. Farinas’s family could have met their living expenses in 1972.
Albert, Judith Clavir, and Stewart Edward Albert, eds. 1984. The Sixties Papers: Documents of a Rebellious Decade. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishing, 1984. Bill of Rights Institute, “Respecting Freedom of Speech.” EDsitement, “The First Amendment: What’s Fair in a Free Country.”
Education for Freedom. “Case Summary: Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District.” First Amendment Schools, “When May Speech Be Limited?”
Gitlin, Todd. The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage. New York: Bantam, 1987.
New York State Library. "Selected Hispanic and Latino Websites."
Stone, Geoffrey R. 2005. Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism. New York: W.W. Norton, 2004.
United States Supreme Court. Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 24 February 1969.
Wells, Tom. 1994. The War Within: America’s Battle over Vietnam. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.


Historical Context
The arrest and conviction of Juan Farinas occurred at a time in America during which citizens conducted large-scale protests against the Vietnam War. The Vietnam struggle began in the 1950s as the government of South Vietnam defended itself from a takeover by the communist regime of North Vietnam. At first the U.S. served as military advisors to the South Vietnamese. U.S. involvement escalated after the Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which North Vietnamese PT boats opened fire on a U.S. destroyer on August 2, 1964. This resulted in a congressional resolution that gave President Lyndon B. Johnson authority to wage full-scale war against North Vietnam, without first obtaining a formal declaration of war from Congress.

The numbers of U.S. troops serving in Vietnam grew rapidly in the years following the Tonkin Resolution. Television coverage of the war gave Americans the opportunity to view, first-hand, the horrors of war. Images of bloody U.S. soldiers and body bags came into the living rooms of American families, along with a daily tally of U.S. deaths. This caused an increase in citizen protests that had first begun with college students and youth. Many young men, enlisted for military service by the Selective Service, burned their draft cards in protest. Protesters were arrested for peaceful demonstrations and sit-ins at sites like induction centers and colleges. As time went on, public opinion polls revealed that a growing number of Americans were against U.S. involvement in Vietnam.  

Juan Farinas was arrested in 1968 for attempting to pass out anti-war literature to fellow inductees as he was being processed at the Whitehall Induction Center. He was tried and convicted on several counts, including his refusal to stop passing out the leaflets and speaking out against the war, interfering with the Selective Service System, and refusing to report for and submit to the draft. Many labor unions, including Local 1199, helped raise money for his trial defense and appeal and sponsored letter-writing campaigns. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case and Juan Farinas served his jail sentence.
Essential Question
How does war affect the civil rights of citizens?
Check for Understanding
Identify the main idea of this letter and explain the impact of war on Juan Farinas' civil rights.