It’s cents an hour, plus ten cents per

It’s 1965, in the middle of a boiling hot summer. Your back is aching from bending over and picking grapes all day long. What do you earn from this hard labor? Ninety cents an hour, plus ten cents per basket of grapes you’ve picked. Besides this pay, you do not have a toilet to use while working, you are denied the right to be a union with your fellow workers, and your employer ignored the laws in place to protect your rights. You are a Mexican- American farm worker, and Cesar Chavez is working to make your life better. Cesar Chavez was born in Yuma, Arizona in 1927. His family lost their jobs, and moved to California to find work in the grape fields. As a boy, Cesar was a migrant farm worker, and experienced the low wages, hard labor, and brutal conditions of the life of a farm worker.

His childhood gave him an insight to how bad the growers acted to the farm workers, and Cesar knew he needed to put an end to the mistreatment. Cesar began to work for the Community Service Organization, and realized that he enjoyed working to make others life better. In 1962, he left the Community Service Organization, and founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA).  The NFWA’s purpose was to fight for a better pay and working conditions for the farm workers.

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People of all color and race united to stand with Cesar. As the leader of the NFWA, Cesar led various protests against the table grape growers, lettuce growers, and many other farming businesses. Cesar Chavez believed in ways of protest similar to Martin Luther King Jr., nonviolent.

In 1972, the National Farm Workers Association and the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee merged together to become the United Farm Workers. Cesar noticed that the protests had an impact, but he wanted legal paperwork to confirm the improved treatment of the workers. Cesar created something called Union Contracts, which said that the growers would begin to respect the farm workers rights as citizens, they would provide fresh water for the workers to drink, a toilet for the workers to use while on the job, and fair pay. The Union Contract also said that workers be provided with clothing that would protect them from the harmful pesticides growers used on plants, which was the first time the issue had been addressed.In 1967, Cesar decided to call for a nationwide boycott of California grapes. Members and supporters of the United Farm Workers urged their friends and family to avoid buying grapes. All across the nation, stores, restaurants and families decided to join Chavez in boycotting the grapes.

This boycott persuaded many growers to sign union contracts, and it was very successful.During the protest marches, cesar made powerful speeches. Outside of the marches, writing was another one of his ways to reach the public.

Cesar had dedicated his life to the cause of the farm workers so much that he lived in chosen poverty, not even owning a house. He refused to make more than $6,000  a year.Another way Cesar protested was by fasting. His purpose for this was to highlight the harmful effects pesticides had on people and their children. At age 61, Cesar endured his longest fast. It lasted for 36 days, and was called the “Fast for Life”. Cesar only drank water.

During this fast, Cesar lost thirty-three pounds, which was nineteen percent of his body weight. Cesar had such an influence over the members of the United Farm Workers that many of the pledged to fast as well, though not as long as he did.Cesar passed away in his sleep on April 23,1993. He was sixty-six years old. Many believe that his fasting may have led to his death. Over 50,000 people attended his funeral. Cesar Chavez was an upstander because he saw that the farm workers were being mistreated, and he decided to put a stop to it. His hard work paid off, because farm workers were soon treated fairly.

Cesar Chavez brought equality to the farm workers, and because of this, his legacy lives on today.


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