César Chávez Day
annually on March 31st (since 2010)
President Barack Obama on March 31st, 2010
César Chávez Day is a commemorative holiday throughout the United States, and a state holiday in some states, such as California. It takes place on César Chávez's birthday and honors his legacy as a civil rights and labor movement leader, where his focus was on improving the treatment, conditions, and pay of farm workers. President Obama made a proclamation for a César Chávez Day in 2010, and a subsequent proclamation the following year for the holiday to take place annually. President Obama had previously called for a national holiday for Chávez when he was campaigning in 2008. The day calls for "appropriate service, community, and educational programs to honor Cesar Chavez's enduring legacy." Community leaders speak of Chávez's values on the day, and discussions and the media often focus on topics he dedicated his life to, such as workers rights and fair wages. School classrooms have activities that focus on Chávez's work as well.
César Chávez was born on March 31, 1927, in Yuma, Arizona. At the age of ten, he began working as a migrant farmworker. As a young man, he worked in the Community Service Organization fighting for the rights of Chicanos. In 1962, he founded the National Farm Workers Association with Dolores Huerta. It focused on the plight of migrant farm workers and became the first successful farm union in the United States. It merged with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee in 1966; together they became the United Farm Workers in 1972. Chávez used nonviolence to achieve his goals. His tactics were strikes, boycotts, marches, and hunger strikes. His first strike was against the grape growers of California in 1965, and in 1968 he called for a national boycott of California table grape growers. Several victories were eventually won after many growers signed contracts with the union. Chávez's group fought against other growers over the years and raised awareness about the effects of pesticides on workers. César Chávez died on April 23, 1993, in San Luis, Arizona.
How to Observe
The day could be celebrated by checking to see if there are any César Chávez related events in your community to be a part of. If you are an educator, you could also incorporate Chávez into your lessons today. The César Chávez National Monument could be visited—it was once Chávez's home and the headquarters of the United Farm Workers. The film César Chávez could be watched, or a documentary where Chávez is the subject. The documentary Dolores, about Chávez's co-organizer Dolores Huerta, could also be watched.