Title

Creating a Contemporary Organizational Culture Through Press Release Rhetoric: The United Farm Workers

Date of Award

2003

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication Studies

First Advisor

John C. Meyer

Advisor Department

Communication Studies

Abstract

Founded in 1967, the United Farm Workers (UFW) organization effectively changed the status of farm workers in many parts of the United States. As the UFW sought change, it used a variety of communication vehicles, methods, and messages to advocate on behalf of its constituency. Unlike previous research, this study examined the contemporary organizational culture of the UFW. It began by recognizing the history of the UFW. Then, the project focused on the organizational culture of the UFW by analyzing over 279 news releases distributed by the UFW on its website from December 1996 to December 2002. Bormann's (1972) fantasy theme analysis guided the study. The following three research questions were addressed: What themes were dominant in the rhetoric of the organization? How did these themes indicate the values of the organizational culture? And, how did these values serve to create the UFW's contemporary organizational culture? First, dominant themes were identified through fantasy theme, fantasy type, and rhetorical vision analysis. Three fantasy theme groupings stood out. Labor fantasy themes included safety and contract sub-themes. Political fantasy sub-themes incorporated voter empowerment, politician, and legislative campaigns. Legacy sub-themes integrated pension and tribute campaigns. Plotlines, scenes, and characters were analyzed for each of the fantasy themes and sub-themes. Analysis of fantasy types identified "sacrifice for the greater good," and "we shall overcome." The study of the organization's rhetorical vision further supported thematic findings in fantasy theme and fantasy type analysis. Second, themes placed certain values predominantly in the rhetoric. Repeated references to particular values and the value orientation of hero and villain placed some values ahead of others. Organizational values indicated by the texts included: justice, unity, courage, dedication, nonviolence, sacrifice, and collaboration. Third, the values of the organization shaped the perspective of the organization, both for internal and external audiences. Values such as nonviolence promoted some actions over others. Additional rhetorical challenges of the union were addressed, along with the study's limitations and directions for future research.