Cesar Chavez

Farmer, Labor Leader, Civil Rights Activist

Early Life

Cesar Chavez was born near Yuma, Arizona in 1927, to a farming family. The Chavez family lived on a ranch and owned a grocery store, yet were a rather poor family. Once the Great Depression hit, they lost almost everything, as did everyone else in the world. The family then moved to California to become migrant farm workers, where they had many hardships. Cesar quit school in the 7th grade, 1942, so that his mother would not have to work in the fields all day, while he was at school. In 1946, he joined the United States Navy, where he served for 2 years. He described those 2 years as the "worst years of my life."

Workers' Rights

Cesar Chavez was strongly influenced, in his work, by Gandhi and his non-violence acts.

Cesar Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Association, where he worked for higher wages and better working conditions for farmers. It all began in 1965, when many grape farmers, especially Filipinos, walked off the farm, demanding higher wages. Chavez strongly supported them doing this. In fact, in 1966, Chavez led a strike, along with many grape farmers, with the same intentions, getting higher or minimum wages. This event is known as the "Farm Workers March." They even led a boycott on grapes to support the strike. The strike lasted for 5 years, and it also brought national attention. In 1966, the U.S Senate of Migratory labor had a hearing on the strike, where many of them supported it. The strike led to many others in the country, such as in Texas. The NFWA supported fruit workers and led a march in Austin, TX... sounds familiar, right? Chavez and the NFWA continued to lead more strikes and boycotts, in support of farm workers. Also to support the farm workers and draw attention to this situation of unfair wages, Chavez would fast, along with the strikes and boycotts.

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The NFWA, also known as the UFW (United Farm Workers) lost many workers due to disputes among Chavez and his followers.

Challenges along the Way

Because Cesar Chavez was a farm worker himself when he was younger, he knows the struggles of being one. They receive unfair wages and have bad working conditions. Cesar Chavez wanted to make things better for other farm workers when he got older and he did. Because of the UFW, his strikes, and his boycotts, farm workers were given better working conditions and wages, eventually. Another challenge that Cesar made along the way was within the UFW. The workers and followers, including Cesar Chavez, were having disputes over how to take action and other plans. This led to many people dropping out of the UFW

His Impacts

  • Along with the rest of the NFWA, Cesar Chavez paved the ways for farm workers, and getting them equal pay and better working conditions.
  • Chaves's work helped to get the California Labor Relations Act to be passed in 1975, allowing farm workers the rights to boycott and collective bargaining, as well as end exploitation and ensure justice of the workers.
  • Chavez improved labor conditions and pay of farm workers, because of his boycotts and strikes.
  • Not only was he an activist of farm workers, but also an opponent of the Vietnam war and also an advocate of gay rights.
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"The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people" ~Cesar Chavez