In Commemoration and Appreciation
— Dedicated on March 31, 2008 —
"Preservation of one's own culture does not require contempt or disrespect of other cultures."
Cesar E. Chavez (1927-1993)
Cesar Chavez was a Mexican American Labor leader & cofounder of the United Farm Worker (UFW). Cesar Chavez was born in Yuma, Arizona. Cesar was raised in migrant worker camps and left school after 8th grade to work in the fields. He joined the U.S. Navy from 1939-1945.
From 1952 until 1962, Chavez worked for the Community Service Organization and in 1962 Chavez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA). They established a union that would provide better field workers better working and living conditions by changing labor laws giving farm workers more rights.
In 1965, Chavez led 2,000 NFWA members on a strike in support of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) to demand better wages for wine-grape pickers in Delano, California. In 1966, he led a 340-mile march from Delano to Sacramento bringing national attention to the grape pickers strike. Chavez used less conventional methods: he fasted for 25 days to demonstrate the nonviolent philosophy of the unions.
In 1966, the UFW and the AWOC merged creating the United Farm Workers Organizing Committe (UFWOC) becoming an affiliate of the AFL-CIO. In 1968, Cesar called on consumers nationwide to stop buying table grapes grown in California. This boycott became one of the most successful in U.S. history and led to many growers signing union contracts in 1970. In 1973, the organization changed its name to the United Farm Workers of America. In 1975, Cesar and his supporters pushed for passage of the California Labor Relation Act. This law, the first of its kind in the United States, guaranteed farm workers in California the right to join unions and bargain as a group. It also protected farm workers from unfair labor practices. Cesar continued to lead more boycotts in the 1980s to rally public support against the use of pesticides.
In 1994, President Clinton posthumously awarded the Cesar Chavez the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nations highest civilian award. In 2000, the State of California declared March 31, Cesar's birthday an official State holiday.
"One of the heroic figures of our time."
Senator Robert F. Kennedy