August 4, 2000

UFW: Should W. be compared to Cesar Chavez with $3.35 Texas farm worker minimum wage?

August 3, 2000-With George P. Bush—the Texas governor's half-Latino nephew—set to address the Republican National Convention this evening, Cesar Chavez's successor as United Farm Workers president questioned whether the GOP presidential candidate should be compared with the legendary farm labor leader. At a rally welcoming George W. Bush to Philadelphia on Wednesday, George P. Bush "likened the soon-to-be Republican presidential nominee to Cesar Chavez," the Los Angeles Times reported.

UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez, who is also Chavez's son-in-law, issued the following statement from the union's Keene, Calif. headquarters.

"The Chavez family and the United Farm Workers welcome George P. Bush's sentiments about how his mother instilled in him the values of Cesar Chavez when he was growing up. Cesar's messages about nonviolence, self-sacrifice and social justice certainly transcend partisan politics.

"He is rightly proud of his ethnic heritage and is correct in seeking leaders who will represent the interests of farm workers and other Latino working people for whom Cesar Chavez struggled. But we believe that policies are more important than rhetoric and we question whether George W. is that leader, based on his record as governor of Texas.

"· The minimum wage for farm workers in Texas is set at $3.35 an hour. Farm workers employed by small growers in many parts of Texas get paid nearly $2 below the federal guarantee of $5.15 per hour. The California minimum wage for farm workers—and all workers—is $5.75 an hour.

"· Under recent changes in Texas' workers compensation system supported by Gov. Bush, it is very difficult for farm workers to show a degree of disability required for them to claim workers comp benefits.

"· Unemployment and poverty in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas is among the highest in the country. While the national unemployment rate is around 4% and it is low in Texas overall, it ranges between 14% and 16% in the largely agricultural and Mexican American south Texas counties, according to state figures. When workers who don't file for unemployment benefits are considered, joblessness in south Texas jumps to between 25% and 30%."

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