Cesar Estrada Chavez, legendary labor activist, civil rights leader, and founder of the first successful farm workers union would have been 81 years old today. Events are planned across the country to honor his life and legacy. Thousands marched in his memory over the weekend and nine states recognize March 31st as an official holiday.
The man who led the nation-wide non-violent struggle for the rights and dignity of farm workers was born in Yuma, Arizona in 1927 and his family became migrant farm laborers after the Great Depression. He began his life as a community organizer in 1952 with the Community Service Organization, a Latino civil rights group. Ten years later Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Association, which would later become the United Farm Workers of America. He led the union for the next three decades and the strikes and boycotts he organized helped realize several victories, including the 1975 California Agricultural Labor Relations Act to protect farm workers.
This year also marks the 40th anniversary of Chavez’s 25-day water-only fast in Delano, California at the height of the five-year grape strike and boycott. It ended in March 1968, just a few weeks before the assassination of one of his heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Chavez was fasting to recommit the farm-workers movement to non-violence.
For audio clips of Chavez, and for a discussion of his legacy as well as a discussion of struggles to organize laborers and combat anti-immigrant hysteria in contemporary America with National Farm Workers Association co-founder Dolores Huerta, follow the link to today's Democracy Now!