Remembering Cesar Chavez This Week

It’s Cesar Chavez Day!

By Sylvia Luneau

Do you like Wine?  Cesar Chavez was inducted into the Vintner’s Hall of Fame in 2013. Read on for more details on how he made his mark on society.

Cesar Chavez was an activist who fought for humane working conditions for farm workers.  Chavez was born in Arizona in 1927, to a family that owned a grocery store and a ranch.  The Chavez family family lost everything in the great depression. Like many, they left for California in search of farm labor work. Chavez’ experience as a migrant farm worker touched him deeply. He left to join the Navy for several years, he migrated back to California after his military tour of duty in 1952.   In 1962, after a decade of community activism and a spotlight on farmworkers and other Latino issues, he co-founded the National Farm Workers’ Association, now known as the United Farm Workers of America, or the UFW.  The UFW is the nation’s first enduring and largest farm workers union.

Chavez was a firm believer in non violent demonstration and was a key contributor to the Delano Grape Strike.  This strike boycotted all California table grapes from 1965-1970, with a goal of highlighting poor working conditions of the farmworkers that harvested those grapes. This was a partnership between Filipino and Mexican farm workers and the boycott spread throughout the US and into other countries. The grape strike included a 300 mile march from Delano, CA  to the State capitol in Sacramento, CA.  In 1970, the boycott ended successfully. Grape growers signed contracts with the union, agreeing to a wage increase to $1.65 an hour and many other basic worker related benefits.

The definition of an activist is someone who campaigns for some sort of social change.  Chavez was an activist. March 31st, his birthday, became a US federal commemorative holiday in 2014.  According to the Napa Valley Register, “…With (Chavez’s) work through the UFW, vintners industry-wide have realized the importance of farmworkers’ contribution to the world of wine…”  The legacy of Chavez and his will to improve the plight of the farmworker will forever be remembered.


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