Saturday, August 13, 2016

Cesar Chavez: The Life Behind A Legacy Of Farm Labor Rights : NPR

Cesar Chavez: The Life Behind A Legacy Of Farm Labor Rights : NPR:

Cesar Chavez: The Life Behind A Legacy Of Farm Labor Rights

Cesar Chavez, the head of the United Farm Workers Union, calls for the resignation of Walter Kintz, the first legal counsel for the state Agriculture Labor Relations Board, in Sacramento, Calif., on Sept. 16, 1975. Chavez's efforts in California culminated in landmark legislation that protected the rights of the state's farmworkers and created the ALRB.
Cesar Chavez, the head of the United Farm Workers Union, calls for the resignation of Walter Kintz, the first legal counsel for the state Agriculture Labor Relations Board, in Sacramento, Calif., on Sept. 16, 1975. Chavez's efforts in California culminated in landmark legislation that protected the rights of the state's farmworkers and created the ALRB.
AP

Half a century ago this summer, labor activist Cesar Chavez joined thousands of striking farmworkers in Texas as they converged on Austin, the state capital, to demand fair wages and humane working conditions.
Their march, which started from the punishing melon fields of South Texas, was his march, too. It was a deep and abiding understanding of the challenges of the farmworker's life that drove his commitment to labor rights. The life of Cesar Chavez mirrored that of the people he was trying to help. Their cause — La Causa — was his.
Born into a Mexican-American family of migrant farm laborers and a life of grinding poverty, Chavez dedicated his life's work to improving conditions for the legions of farmworkers who kept fresh food on the tables across America — while they often went hungry, living and laboring in abysmal conditions and being paid unlivable wages.
"Without a union, the people are always cheated, and they are so innocent," Chavez told The New Yorker's Peter Mathiessen in 1968.
Chavez modeled his methods on the nonviolent civil disobedience of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. — employing strikes, boycotts, marches and fasts — to draw attention to La Causa. And he drew inspiration from the social teachings of the Catholic Church and from the life of St. Francis. An Italian nobleman who lived in the 12th and 13th centuries, Francis of Assisi renounced his wealth after a period of captivity during war and illness. He became a champion of the poor, living his life in solidarity with them.
Even in the face of threats and actual violence — be it from police or other unions, such as the Teamsters — Chavez never wavered from his commitment to passive resistance.
At the end of his first fast — which ended in 1968 after 25 days — Chavez was too weak to speak, but a speech was read on his behalf:
"When we are really honest with ourselves, we must admit that our lives are all that really belongs to us. So it is how we use our lives that determines what kind of men we are. It is my deepest belief that only by giving our lives do we find life. I am convinced that the truest act of courage, the strongest act of manliness, is to sacrifice ourselves Cesar Chavez: The Life Behind A Legacy Of Farm Labor Rights : NPR:

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