Today in labor history: Cesar Chavez died

On this day in 1993 Cesar Chavez the founder and leader of the United Farm Workers union died.

The union achieved the nation’s first industry-wide farm labor contracts. Chavez was an adherent of nonviolent civil disobedience and led many strikes and boycotts for his cause.

Chavez was also an early environmentalist, warning the public of the devastating effects of pesticides on both farmworkers and consumers. Chavez fought for the rights of immigrants, refusing to let the forces of agribusiness and racism scapegoat immigrant workers.

One of the union’s key tactics was the boycott. It was so effective between 1968 and 1975 that 12 percent of the country’s adult population that’s 17 million people quit buying table grapes.

In 2002 a U.S. postage stamp was issued honoring Chavez. At the time John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO said. “A stamp in his honor challenges us to remember that his life’s mission is not over until every worker has a living wage, adequate health care and dignity on the job.”

In 2012 President Obama attended helped establish the César E. Chavez National Monument honoring the great civil rights and union leader. The event took place during the UFW’s 50th anniversary year. Chavez and his family lived and worked at La Paz from the early 1970s until his death in 1993. His gravesite there will be part of the monument. On September 8, 1994, Chavez was presented posthumously with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton. The award was received by his widow, Helen Chavez.

Chavez’s birthday, March 31st is official state holiday in California, Texas and Colorado. This year President Obama declared his birthday Cesar Chavez Day. The struggle to make his birthday a national holiday continues.