In honor of Chvez

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The 75th birthday of César Chávez was celebrated here by more than 2,000 marchers. For many blocks, the colorful array of flags and signs and the beautifully costumed dancers brightened a lovely spring morning.

Among the marchers were many union contingents with their banners – janitors, longshore workers, electricians, state workers, laborers, college professors.

At the labor rally following the march, United Farm Workers (UFW) National Vice President Rosalinda Guillen said, “Our presence here is not only to remember the past, but to recommit ourselves to the struggle ahead.”

Luis Magana, a farm labor activist from Stockton, expressed concern about the recent Supreme Court ruling that undocumented immigrants don’t have the same rights in labor disputes as those with papers. (See story page 4)

This concern for the future was echoed in the words of Cruz Reynoso, a former California Supreme Court justice, who told a rally of more than 300 in the nearby town of Davis, “Much remains to be done.”

Many at the march carried signs calling for peace, an end to aid to the Sharon government and amnesty for undocumented workers.

The march was a moving example of the unity of working people – all colors, all backgrounds, all ages, including mothers with strollers and a grandpa with a 5-year-old grandson perched on his shoulders.

The celebrants marched over three miles to the downtown park, one block from the capitol, recently named César Chávez Plaza and now home to a life-sized bronze statue of the great labor and civil rights leader. “For a moment I thought he was real,” exclaimed Al Rojas, an organizer of the march, and a former aide to Chávez.

Forty years have passed since Chávez co-founded the UFW. The use of boycotts as well as strike action and marches finally brought victory. A five-year boycott led to the first union contract and the passage of California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act.

Chávez also became one of the first voices to speak out about the danger of pesticides to workers and consumers.

The author can be reached at ncalview@igc.org