CHICAGO – Illinois celebrated the life of Cesar Chavez as a fighter for peace, justice and workers’ rights March 31, following the passage by the state legislature of a resolution commemorating his birthday. The City of Chicago also officially observed Cesar Chavez Day.

“We remember not only his life, but also his famous words, ‘Si se puede,’ yes we can,” said State Senator Martin Sandoval, Senate sponsor of the resolution. Sandoval and Rep. Cynthia Soto, the bill’s house sponsor, were joined at the Illinois State Office building by Chavez’ grandson, Paul, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and labor leaders, immigrant rights advocates, veterans groups and leaders of Chicago’s Mexican American community.

“Chavez was a great American leader,” Jesse Rios, Sergeant-at-Arms of the Chicago Federation of Labor, later told the World. “He practiced non-violence and today he would oppose this war [in Iraq] He stood up for workers’ rights.”

A bill now before the State Legislature would designate March 31 as a legal holiday across the state, with schools encouraged to hold special events.”We need to commemorate our great American heroes, those that fought to shape the world we live in today,” said Sandoval.”The most appropriate way to observe this great man’s birthday is to loudly re-issue his call to action for social justice, for the rights of workers and for cultural diversity,” said Quinn.

An ordinance has been introduced into the Chicago City Council by Alderman Danny Solis that would rename Blue Island Avenue, which runs through the city’s Mexican-American Pilsen community, in honor of Chavez. “He was one of the great heroes of the Mexican American people,” Solis told the World.

Illinois supporters of the Chavez holiday bill can contact their legislators by calling (217) 782-7730 (Senate) and (217) 782-0122 (House).

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