Today, Congressman Bob Filner announced his co-sponorship of legislation to create a federal holiday to honor Cesar E. Chavez. Cesar Chavez Day is currently celebrated on March 31st as a holiday in nine states, including California.
Since coming to Congress in the early 1990s, Congressman Filner has fought to bring greater recognition to Cesar Chavez. “We in Congress must make certain that the movement Cesar Chavez began and the timeless lessons of justice and fairness he taught are preserved and honored in our national conscience.”
Cesar Chavez spent his entire life working to help migrant farm workers and others suffering under unjust labor practices. By following the principles of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez was able to bring power to the powerless. He was not only a hero to Mexican-Americans but to all Americans.
Cesar was the son of migrant farm workers who dedicated his life to fighting for the human rights and dignity of farm laborers. He was born on March 31, 1927, on a small farm near Yuma, Arizona, and died on April 23, 1993. Over the course of his life, Cesar Chavez’ work inspired millions and made him a major force in American history.
In 1962, Cesar Chavez and his family founded the National Farm Workers Association which organized thousands of farm workers to confront one of the most powerful industries in our nation. He inspired them to join together and non-violently demanded safe and fair working conditions.
Through the use of a grape boycott, he was able to secure the first union contracts for farm workers in this country. These contracts provided farm workers with the basic services that most workers take for granted, services such as clean drinking water and sanitary facilities. Because of his fight to enforce child labor laws, farm workers could also be certain that their children would not be working side by side with them and would instead attend the migrant schools he helped to establish. In addition, Cesar Chavez made the world aware of the exposure to dangerous chemicals that farm workers and consumers face every day.
As a labor leader, he earned great support from unions and elected officials across the country. The movement he began continues today as the United Farm Workers of America.
Cesar Chavez’ influence extends far beyond agriculture. He was instrumental in forming the Community Service Organization, one of the first civic action groups in the Mexican-American communities of California and Arizona.
He worked in urban areas, organized voter registration drives and brought complaints against mistreatment by government agencies. He taught community members how to deal with governmental, school and financial institutions and empowered many thousands to seek further advancement in education and politics. There are countless stories of judges, engineers, lawyers, teachers, church leaders, organizers and other hardworking professionals who credit Cesar Chavez as the inspiring force in their lives.
During a time of great social upheaval, he was sought out by groups from all walks of life and all religions to help bring calm with his non-violent practices. In his fight for peace, justice, respect and self-determination, he gained the admiration and respect of millions of Americans and most Members of this House of Representatives.
Cesar Chavez will be remembered for his tireless commitment to improve the plight of farm workers, children and the poor throughout the United States and for the inspiration his heroic efforts gave to so many Americans.