The Life and Role of Cesar Chavez
Cesar Chavez was a Mexican-American activist who helped numerous people, both immigrants, and natural citizens. Chavez saw the value in all human life no matter how small the job that life did. He knew that all jobs no matter how small supported the rest of the economy and the country.
He knew the mistreatment of the people in the lower class first hand, and he fought to make it right. Chavez fought his fight for the basic human rights of his people. His tactics were peaceful, he believed in nonviolence; he fought using civil disobedience. Sit-ins, rallies, marches, and hunger strikes were his methods of achieving his goals. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez worked alongside Dolores Huerta to achieve his goals. (AFL-CIO)
Cesar Chavez was born on the thirty-first of March in 1927 in North Gila Valley, Arizona to Libardo Chavez and Juana Estrada Chavez. His father, Libarado, was a small businessman and his mother, Juana, was the owner and operator of a grocery store, a garage, and a pool house in the small town where Cesar grew up. Chavez grew up in the same small adobe home where he was born, and it was the same home the large family all shared. Chavez grew up a Catholic thanks to his devout mother, and he shared this faith with his four siblings. His family was not rich, but compared to some of the other families in the town where he grew up, he was much more well-off, because his family had a deal with a local landowner, which allowed the Chavez family to work the same land year after year. However, the Chavez family was evicted from the land they had been working for almost fifty years, and the trials and serious hardships that inspired Cesar Chavez to make a change began. (aflcio.org, paragraphs 1-4)
The family moved to California near the Californian-Mexican border seeking jobs. There his parents joined the massive and growing fleet of migrant farm workers, where often he and his siblings would have to work picking crops in the fields with their parents to make ends meet. The family often had to sleep in a car and work long hours to have enough food to eat. Cesar dropped out of school after finishing the eighth grade and attending a total of thirty-six schools. (aflcio.org, paragraph 4) In hopes of bettering himself, Chavez lied about his age to gain admittance to the navy. He served for two years, then he was honorably discharged. A few years later, in 1948, he married his longtime love, Helen Fabela. In 1952, Chavez began to work for CSO (Community Service Organization) a civil rights group that represented Latinos. One day, a leader of CSO in Santa Clara County, California, introduced Chavez to Fred Ross the man who would open the doors to the rest of Chavez’s future. (aflcio.org, paragraph 5)
Fred Ross was in charge of the CSO in Chavez’s area. He mentored Chavez in organizing for CSO. The Latino population of Santa Clara County was largely poor, lived in inhumane living conditions, many could not read, and very few had access to health care because they were unable to afford it. The CSO helped the Latinos of Santa Clara County overcome these obstacles. They assisted in any way that they could, however since the majority of the people that the CSO served were migrant farm workers and also Latino they suffered manipulation by the farm owners that they worked for. Chavez had not only experienced this extortion, but he now had a platform to bring this extortion to light, so that is exactly what he did. Chavez’s first movement, called the Plan of Delano, was a strike against grape farmers. Grapes are one of the largest crops that California produces. However, the people that work in the vineyards are not always, and during the fifties and sixties, rarely treated with dignity according to the AFL-CIO. The Church teaches that there is dignity in all work and that all people should be treated and paid fairly for their work. “Work is more than just a job; it is a reflection of our human dignity and a way to contribute to the common good. Blessed John Paul II called work ‘probably the essential key to the whole social question’ (Laborem Exercens, No. 15).
Wages earned from work are the primary way people meet their material needs and contribute to the common good.”, says the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in “Just Wage and the Federal Minimum Wage” written in February 2014 (page 2, paragraph 4). Chavez worked tirelessly to organize this strike, he wrote letters, organized rallies, and even went on a hunger strike to gain publicity for the strike. His strike asked simply for the right to unionize the industry. The unions could help the people within them to get health insurance, and education, and even things as simple as more fair hours. (Huelga! Tales of the Delano Revolution)
After his first successful strike, Chavez outlined his the ideals of his social movement. Firstly, he defined the movement as “social movement”, or workers seeking out their God-given rights. Secondly one of his goals was to gain the support of federal groups. He believed that legislators could have helped protect the rights of those who could not protect themselves. He cited these main concerns as the basis for his change: extremely low wages, forced migration, epidemic sickness, illiteracy, and subhuman living conditions. He blamed some of these on the extortion by the farm owners. Another thing he asked for was support from the Catholic Church. He noticed that the people he represented were predominantly Catholic. They even carried images of the Virgin of Guadalupe into the field to watch over them as they labored. (americanexperience.si.edu, paragraph 3-7) He agreed with Pope Leo XIII’s “Rerum Novarum” saying, “Everyone’s first duty is to protect the workers from the greed of speculators who use human beings as instruments to provide themselves with the money. It is neither just, nor humane to oppress men with work to the point where their minds become enfeebled and bodies are worn out.”(americanexperience.si.edu, paragraph 7)
In order to solve these problems, he called for the unionization of California’s farm workers. He knew that the strength of the people was not in their wealth or their great education. Their strength was in their numbers.
Chavez taught that nonviolence was the only way to make a real change. Even when the people for whom he was fighting grew weary of his passiveness, he persisted. He advocated for some of the most oppressed people in the United States. He fought for what he believed in. Even though Chavez passed away in 1993 (AFL-CIO, paragraph 13), he leaves the world a better place with his legacy. He opened the gateway for a more just society. A society that is based on the dignity of the human being. He helped announce to all people that there is value in lowly jobs. “Blessed are lowly, for they shall inherit the Earth.” (New International Bible, Matthew 5:5)
Cesar Chavez Civil Rights Activist and American Labor Leader
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Cesar Chavez and Contributions
- 3 Causes of the problem
- 4 Chavez and the United Farm Workers (UFW)
- 5 Chavez’s Accomplishments
- 6 Conclusion
Migrant farmworkers are individuals who move from farm to farm working for low wages as their work is needed. Migrant farm workers endure dangerous working conditions due to the use of pesticides in the fields. Unfair wages and poor working conditions were very common among migrant farmworkers in the 1960’s in the United States.
Individuals who worked picking grapes earned an average of ninety cents per hour in 1965 (Racco, 2014). Many of the workers, including children, worked long hours, suffered abusive treatment from their employers, and risked their safety by operating unsafe machinery. Not only were farm workers experiencing poor working conditions and unfair wages, but they were also living in poor housing which often times lacked cooking appliances, personal privacy and indoor plumbing. During this time, neither California nor federal labor laws protected farm workers (Racco, 2014). Cesar Chavez was a civil rights activist who fought for farmworker’s right and made a big difference in improving wages and working conditions. I will discuss the life of Cesar Chavez and his contributions to farm labor, as well as the organization he worked in and how it contributed to social justice.
Cesar Chavez and Contributions
Cesar Chavez was a civil rights activist and a labor leader. Chavez was born in Arizona, where his family had lived since his grandparents immigrated from Mexico. Chavez’s parents owned a farm and a store in Arizona but lost it during the Great Depression. This forced the family to become migrant farm workers and move from farm to farm as the work was needed. As a child, Chavez worked part-time in the fields with his family. After graduating from middle school, Chavez had to begin working full-time in the fields in order to help support his family, since his father was injured from a car accident and was unable to work. During World War II, Chavez decided to serve in the U.S. Navy. Once he returned from World War II, he continued to work as a farm worker in California.
Experiencing the struggles of farm workers first hand, Chavez was encouraged to advocate for better working conditions and wages. Chavez utilized non-violent means to bring attention to farm workers struggles. Chavez lead marches, boycotts and participated in several hunger strikes (Miller, 2000). He also brought awareness to the dangers of pesticides and the negative effects on farm workers’ health. In the 1950’s, after Chavez’s efforts of improving working conditions for farm workers and working as a community and labor organizer, he founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) in 1962. In 1965, NFWA began working in collaboration with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) to strike against grape growers in California (Thomson, 2012). As a result of this collaboration, the two unions merged and renamed in 1972 to United Farm Workers (UFW). Being part of this association, pushed Chavez to advocate for farm workers and lead him to dedicate his life to improving their working conditions, as well as improving treatment by employers and improved wages.
Causes of the problem
In the 1900’s, farm workers made attempts to organize but failed after many tries. Mexican and Japanese farm workers attempted to unite in 1903, in order to fight for better working conditions and wages. Their attempt to organize failed and was ignored when the American Federation of Labor refused to support them. Later in the 1920’s, further efforts to organize were made by some communist unions. These efforts also failed due to the fact that employers were not required by law to negotiate with farm workers at that time (Racco, 2014). During that time, employers could fire individuals legally for engaging in union activity. Also, farm workers’ temporary employment, mobility and their economic circumstances made it difficult for them to organize.
In 1941, the Bracero Program was enacted. The Bracero program was established to address Second World War labor shortages. The United States government and the Mexican government worked in collaboration to allow individuals from Mexico work as guests in the United States in the agricultural industry. Individuals were allowed to work until the harvest was over. Thousands of Mexican workers came to the United States to work in the fields, which provided employers with an opportunity to cut wages. The program was extended until 1964 (Pawell, 2014).
Chavez and the United Farm Workers (UFW)
As mentioned previously, the United Farm Workers (UFW) was created as a result of the UFWA (led by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta) and AWOC (led by Larry Itliong) working in collaboration to organize a grape strike against growers in California (Thomson, 2012). When working with this union, Chavez stressed nonviolent interventions and drew attention due to their boycotts, marches and hunger strikes (Pawell, 2014). Despite numerous conflicts, struggles and legal barriers, Chavez was able to improve working conditions and secure wages for farm workers in California, Florida, Texas and Arizona. The creation of the UFW encouraged and contributed to a new era of social justice movements in the United States. Chavez and the UFW also helped redefine farm labor activism (Shaw, 2008). Chavez and other leaders managed to overcome the struggles and failed attempts to create a permanent union for farm workers, which would help them advocate for their rights.
Although Chavez, in collaboration with the United Farm Workers (UFW), managed to make many changes in order to improve farm working conditions, there are many other things that could have been improved. For example, the UFW was able to improve working conditions and secure wages for farm workers only in some parts of the United States, it did not guarantee perfect working conditions. In July 2008, Ramiro Carillo Rodriguez, a farm worker who was 48 years old died of a heat stroke while working as a farm worker in California. According to the UFW, he was the 13th farmworker to die of a heat stroke since 2003. In 2006, California implemented heat regulations, but the UFW argue that the regulations were not strictly enforced. In 2013, farm workers form a facility in Fresno, voted to de-certify UFW (Fernandez, 2018). Everything that Chavez worked hard for, continues to be a struggle for many farm workers today.
Chavez was a labor leader who advocated not only for his family and himself, but also for many individuals who were not able to speak-up for themselves. Chavez helped organize and fight for better working conditions and wages for farmworkers. Chavez utilized non-violent communication and means to bring attention to the struggles that the farmworkers were facing and were being unnoticed. Chavez lead marches, boycotts and participated in several hunger strikes throughout his life. Chavez also brought awareness to the health issues and consequences of farmworkers who suffered as a result of pesticides. Although Chavez managed to make many changes and create social justice for farm workers, the working conditions of farmworkers can still be improved. Even today, farmworkers are not paid decent wages and face some dangerous working conditions. All farm workers need their basic rights protected, whether they are citizens or immigrants.
Cesar Chavez was a farm labor leader and a civil rights activist who managed to improve working conditions and wages of many farm workers in the United States. Being part of the UFW also provided Cesar Chavez with an opportunity to contribute to a new era of social justice movements. His work changed the lives of thousands of individuals and their families for the better. After a life time of working towards social justice and facing many challenges, Chavez died of natural causes in 1993, when he was 66 years old. His efforts are remembered and the difference he made are remembered every year on March 31, which is a U.S. federal holiday that commemorates his legacy.
Union leader and labor organizer Cesar Chavez
Mexican-American Cesar Chavez (1927-1993) was a prominent union leader and labor organizer, and he single handedly organized impoverished migrant farm laborers in the California grape fields. Over two years, Chavez spent his entire lifetime savings of $1,200 creating a small social service organization for Delano’s field laborers. Chavez founded the UFW Association in 1962. His union joined with the agricultural workers organizing committee in its first strike against grape growers owners in california.
Thesis- In april 1962, Cesar Chavez single handedly organized a migrant farm laborers in the california grape fields. The historical impact is that Cesar Chavez is known for his effort to gain better working conditions for the thousands of workers. The triumph is the success of Cesar Chavez work and the tragedy is that his attitude and beliefs changed over time.
Origin- For more than a century farm workers have been rejected a decent life in the fields and communities of california agricultural valleys. In the 1960s things were beginning to change beneath the surface. Within another 15 years more than 50,000 farmworkers were protected by the union contracts. Over time farm workers were being led by Cesar Chavez and were able to call upon allies in other unions in churches and in communities group affiliated with growing the civil rights movement.
Development- Grape pickers in 1965 was being charged an average of 90 cents per hour plus 10 cents more for picking baskets. State laws regarding working standards, were simply ignored by growers. And one farm boss made the workers drink out of the same cup, or they were forced to pay a quarter per cup. And there were no bathroom breaks. Farm Workers have to get used to of the conditions because they work in heat all day.
Historical event- In september 8 in 1965 cesar chavez started a strike called delano grape strike. The strike was about grape growers protesting about the poor pay and conditions they get from working. The filipinos ask cesar chavez who mostly led the latino farm workers ask him to join the strike. Cesar and the leaders of the NFWA believed it would take years before their union was ready for a strike. But he also knew how growers historically pitted one race against another to break field walkouts. Cesar’s union voted to join the Filipino workers’ walkouts on Mexican Independence Day, September 16, 1965. From the beginning this would be a different kind of strike. The strike started in 1965 and ended in 1970.
Short term- Andy imutan is one of the original strikers from 1965 walkouts he was the one that started it all hre was the leader of AWOC and later because the vice president of the UFC. he began a strike in coachella in the summer of 1905 it was about their payment and the strike was a success.
Long term- Mexicans or other immigrants are being discriminated there are being called drug dealers rapists and that they bring crime. Also in an article donald trump states ¨what mexico sends its people they’re not sending their best¨ also he wants to deport 11 million migrants.
Conclusion- In april 1962, Cesar Chavez single handedly organized a migrant farm laborers in the california grape fields to support them due to the lack of payment and their working conditions were bad for the farmworkers.
Youngest growing sector of the population
One hundred years after Columbus’ arrival in the Caribbean, Spanish Conquistadors and Priests, push into North America in search of gold and to spread Catholicism. With the arrival of the British in North America, the two colonial systems produce contrasting societies that come in conflict as Manifest Destiny pushes the U.S into the Mexican territories of the South West. Apolinaria Lorenzana provides a window to the Spanish Mission System while Mariano Vallejo personifies the era of the Californio rancheros an elite class who thrive after Mexico gains its independence from Spain.
Juan Seguín, a third generation Tejano or Texan, is caught between two worlds; his commitment to an Independent Texas and his identity as a Mexican. Through the Mexican American War, the U.S. takes a full half of Mexico’s territory by 1848. Over seventy thousand Mexicans are caught in a strange land and many become American citizens.As the Gold Rush floods California with settlers, complex and vital communities are overwhelmed. The elites, including Mariano Vallejo and Apolinaria Lorenzana lose their land. Mexicans and Mexican Americans are treated as second-class citizens, facing discrimination and racial violence. Resistance to this injustice appears in New Mexico as Las Gorras Blancas (The White Caps), burn Anglo ranches and cut through barbed wire to prevent Anglo encroachment. At the same time, New Mexicans manage to transform themselves through education, managing to preserve Hispano culture in New Mexico and their standing in the midst of an era of conquest and dispossession.
Widespread immigration to the U.S. from Latin countries begins first with a small group from Cuba, then a larger one from Mexico. Both flee chaos and violence in their home country and are attracted by opportunities in the United States. In 1898, the U.S. helps liberate Cuba and Puerto Rico from Spain but then seizes Puerto Rico as its colony. The first Puerto Rican arrivals (now U.S. citizens) establish a network in New York.Juan Salvador Villaseí±or whose story is told by his son, Victor, flees the violence of the Mexican revolution of 1910, along with his mother and two sisters. We follow Juan Salvador’s story; first through a grueling journey and poverty, then as a bootlegger, and finally as a successful businessman along with his wife and children in the United States.During the 1920s, immigration is encouraged with the expanding U.S. economy. Mexicans and Mexican Americans build a thriving community in Los Angeles and look forward to a bright future. But when the economic boom of that 1920s ends with the catastrophic Depression of the thirties, the pendulum swings. Immigrants encouraged to immigrate in the 20s are deported en masse in the 30s. Emilia Castaneda loses her home and her family when she and her father and brother are deported to Mexico, despite the fact that Emilia and her brother are U.S. citizens. Puerto Ricans, also caught in the depths of the Depression, rebel against U.S. rule on the Island, and eventually gain Commonwealth status from the U.S. Government. World War II is a watershed event for Latino Americans with hundreds of thousands of men and women serving in the armed forces, most fighting side by side with Anglos. After the war, Macario Garcia becomes the first Mexican National to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor for his exploits fighting in Europe, only to be refused service in a Texas diner. In the 1960s and 1970s a generation of Mexican Americans, frustrated by persistent discrimination and poverty, find a new way forward, through social action and the building of a new “Chicano” identity.
The movement is ignited when farm workers in the fields of California, led by César Chavez and Dolores Huerta, march on Sacramento for equal pay and humane working conditions. Through plays, poetry and film, Luis Valdez and activist Corky Gonzalez create a new appreciation of the long history of Mexicans in the South West and the Mestizo roots of Mexican Americans. In Los Angeles, Sal Castro, a schoolteacher, leads the largest high school student walkout in American history, demanding that Chicano students be given the same educational opportunities as Anglos. In Texas, activists such as José í?ngel Gutiérrez, create a new political party and change the rules of the electoral game. By the end of the 1970s Chicanos activism and identity have transformed what it means to be an American. Chicano and Latino studies are incorporated into school curriculum; Latinos are included in the political process. Alternatively, will Latinos in America eventually assimilate into invisibility, as other groups have done so many times? Latinos present a challenge and an opportunity for the United States. America’s largest and youngest growing sector of the population presents what project advisor Professor Marta Tienda calls, The Hispanic Moment. Their success could determine the growth of the United States in the twenty-first century.