Several Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) were joined by other Members of Congress and organizational leaders this week as they recognized the life and work of César Chávez, a labor organizer and civil rights activist. This week’s floor statements and press conference coincided with a week that shares both the anniversaries of his birth and death. Across the country, the week is being marked with celebrations in 65 cities in over 30 states, including statewide holidays in 10 states.
Specifically, they were supporting H. Res. 76, a Congressional non-binding resolution urging the establishment of a federal national holiday honoring César Chávez, and urging public schools to teach about his life and contributions.
“The creation of a national holiday will not only honor a great man but also educate Americans about César Chávez and help ensure that his legacy continues to inspire others to work for the fair and just treatment of all people,” said Congressman Joe Baca (CA-43), Chair of the CHC and the lead sponsor of H. Res. 76. “César Chávez’s struggles for civil rights, labor rights and the environment led to victories that continue to impact people throughout our nation.”
Congressman Raul Grijalva (AZ-07), the 1st Vice Chair of the CHC, added “César insisted on the best for us and on the best in us. He insisted on tolerance that we as human beings should understand and respect each other, and with that respect comes understanding and with that respect comes a better nation.”
“As we commemorate the 81st birthday of César Chávez, we will always be grateful for his efforts to improve civil rights and working conditions for Latinos and all Americans. I recently returned from India where I visited a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. Like Gandhi, Chávez believed that non-violence is the most powerful tool to achieve change, including social and economic justice,” said Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis César Chávez (CA-32). “César Chávez has inspired me and all generations of Americans for his lifelong dedication to farm laborers and all working people.”
“César Chávez was a pioneer for civil rights and labor rights. He was a man that understood that in order to achieve change, sacrifices are necessary. Due to his hard work and dedication to his community, he successfully founded the United Farm Workers’ Union, the largest union protecting the rights of our country’s many farm laborers,” said Congressman Albio Sires (NJ-13).
“On March 31, we observed César Chávez’s birthday and his great legacy of community organizing and empowerment,” Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-34) said. “I am pleased to join Members of Congress in supporting legislation to create a national holiday in his honor. A César Chávez Day would recognize this national hero by encouraging all of us on this day to help others in our communities. It would also serve as an important reminder of his courageous work fighting for fairness and justice for our nation’s farm workers and their families.”
Congressman Solomon P. Ortiz (TX-27) stated, “Citizens are celebrating the life and legacy of one of our nation’s greatest civic leaders, César Chávez. As someone who grew up in a family of migrant farmers, I personally understand the challenges faced by César Chávez and those he advocated for. César Chávez was the leading voice for those who had none before, and still serves as an inspiration to all who strive for the American dream.”
“Throughout history there have been few individuals who have done more, fought harder, or sacrificed as much to ensure dignity and decency for the disadvantaged than César Chávez,” Congressman Luis Gutierrez (IL-04) said. “This legislation would help ensure that his memory and legacy remain strong, educating tomorrow’s leaders about the courage and character that helped strengthen the farm workers movement and his principles of nonviolence, which continue to play an important role in the quest for social justice, human rights and a world without prejudice or injustice.”
Congressman Silvestre Reyes (TX-16) added “Everyone across our nation should recognize and honor the contributions of César Chávez. Working on behalf of farm workers, he advocated for fair wages and better working conditions. He was a humble, hardworking, and selfless individual who worked tirelessly for the greater good. His commitment to nonviolent protest on behalf of farm workers has earned him the recognition as one of the greatest civil rights leaders in history. We must continue to work for the noble goals César Chávez championed fair wages, safe working environments, dignity, respect, and equality for all. We are fortunate to have such an honorable leader with such a proud legacy as our inspiration.”
“Our country wouldn’t be where it is today had it not been for the leadership of César Chávez. His lifelong commitment to equality and workers’ rights epitomized the principles of the American dream. And at a time when neither was prevalent in the Latino community, Chávez gave migrant workers who were previously exploited and subjected to inhumane working conditions a voice and platform to stand up for their rights and liberties,” said the CHC’s 2nd Vice Chair, Congressman Charles A. Gonzalez (TX-20). “Chávez’s efforts were instrumental in ensuring workers had livable wages and humane working conditions, and we are grateful that this legacy continues to live on today.”
The CHC has endorsed and promoted several pieces of legislation regarding César Chávez. H. Res. 76 was endorsed, as was H.R. 359, the Cesar Estrada Chavez Study Act, which was introduced by Congresswoman Solis. Many CHC Members are also co-sponsors of H.R. 706, introduced by Congresswoman Susan Davis (CA-53), to name a post office in San Diego for César Chávez.
Unfortunately, for the second year in a row, Senate Republicans blocked S. Res. 138 from consideration on the Senate floor, a measure introduced by Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO). The CHC is encouraging the Senate to pass S. 2739, the Consolidated National Resources Act of 2008, as it contains two CHC-endorsed items H.R. 359, and also H.R. 512, the National Museum of the American Latino Commission Act.