(KRON) — Governor Gavin Newsom issued a proclamation declaring March 31, 2023 as “César Chávez Day” in the State of California.
The iconic champion of workers’ rights dropped out of 8th grade to work full-time laboring in California’s agricultural fields. “Toiling in the fields from a young age, Chávez faced dismal working conditions, racism, abuse, and exploitation,” Newsom wrote.
In 1952, Chávez was living in east San Jose when he became a grassroots organizer for Latino civil rights and hosted lectures on racial and economic inequality.
Chávez famously said, “Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.”
In 1962, Chávez and Dolores Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, organized farmworkers, led the historic grape strike that led to a nationwide boycott of California grapes, and gave a voice to millions.
“Chávez challenged Americans to recognize that the produce on their dinner tables was picked by people who were being denied the most basic human rights,” Newsom wrote.
The grape strike ended in 1970 with a deal that gave grape pickers higher pay and allowed them to unionize. Chávez continued to lead efforts in support of workers rights across the country, including a campaign highlighting the dangers of pesticides to farm workers and children. The National Farm Workers Association later became known as United Farm Workers.
Chávez died in 1993, and one year later, then-President Bill Clinton posthumously awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
Governor Newsom issued the following proclamation Friday:
“Throughout his life of work and service, César Chávez empowered thousands to stand together for their rights and led our nation toward a more equitable and just society. His visionary leadership inspired a powerful movement that burns brightly to this day, rallying people from all walks of life to champion the dignity of work.
Born near Yuma, Arizona in 1927, Chávez and his family moved to California after losing their home during the Great Depression. Toiling in the fields from a young age, Chávez faced dismal working conditions, racism, abuse, and exploitation. Moved to confront these injustices, he began working as an organizer in the farmworker community, advocating for improvements in their working and living conditions.
Founding the United Farm Workers together with Dolores Huerta, Chávez challenged Americans to recognize that the produce on their dinner tables was picked by people who were being denied the most basic human rights. Chávez led a historic march of farmworkers from Delano to Sacramento in 1966 and helped launch a successful boycott of grapes that galvanized support across the country. His tireless efforts were instrumental in the passage of the 1975 California Agricultural Labor Relations Act, which made our state the first in U.S. history to give farmworkers the right to join a union.
Chávez’s legacy is at the forefront of our minds in the wake of devastating climate impacts that have taken a hard toll on farmworking communities. California has taken important actions to support farmworkers, including expanding farmworker union rights and worker protections, the development and preservation of farmworker housing, creating farmworker resource centers, and investing in new protections from climate risks. California has also advocated for Congress to provide a pathway to citizenship, while making state investments to address barriers related to immigration status that also impact many farmworkers, including access to health care, food assistance for immigrants over the age of 55, free immigration services, and anti-poverty programs. These actions have been critical, and our support for farmworkers continues, including ongoing efforts to assist undocumented workers and communities affected by recent storms.
On the anniversary of his birth, we celebrate César Chávez’s hard-won strides for social justice, and reflect on the work that lies ahead to build a brighter future for all our communities. Let us carry on his timeless legacy by lifting up our neighbors, speaking out against injustice, and working together to extend the dream of prosperity, equity and progress to all.
NOW THEREFORE I, GAVIN NEWSOM, Governor of the State of California, do hereby proclaim March 31, 2023, as ‘César Chávez Day.'”