Schools, Courts Observe Cesar Chavez Day

Cesar Chavez Day 2012 comes on the 50th Anniversary of Chavez’s decision to try and organize California’s farm workers. Chavez brought to light the plight of American farm workers and brought about significant growth in Latino political power, as well as electoral clout and unionized Latino workers.

Along with Dolores Huerta, Chavez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers (UFW). The union was formed in 1962, and eventually grew to over 50,000 members, a huge feat for a Latino worker in the 1960s. The union forced the government to view Latino farm workers as a political force.

Chavez believed that with enough people, they could work to change the government’s view on farm workers. He once stated that:

“From the depth of need and despair, people can work together, can organize themselves to solve their own problems and fill their own needs with dignity and strength.”

When he began his campaign, Cesar Chavez had no government support and no funds. He only had his passion for labor rights, as well as his wife’s commitment to help him. With these two things, he drew the support of thousands, and became a close friend of politicians like Robert Kennedy, who died on the eve of his California Primary win in 1966.

Chavez once wrote that:

“The road to social justice for the farm worker is the road of unionization. Our cause, our strike against table grapes and our international boycott are all founded upon our deep conviction that the form of collective self-help, which is unionization, holds far more hope for the farm worker than any other single approach, whether public or private. This conviction is what brings spirit, high hope and optimism to everything we do.”

Cesar Chavez Day, which is celebrated on the man’s birthday, March 31, is observed in three states, including California, Colorado, and Texas. It is observed in California today, with the closing of many schools, courts, and government offices in Southern California. This holiday is the first to celebrate a Latino or organized labor leader. It was first established in 2000 by California state legislators, as well as former Governor Gray Davis.

In 2011, Labor Unions took to the streets of San Diego to support Cesar Chavez Day:

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