Cesar Chavez was born in Yuma, Arizona, in 1927. After his father's farm failed in Colorado, they couldn! |t keep up with it and money wasn! |t coming in, so his family moved as migrant laborers throughout the Southwest until they finally settled Brawley, California. He worked in Delano, California in his early years, and educated himself and married a girl there. In San Jose in 1952, he joined the Community Service Organization; it was a new social service group of Spanish-speaking people to help the needy with their social and economic issue. Eventually he became general director of the entire organization. By the 1960's militant organizations and leaders emerged as the Brown: Power movement began.
Cesar Chavez was among other leaders, such as Reyes Lopez Tijerina, and Rudolf o Gonzales. Cesar Chavez grew up as a migrant worker in central California and wanted to help the migrant workers of America. He decided that a labor union would be the answer because a labor union had power to strike, negotiate contracts, and provide many other benefits for the workers. He eventually formed the National Farm Workers Association which has become known as the United Farm Workers. His goal was to have the migrant workers join his union and the union would began to negotiate contracts that would greatly improve the working conditions of the migrant workers. He started this union in central California with Delano, California, being his base of operation.
In 1961, he tried to get the organization concerned with the plight of the farm worker, but he failed, however he resigned his position as director and devoted to helping farm workers. In the early 1960's he spent time to traveling among migrant workers and trying to lay the groundwork for their organization. In 1962, he founded the National Farm Workers Association. Its purpose was to unionize the farm workers and deal with their social and economic condition. He also dedicated to passive resistance like Martin Luther King, Jr. His first strike was against the rose growers of McFarland, California and it was successful.
On September 16, 1965, his worker voted to support the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, which was a Filipino union, in their strike against the grape growers of the Delano area. It worked and now the workers wanted an increase in wages. This prolonged strike had the power of agricultural businesses such as Sc henley and Di Giorgio Corporation. Recognized the farm workers could not make their own, so he asked help from a national boycott of table grapes.
Members of the civil rights movement felt the need to help those all over with problem, not just black. During the course of the strike the Filipino union and the Mexican-American union joined forces and formed the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee with Chavez still the guiding light. Public sympathy for the plight of the farm workers continued to grow. The United Farm Workers Organizing Committee and the Mexican-American union joined with Chavez as the leader. In December 1965, the labor leader Walter Reuther led a march down the main street of Delano with AFL-CIO and led a march down the main street of Delano. In March 1966, Chavez and his supporters promised a three hundred-mile pilgrimage to Sacramento under the theme of Pilgrimage, Penitence, and Revolution.
More publicity was given to the movement. He was becoming a national figure. During 1968, Chavez fasted for twenty-five days and lost thirty-five pounds! SS to the sin and suffering of the farm workers!" .
By 1968, twenty-six grape growers had signed a 3-year contract with the Chavez union, which called for the workers to be paid $2.05 an hour by 1972. The last years of the 1960's were trying ones for Chavez and his union members, but they had achieved victory and accomplished an historic first in the history of the Mexican-American worker. He had also achieved recognition for migrant laborers nationwide. The problems still facing him and his union are immense. Some ten thousand workers are covered by the grape contract, but fewer than three thousand of them are unionized: Chavez can! |t coerce the rest into his union. There are also the problems of scab workers and the Teamsters Union.
During the grape strike, Chavez came into conflict over jurisdictional disputes with the Teamsters. In the spring of 1971, Chavez and the Teamsters both signed an agreement that gave the UF WOC jurisdiction over the field workers and the Teamster jurisdiction over the food process workers. The problems between the two unions continue and it appears that the Teamsters have almost taken the side of management against the farm union. Chavez is now battling the lettuce industry. By 1973, he had only unionized 15 percent of the workers had unionized.
He said it's difficult to establish a total objective about what percentage of his total objectives he had achieved, because they deal mostly with human needs. Today Chavez is looked upon as a saint or a devil. A traveling theater initially visited Mexican-American communities throughout the Southwest and performed skits and sang songs about the movement. It began with the farm workers and spread out; there are now Chicano theaters throughout the Southwest, and they are the center of Mexican-American culture. El malcriado, the union newspaper, relates the feelings and thoughts of these peoples. These two offspring of the Chavez movement sprang somewhat from the inspiration of Chavez himself.
Today Chavez is looked upon as a saint or a devil; there are few middle-of-the-road interpretations. But whether loved or hated, he inspired an organization among farm workers where no organization had existed before. Cesar Chavez should not only be remember as a minority leader but also as a labor leader. He was able to form the union and they began a series of successful strikes against the grape growers of central California. Contract after contract began to be negotiated and the life of migrant workers in central California changed drastically.
The goal of Chavez was to create a national migrant labor union, but he never achieved this goal before his death. He was a very devout Catholic and he did use non-violence protest in a very effective way with his strikes and labor union. He moved from central California to the Imperial Valley where he met much resistance and then he attempted to take his union and movement into Arizona and beyond. Upon his death, numerous tributes appeared-streets, schools, freeways were named after him.
These tributes were a testimony to the work of a very dedicated and successful militant Mexican American leader..