Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Revolutionary Of The Week

Cesar Chavez (1927-1993)

Cesar Estrada Chavez was a civil rights, latino, farm worker, & labor leader; a community servant & social entrepreneur; a crusader for nonviolent social change, & a enviromentalist & consumer advocate.
A second-generation American, Chavez was born on March 31, 1927 near his family's farm in Yuma, Arizona. At age 10, his family became migrant farm workers after losing their farm in the Great Depression . Throughout his youth & into his adulthood, Chavez migrated across the southwest laboring in the fields & vineyards, where he was exposed to the hardships & injustices of farm life.
After achieving just an 8th grade education, Chavez left school to work in the fields full-time to support his family.
Chavez joined the Navy in 1946, & served in the Western Pacific in the aftermath of WW2, returned from service to marry Helen Fabela, who he met working in the vineyards of California. The Chavez family settled in the E. San Jose barrio of Sal Si Puede, & would eventually have 8 kids, & 31 grandchildren.
Chavez's life as a community organizer began in 1952 when he joined the Community Service Organization (CSO), a prominent Latino civil rights group. While with the CSO, Chavez coordinated voter registration drives & conducted campaigns against racial & economic discrimination in the late 1950's & early 1960's, he served as CSO's national director.
Chavez's dream was to create an organization to protect & serve farm workers in America. In 1962, Chavez resigned from the CSO, leaving the security of a regular paycheck to found the National Farm Worker Association, which later became the United Farm Workers of America.
For more than 3 decades Chavez led the 1st successful farm workers union in American history, achieving dignity, respect, fair wages, medical coverage, pension benefits, & humane living conditions, among many other rights for hundreds of thousands of farm workers.
He led strikes & boycotts that resulted in the 1st industry-wide labor contracts in the history of American agriculture. His union's efforts brought the groundbreaking 1975 California Agriculture Labor Relations Act to protect farm workers. Today, it is the only law in the nation that protects the farm worker's right to unionize.
Chavez forged a diverse national coalition with students, middle-class consumers, trade unionists, religious groups, & minorities.
Chavez believed in non-violence, so he employed peaceful tactics like fasts, boycotts, strikes, & pilgrimages. In 1968 he fasted for 25 days, then for 25 days in 1972. At the age of 61, he endured a 36 day "Fast for Life" to highlight the harmful impact of pesticides on farm workers & their children.
Chavez passed away in his sleep April 23, 1993 in San Louis, Arizona. More than 500,000 attended his funeral.
His motto in life, "Si se puede" (it can be done) embodies his legacy he left for the world.

" When you have people together who believe in something very strongly--whether it's religion,politics, or unions--things happen."--Cesar Chavez