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The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Honoring the legacy of Cesar Chavez

Cesar Chavez bettered the lives of many farm workers in California by leading peaceful protests and boycotts for equal rights. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

As they picked grapes underneath the scorching California sun, the migrant farm workers of 50 years ago were only given one cup of water to last the whole day. They shared this cup with the other workers and had to pay a fee to fill it up with water.

This was just one of the many abuses farm workers in the United States had to endure before change occurred in the 1960s. This reform was led by the Mexican-American union leader Cesar Chavez.

Chavez wanted to improve the difficult lives of his fellow farm workers and founded the National Farm Worker Association in 1962, pushing for migrant workers to receive better working conditions.

Chavez enhanced the lives of many farm workers in California by leading peaceful protests and boycotts.

Susan Green, multicultural and gender studies professor, believes that Chavez made many meaningful contributions to society.

“The Agricultural Labor Relations Act proved it is possible to have collective bargaining in the industry without jeopardizing food safety and national security,” Green said. “The creation of health insurance and a pension plan for migrant workers changed the way we think about these issues.”

Chavez made an impact both on the farm workers and all who lived in the United States, she said.

“Cesar Chavez changed labor law, working conditions and food safety for all Americans,” Green said.

The Chico State campus is closed and no classes are held on March 31, the day of Chavez’s birth, to celebrate his achievements. Although Chavez died in 1993, his memory still lives on in the many Californians who are inspired by his perseverance for a better life.

Not only will Chico State be canceling classes for the day, but there are also multiple events put on to celebrate Cesar Chavez’s contributions.

  • Chico held a rally on March 25 to celebrate the life of Chavez in Trinity Commons. It was aimed at respectfully educating the public on Chavez’s achievements and the spirit of volunteering within the community.
  • An art gallery was displayed on Thursday in the Cross-Cultural Leadership Center. The art pieces on display were pieces by Chavez or projects that showed a fight against discrimination.
  • A 5K run was held on campus in honor of Chavez on March Sunday.
  • University Housing and Food Services played a movie about Chavez’s life on Monday. All students were welcomed and tickets were free of charge.

Although Chico State has a tradition for celebrating the contributions of Chavez, not all schools participate in this holiday.

“I think the state law in many states should be expanded to a national holiday and be included in the national curriculum,” Green said. “The law in California has brought many positive changes that could be expanded.”

Chavez is a man who gave up much of his life to benefit the welfare of others, and that is not something that will be easily forgotten. He changed the lives of not only Mexican-American migrant workers but all people who live in the United States today, Green said.

Nick Cunningham, a first-year music major, has a great deal of gratitude for the positive changes Chavez has made in America, he said.

“It makes me thankful to know people are getting treated fairly for the hard work they are doing,” Cunningham said. “American farm workers are getting treated with a higher level of respect. That is something I think all schools should celebrate.”

Alisa Thorsen can be reached at [email protected] or @alisathorsen on Twitter.

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Alisa Thorsen
Alisa Thorsen, Opinion Editor

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