Cesar Chavez was a labor organizer and a union leader in the United States who devoted himself to improve payment, working conditions, and treatment for the farm workers. Cesar together with Dolores Huerta was the co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA). This union was later named the United Farm Workers Union (UFWU). He was best known for his nonviolent strategy that brought the troubles of the farmworkers to the public’s attention. Cesar has since been the leftist politics and organized labor icon who supported laborers. During his period, Colegio Cesar Chavez was among the institutions that were named in honor of Cesar Chavez. Moreover, Cezar’s death became a significant historical icon in Latino community where many streets, parks, and schools were named after him. Although UFW weakened after his death, Cesar Chavez’s work improved work conditions for many workers. Accordingly, the paper explores more about the life of Cesar Chavez.
Cesar Chavez’s Early Life
Cesar Chavez was born in Yuma, Arizona on March 31, 1927. Cesar was born in a Mexican-American household as the second child of his parents Juana Estrada and Librado Chavez and was brought up in a small adobe. Cesar’s family had a farm and a grocery, although their farm went astray during the Great Depression. Besides, their household was taken away after a contract that his father had signed up was broken. Following this, their family relocated to California in 1938 where they become immigrant farm laborers. Their family went through a hard time in California and worked hard on the farms from season to season. During his childhood, Cesar did not like school and him together with his brother attended different schools. He believed that school did not relate to the farm work, and therefore he schooled up to the 7th grade and dropped out of school and became a farm worker. In 1946, Cesar went to the United States Navy where he worked for two years. However, Cesar Chavez explained his involvement in the navy as the most horrible moment of his life because he did not get the skills he expected to get in that period. Cesar returned to work in the fields until in 1952 when he joined the Community Service Organization (CSO) organizer where he supported the rights of the workers. In 1958, he then became the national director of CSO.
Cesar Chavez’s Career Life
In 1962, Cesar Chavez together with Dolores Huerta who was his co-founder established the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), and therefore Cesar left CSO. During this period, the American farm workers did not receive better payments and some of them received no payment. Nearly three years after NFWA was developed, the Filipino American farm laborers started the Delano grape strike, where they wanted their minimum wage maximized; Cesar highly supported them. Furthermore, Cesar and the NFWA initiated a strike for California grape pickers from Delano to Sacramento, the capital state of California in demand for higher wages. This strike went on for five years until it became a national issue. At the end, Cesar and his union won the worker’s several victories after the laborers signed up contracts with NFWA. As the labor leader, Cesar called for boycotts and also started hunger strikes that focused the national attention on the farm workers problems. This matches influenced the government to implement laws that permitted the farm labors to create unions that allowed the collective bargaining agreements.
During Cesar Chavez’s period in the NFWA, he was devoted to restricting immigration. To explain this, in 1942- 1964, there was a Bracero Program in the United States that undermined the workers and also oppressed the migrant workers. This program also facilitated the cheap supply of immigrant labor and immigrants were not allowed to protest against this actions because they feared that they would be fired. However, Cesar Chavez fought against this program and convinced the growers to only use legal immigrants. Cesar was also joined by Walter Mondale a U.S Senator and Rev. Ralph Abernathy to fight Bracero Program. Cesar and his union even went further to report illegal immigrants who replaced farm workers. The United Farm Workers created a “Wet line” along the U.S-Mexico border in 1973 in order to inhibit the Mexican migrants from illegally going to the United States. Cesar Chavez dedication to his work made him get many supporters and friends including Jesse Jackson as well as Robert Kennedy.
Cesar Chavez had long wanted to engage in legislative work, nevertheless, in 1974 he was impelled by the pro-union election where Jerry Brown was elected the governor of California. Also, he was overwhelmed by the costly battle with the union teamsters, therefore, Cesar opted to work toward legal victories. However, he organized a match that involved the UFW leaders who matched from San Francisco to E & J Gallo Winery. This match helped to convince Jerry Brown that UFW was still a significant union. However, in 1975, Governor Jerry signed up the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA) into a law. ALRA protected the rights and also developed the collective bargaining for the farm workers. Cesar was willing to sacrifice his life to see the rights of the laborers protected, he fasted several times for instance if 1972, he fasted for 24 days. Also, in 1988 Cesar fasted for 36 days. Events that facilitated to his fasting were like the terrible farm workers sufferings and violation of their rights.
From the beginning, the main objective of Cesar Chavez was to go beyond the farm laborers community and create a broad union that consisted of the civil rights of churches, activists, labor as well as students. However, the support he got from the church through Rev. Ralph Abernathy sent a clear message that his union was safe for community members to join. Cesar also got support from civil rights volunteers and from other organizations. He, therefore, continued to fight for farm laborers with steady nonviolence protests. Cesar Chavez died in 1993 at the age of 66. His birthday is celebrated as a state holiday in California to commemorate his commitments and tireless efforts for the laborers. Moreover, Cesar was given the Pacem in Terris Award in 1992. Also, in 1994, President Bill Clinton awarded him a Presidential Medal of Freedom. In Washington D.C, there is Chavez’s portrait in the National Portrait Gallery that symbolizes his legacy.
Cesar Chavez was a labor leader in the United States who is recognized for his commitment to fighting for the farm workers. Cesar developed an inspiring and intriguing story because he used nonviolent strategies to fight for the rights of farm laborers. Throughout his career, he initiated several matches, hunger strikes and boycotts that were projected to earn the farm workers better pay as well as safer working conditions. Moreover, Cesar Chavez helped to raise recognition of dignity and significance of all farm laborers.