What Is The Chavez Movement History Essay
Estrada Cesar Chavez was a farm worker of Mexican-American origin who later coupled his roles also as a civil rights’ lobbyists and a labour leader. Together with Dolores Huerta, Chavez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) that later transformed into the United Farm Workers (UFW). His activism for the rights of the workers was one mass movement that brought far reaching reforms and changes for union labourers. This immense influence in the union workers’ industry in the US especially for the minority won him accolades and appraisal such that his birth day became an acknowledged state holiday that is still observed in eight states of the US today (Jacob 2005). This holiday is called, Cesar Chavez Day. In addition, Chavez influence or the effect Chavez Movement had on labour workers in the US has made him to be further feted by having a number of roads, parks, schools, cultural centers, and streets named after him in his honour (Jacob, 2005).
The positive impact he made in fighting for workers’ rights is heavily backed up by evidence of his unending support of courses that would make workers’ privileges and rights appreciated by the authorities and their working conditions elevated to give them dignity and respect as any other workers in the US. His impact began when he was hired by Fred Ross to work for Community Service Organization (CSO) which was a Latino civil rights group. In his capacity as the director of the movement, he traveled widely in California speaking on the one thing that was consistent in all his speeches and addresses he made. He constantly talked in support of workers’ rights (Frederick, 2003).
To consolidate his influence and effect, a move that precipitated into the famous Chavez Movement, Chavez left CSO to co-find the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) in 1970 with Dolores Huerta. Soon after the formation of this union, Filipino-American farm workers protested against low wage payment by going on a strike. Their assemblage under the umbrella of United Farm Workers (UFW) was in Delano, California where Chavez gave the famous speech that was overtly in support of the strike. To make true his threat, six months later, Chavez together with NFWA initiated the California grape workers’ strike. This strike was in protest, like the Filipino-American farm workers’ strike, against low wage payment. What is most reverberating about this strike is that it led to a mass trek (the Great Trek) from Delano to the California capitol in Sacramento (Frederick, 2003).
To pontificate the effect of the strike and to show the authorities of just how serious they were with the wage war, Chavez drew the American people into this fight by imploring them to boycott eating table grapes unless the workers’ rights in increasing wage payments and elevating working conditions were adhered to by the authorities (Ferriss, & Ricardo, 1997). These radical persuasion and persistence led into one of the longest strikes to have ever happened in the history of the US farm workers. The strike lasted a whooping five years and caught the attention of all national figures, agencies and the Congress. Robert Kennedy, a subcommittee member of the Migratory Labour of the US Senate Committee on Labour and Public Welfare, expressed support of the strike when it was brought to the attention of the committee in 1966 (Ferriss & Ricardo, 1997).
The activities of the strikes under the auspice of NFWA and Chavez had a domino-effect in that they triggered into other states almost spontaneously encouraging all workers to refute working under abject conditions and being paid peanuts. In the same year (1966), fruit workers in Southern Texas under the auspice of UFW went on strike citing the same concerns regarding wage payment and working conditions. For them, marching from Star County Texas to Austin was their appropriate way they deemed of making their point. Chavez Movement in Midwest inspired the formation of two independent movements in Midwest which were Farm Labour Organizing Committee (FLOC) and Obrero’s Unidos in Ohio (1967) and Wisconsin (1966) respectively. These effects from Chavez Movement were as overt as they were imperative in improving workers’ rights and privileges.
One predominant thing that was used as a weapon for the Chavez Movement was organizing strikes and protests that at times implored the general public into boycotting some produces to show solidarity with the workers’ plight. In the twilights of 1969, Chavez Movement organized a wave of strikes throughout the US under different umbrellas and organizations but all of them were steered towards addressing the needs, rights and privileges of farm workers. In this spirit, in 1970 grape and lettuce farm workers went into a series of strikes and boycotts under the auspice of UFW which successfully won them increased wages (Ferriss, & Ricardo, 1997).
One of the greatest positive achievements that is tied to the Chavez Movement is the passage into law of the California Agriculture Labour Relations Act. This Act gave farm workers the capacity and right to bargain for their working conditions and wages. It further made it mandatory that the authorities at all times had to directly address the needs of farm workers through its policies and initiatives. These initiatives had to be made overt to the workers through seminars and workshops organized by authorities in which various workers’ pleas and complaints would be addressed and handled most amicably. This effort only, brought dignity to farm workers (Frederick, 2003)
Not only did the Chavez Movement seek to address workers’ rights so as to appear partisan and biased towards them, but also was mindful of the environment. Its rejection through their now well known tool (strikes and boycotts) of using pesticides on grapes in 1980 is a point in case. He successfully led to the scrapping off of the use of toxic pesticides on grapes and other farm fruits for three major reasons: it polluted the environment; it caused deleterious effects on the workers who did not have appropriate equipment and appliance to work with such toxic pesticides; and some of these pesticides were harmful to the fruits, harm that they carried with them to consumers who used them (Frederick, 2003).
The things Chavez did to attract attention and implore authorities and the public to see the course he fought so much to achieve were just as radical as his personality. For instance, for the ant-toxic pesticide campaign, he printed bumper stickers carrying the words ‘NO GRAPES’ that were distributed to anyone who was cared to take them. For himself, he also went on a hunger strike to draw attention to the course he was fighting for. For this he said, “the blatant disregard of safeguarding the lives of people who tirelessly prepare and bring grapes to our homes by exposing them to unknown torture of toxic pesticides has everything to do with subjecting them to slow painful deaths. My hunger strike is ridicule to what these men and women are being suscepted to” (Frederick, 2003, p.34).
So powerful was the voice behind the Chavez Movement that the attention it drew from the public and the state alike helped greatly elevate farm workers’ working conditions and more so wages paid to them. These improvements came with signing of agreements to give the workers the power to bargain on their rights and wage requirements with the relevant agencies and government institutions. This bargaining would later come to be the one achievement that had a form of permanence in its consistency through the transition of workers’ welfare in the US. Not only is it still prevalent in farm workers’ activist groups of today but also this right to bargain characterizes all forms of civil and private workers in their quest for better wages and working conditions albeit they come in different forms and states.
Immigration and discrimination of US workers was the other thing that the Movement appropriately addressed with a level of success. Chavez and Huerta furiously refuted and opposed the Bracero Program of 1942 which they saw as undermining US workers and exploiting migrant workers. It is their persistence and unending calls against this regulation that drew the attention of Congress which eventually repealed the Bracero Program ultimately ending it in 1964. The UFW union was also a premiere as a union to oppose proposed employer sanctions which prohibited any employer to hire undocumented immigrants (Frederick, 2003).
The Chavez Movement was one of the largest farm workers’ movements to have single-handedly transformed workers’ wage payment and working conditions in the US. During its inception, Chavez was categorical that the movement was not partisan to any society neither did it carry any political inclinations which it obscurely wanted to attain. He said, ‘A time has come for the plight of farm workers to be brought before the whole world to see and address. There is no political activism secretly sought after nor is there personal ambition creatively hidden in these calls for better pay and improved working conditions; they are calls that are as pure as is the severity of the plight these men and women face’ (Ferriss, & Ricardo, 1997, p. 41).
In a word, the Chavez Movement had many positive things it brought to the farm workers’ association in the US. Cesar Chavez’s legacy only is evidence in its own right of the impact his movement had on American society and especially the Mexicans and Filipinos who were discriminated and discredited as immigrants. So central was the movement to the US farm workers’ reforms that Chavez is considered an icon feted with all sorts of accolades and pontifications; his birthday being celebrated as a national holiday; streets and social places bearing his name; statues being erected in different cities in his owner; and universities and learning institutions being named after him (Frederick, 2003).
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