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César Estrada Chávez (March 31, 1927 – April 23, 1993) was a Mexican American farm worker, labor leader, and civil rights activist who, with Dolores Huerta, co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers (UFW). Supporters say his work led to numerous improvements for union laborers. His birthday has become César Chávez Day, a state holiday in eight US states. Many parks, cultural centers, libraries, schools, and streets have been named in his honor in cities across the United States.

Later in life, César focused on his education. The walls of his office in Keene, Californiamarker (United Farm Worker headquarters) were lined with hundreds of books ranging in subject from philosophy, economics, cooperatives, and unions, to biographies of Gandhi and the Kennedys. He was a vegan.

He is buried at the National Chavez Center, on the headquarters campus of the UFW, at 29700 Woodford-Tehachapi Road in the Keenemarker community of unincorporated Kern Countymarker, Californiamarker. There is a portrait of him in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.

Activism

Chávez was hired and trained by Fred Ross as a community organizer in 1952 for the Community Service Organization (CSO), a Latino civil rights group. Chávez urged Mexican Americans to register and vote, and he traveled throughout California and made speeches in support of workers' rights. He later became CSO's national director in 1958.

Four years later, Chávez left the CSO. He co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) with Dolores Huerta. It was later called the United Farm Workers (UFW).

When Filipino American farm workers initiated the Delano grape strike on September 8, 1965, to protest for higher wages, Chávez eagerly supported them. Six months later, Chávez and the NFWA led a strike of California grape pickers on the historic farmworkers march from Delano to the California state capitol in Sacramentomarker for similar goals. The UFW encouraged all Americans to boycott table grapes as a show of support. The strike lasted five years and attracted national attention. In March 1966, the US Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare's Subcommittee on Migratory Labor held hearings in California on the strike. During the hearings, subcommittee member Robert F. Kennedy expressed his support for the striking workers.

These activities led to similar movements in Southern Texas in 1966, where the UFW supported fruit workers in Starr County, Texas, and led a march to Austinmarker, in support of UFW farm workers' rights. In the Midwest, César Chávez's movement inspired the founding of two Midwestern independent unions: Obreros Unidos in Wisconsin in 1966, and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in Ohio in 1967. Former UFW organizers would also found the Texas Farm Workers Union in 1975.

In the early 1970s, the UFW organized strikes and boycotts to protest for, and later win, higher wages for those farm workers who were working for grape and lettuce growers. The union also won passage of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act, which gave collective bargaining rights to farm workers. During the 1980s, Chávez led a boycott to protest the use of toxic pesticides on grapes. Bumper stickers reading "NO GRAPES" and "UVAS NO" (the translation in Spanish) were widespread. He again fasted to draw public attention. UFW organizers believed that a reduction in produce sales by 15% was sufficient to wipe out the profit margin of the boycotted product. These strikes and boycotts generally ended with the signing of bargaining agreements.

Immigration

The UFWA during Chávez's tenure was committed to restricting immigration. César Chávez and Dolores Huerta fought the Bracero Program that existed from 1942 to 1964. Their opposition stemmed from their belief that the program undermined US workers and exploited the migrant workers. Their efforts contributed to Congress ending the Bracero Program in 1964. In 1973, the UFW was one of the first labor unions to oppose proposed employer sanctions that would have prohibited hiring undocumented immigrants. Later during the 1980s, while Chávez was still working alongside UFW president, Dolores Huerta, the cofounder of the UFW, was key in getting the amnesty provisions into the 1986 federal immigration act.

On a few occasions, concerns that undocumented migrant labor would undermine UFW strike campaigns led to a number of controversial events, which the UFW describes as anti-strikebreaking events, but which have also been interpreted as being anti-immigrant. In 1969, Chávez and members of the UFW marched through the Imperialmarker and Coachella Valleys to the border of Mexico to protest growers' use of undocumented immigrants as strikebreakers. Joining him on the march were both Reverend Ralph Abernathy and US Senator Walter Mondale. In its early years, Chávez and the UFW went so far as to report undocumented immigrants who served as strikebreaking replacement workers, as well as those who refused to unionize, to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

In 1973, the United Farm Workers set up a "wet line" along the United States-Mexico border to prevent Mexican immigrants from entering the United States illegally and potentially undermining the UFW's unionization efforts. During one such event in which Chávez was not involved, some UFW members, under the guidance of Chávez's cousin Manuel, physically attacked the strikebreakers, after attempts to peacefully persuade them not to cross the border failed.

César Chávez Day

César Chávez's birthday, March 31, is celebrated in California as a state holiday, intended to promote service to the community in honor of Chávez's life and work. Many, but not all, state government offices, community colleges, and libraries are closed, except for K-12 schools. Texas also recognizes the day, and it is an optional holiday in Arizona and Colorado. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger suspended observance of the holiday in 2004 and 2005 to save money during the aftermath of the power crisis.

Legacy



In 1973, college professors in Mount Angel, Oregonmarker established the first four-year Mexican-American college in the United States. They chose César Chávez as their symbolic figurehead, naming the college Colegio Cesar Chavez. In the book Colegio Cesar Chavez, 1973-1983: A Chicano Struggle for Educational Self-Determination author Carlos Maldonado writes that Chávez visited the campus twice, joining in public demonstrations in support of the college. Though Colegio Cesar Chavez closed in 1983, it remains a recognized part of Oregon history. On its website the Oregon Historical Society writes, "Structured as a 'college-without-walls,' more than 100 students took classes in Chicano Studies, early childhood development, and adult education. Significant financial and administrative problems caused Colegio to close in 1983. Its history represents the success of a grassroots movement." The Colegio has been described as having been a symbol of the Latino presence in Oregon.

In 1992 Chávez was awarded the Pacem in Terris Award. It was named after a 1963 encyclical letter by Pope John XXIII that calls upon all people of good will to secure peace among all nations. Pacem in Terris is Latin for "Peace on Earth."

César Chávez died on April 23, 1993, of unspecified natural causes in a rental apartment in San Luis, Arizonamarker. Shortly after his death, his widow, Helen Chávez, donated his black nylon union jacket to the National Museum of American Historymarker, a branch of the Smithsonianmarker.

On September 8, 1994, César Chávez was presented, posthumously, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President William Clinton. The award was received by his widow, Helen Chávez.

The California cities of Modesto, Sacramento, San Diegomarker, Berkeleymarker, and San Jose, Californiamarker have renamed parks after him, and in Amarillo, Texasmarker a bowling alley has been renamed in his memory. In Los Angelesmarker, César E. Chávez Avenue, originally two separate streets (Macy Street west of the Los Angeles River and Brooklyn Avenue east of the river), extends from Sunset Boulevard and runs through East Los Angeles and Monterey Parkmarker. In San Franciscomarker, César Chávez Street, originally named Army Street, is named in his memory. At San Francisco State Universitymarker the student center is also named after him. The University of California, Berkeley, has a César E. Chávez Student Center, which lies across Lower Sproul Plaza from the Martin Luther King, Jr., Student Union. California State University San Marcosmarker's Chavez Plaza includes a statue to Chávez. In 2007, The University of Texas at Austinmarker unveiled its own César Chávez Statue on campus. Fresno named an adult school, where a majority percent of students' parents or themselves are, or have been, field workers, after Chávez. In Austin, Texas, one of the central thoroughfares was changed to César Chávez Boulevard. In Ogden, Utahmarker, a four-block section of 30th Street was renamed Cesar Chavez Street. In Oaklandmarker, there is a library named after him and his birthday, March 31, is a district holiday in remembrance of him. On July 8, 2009, the city of Portlandmarker, Oregonmarker, changed the name of 39th Avenue to Cesar Chavez Boulevard. In 2003, the United States Postal Service honored him with a postage stamp.

The National Chavez Center, Keene, California.
In 2004, the National Chavez Center was opened on the UFW national headquarters campus in Keene by the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation. It currently consists of a visitor center, memorial garden and his grave site. When it is fully completed, the 187-acre site will include a museum and conference center to explore and share Chávez's work.

In 2005, a César Chávez commemorative meeting was held in San Antonio, honoring his work on behalf of immigrant farmworkers and other immigrants. Chavez High School in Houstonmarker is named in his honor, as is Cesar E. Chavez High School in Delano, Californiamarker. In Davis, Californiamarker; Santa Fe, New Mexicomarker; Bakersfield, Californiamarker and Madison, Wisconsinmarker there are elementary schools named after him in his honor. In Davis, Californiamarker, there is also an apartment complex named after Chávez which caters specifically to low-income residents and people with physical and mental disabilities. In Racine, Wisconsinmarker, there is a community center named The Cesar Chavez Community Center also in his honor. In Grand Rapids, Michiganmarker, the business loop of I-196 Highway is named "Cesar E Chavez Blvd." The (AFSC) American Friends Service Committee nominated him three times for the Nobel Peace Prize.

On December 6, 2006, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver inducted César Chávez into the California Hall of Fame located at The California Museum for History, Women, and the Arts.

César Chávez's eldest son, Fernando Chávez, and grandson, Anthony Chávez, each tour the country, speaking about his legacy.

Chávez was referenced by Stevie Wonder in the song "Black Man," from the album Songs in the Key of Life, and by Tom Morello in the song "Union Song," from the album One Man Revolution.

Timeline



ImageSize = width:750 height:700PlotArea = left:50 right:0 bottom:10 top:10

DateFormat = yyyyPeriod = from:1927 till:1996TimeAxis = orientation:verticalScaleMajor = unit:year increment:3 start:1927ScaleMinor = unit:year increment:1 start:1927

PlotData=
 color:red mark:(line,pink) align:left fontsize:M
 shift:(25,0) # shift text to right side of bar
 at:1927   text:March 31, César Estrada Chávez born near Yuma, Arizona.
 at:1942   text:Chavez Begins as a farm worker
 at:1944   text:Chavez begins his military service in the US Navy, which lasts 2 years.
 at:1946   text:Chavez joins the National Agricultural Workers Union, his first.
 at:1948   text:He and his family join the National Farm Workers Labor Union.
 at:1952   text:Cesar Chavez is recruited for Saul Alinsky's Community Service Organization,~ an activist group that fought racial and economic discrimination against Chicano residents.
 from:1958 till:1959   text:Chávez organizes strikes, marches, and a boycott of merchants~ in Oxnard to protest local unemployment.
 at:1962   text:Leaves The CSO and moves to Delano where he founds the Farm Workers Association.
 at:1965 shift:(25,-5) text: The NFWA and Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee start the grape boycott.
 at:1966 shift:(25,8) text:In March, Chávez marches with 75 others from Delano to the capital, Sacramento, 340 miles~ to bring attention to the plight of farmworkers.
 at:1968 text:In February, Chavez begins his historic 25 day fast.
 at:1969 text:UFW declares National Grape Boycott Day.
 at:1970 text:In December, Chávez imprisoned for challenging injunction against the boycott.
 at:1973 text:UFW celebrates first convention in Fresno.
 at:1975 text:California Supreme Court declares the short-handled hoe an Unsafe Hand Tool thus banned by California law
 at:1977 text:An agreement was reached that gave the UFW the sole right to organize farm workers.
 at:1984 text:Chávez announces a new grape boycott, this time focused on pesticides.
 at:1988 text:Chávez fasts for 36 days to protest pesticide use
 at:1993 text:April 23, after a fast of several days, Chávez dies in his sleep of unknown cause.
 at:1994 text:Chávez posthumously receives the US Medal of Freedom from President Clinton.
 at:1996 text:Made a memorial of his history.


Further reading

  • Levy, Jacques E. and Cesar Chavez. César Chávez: Autobiography of La Causa. New York: Norton, 1975. ISBN 0-393-07494-3
  • Dalton, Frederick John. The Moral Vision of César Chávez. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2003. ISBN 1-57075-458-6
  • Ross, Fred. Conquering Goliath : César Chávez at the Beginning. Keene, California: United Farm Workers: Distributed by El Taller Grafico, 1989. ISBN 0-9625298-0-X
  • Soto, Gary. César Chávez: a Hero for Everyone. New York: Aladdin, 2003. ISBN 0-689-85923-6 and ISBN 0-689-85922-8 (pbk.)
  • Ferriss, Susan and Ricardo Sandoval. The Fight in the Fields: César Chávez and the Farmworkers Movement. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1997. ISBN 0-15-100239-8
  • Handbook of Texas History, Online Edition
  • Jacob, Amanda César Chávez Dominates Face Sayville: Mandy Publishers, 2005.
  • Prouty, Marco G. César Chávez, the Catholic Bishops, and the Farmworkers' Struggle for Social Justice (University of Arizona Press; 185 pages; 2006). Analyzes the church's changing role from mediator to Chávez supporter in the farmworkers' strike that polarized central California's Catholic community from 1965 to 1970; draws on previously untapped archives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
  • Daniel, Cletus E. "Cesar Chavez and the Unionization of California Farm Workers." ed. Dubofsky, Melvyn and Warren Van Tine. Labor Leaders in America. University of IL: 1987.
  • LosEstadosLatinos.com will have a month long tribute to Cesar Chavez in 2008[10636]


See also



External links



References


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