Today is Cesar Chavez Day, and while most know Chavez as a crusader for migrant farm workers, it is less known that it was his Catholic faith and love of Christ that drove his unyielding commitment to improving conditions for the poor.
It was a Catholic priest that Chavez met who ministered to Mexican American migrant workers who ignited his lifelong passion. The priest told Chavez about Catholic teachings concerning the rights of workers. According to the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults Chavez said, “I would do anything to get Father to tell me more about labor history. I began going to the bracero (guest worker) camps with him to help with the Mass, to the city jail to talk to the prisoners, anything to be with him.”
Chavez’s work included founding the United Farm Workers union, as well as staging a massive consumer boycott, in which he asked the American bishops to support the boycott. Chavez once said, “I am convinced that the truest act of courage is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally non-violent struggle for justice.”
Over twenty years after his death, Chavez’s legacy continues today at the Capitol. This year, legislators have introduced bills in the same vein as Chavez’s work including
AB 71 (D-Chiu) that would allocate $25,000,000 to farmworker housing projects,
SB 275 (D-Monning), would require agricultural employees who receive sexual harassment training is given in a language understood by the employee and AB 815 (D-Cooper) that mandates that the Labor Contractor Special Enforcement Unit within the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement office in Fresno has sufficient resources to process examinations, licensing and complaints.