Forty years ago, exploited agricultural workers toiling in California's fields decided to go on strike for union representation and better working conditions. Life was extremely harsh for those workers, who were not even provided such basic necessities such as clean drinking water and portable toilets. They labored for about 90 cents per hour under back breaking conditions. Eventually the largely Mexican and Filipino migrant workers rallied behind a newly formed labor organization, the United Farm Workers (UFW - www.ufw.org ), founded by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. In 1967 the UFW launched the historic Delano Grape Strike, a nationwide boycott of table grapes that would change the face of labor relations in Califas. But it did more than that, it was the spark that would cause the Chicano/Mexicano people to shake off decades of apathy and submission.
On February 14th, 1968, Chavez began the first of many fasts to protest the brutal treatment of the farm workers, and in so doing he received the support and allegiance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The UFW's struggle brought about intense feelings of pride to a people long downtrodden. Slogans arose expressing militant optimism, ¡SÍ SE PUEDE! (Yes We Can!), ¡Viva la Causa, Viva la Huelga! (Long live the cause, Long live the Strike!)… slogans that are still with us today. The exemplary leadership of Chavez, whose commitment to justice for the workers was matched by his principled belief in non-violence, made him a hero to millions. But Chavez's vision of a better world was not restricted to the conflicts in California's agricultural fields. He also took a stand against the Vietnam war, linking the exploitation of America's lowest paid workers with the brutality and insanity of America’s imperial campaign in Southeast Asia.
The UFW succeeded in winning important benefits for agricultural workers like rest periods, comprehensive health benefits for workers and their families, parental leave, sanitary facilities, and even profit sharing… but the struggle for worker's rights continues. March 31st marks Cesar Chavez Day, and there will be actions and tributes to the great labor leader in hundreds of cities across the US. Here in Los Angeles we’ll pay homage to the 40th anniversary of the historic Delano Grape Strike -lend solidarity to the UFW and all workers who organize for a better future -and salute the people's hero, Cesar Chavez, by attending the 7th Annual Cesar Chavez Walk at East Los Angeles College. The Cesar Chavez Walk is the largest celebration in Southern California honoring the heroic Chicano labor leader and the mass movement he led. The event takes place on Saturday, April 2nd, 2005, 8am, at East Los Angeles College, located at 1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez, in Monterey Park. Come walk alongside the Chavez Family, UFW members, students, unionists, community and antiwar activists, clergy and others to celebrate and honor all workers and raza who struggle for a better world. Si Se Puede! For more information, call (323) 722-0118. You can register or donate to the walk at the UFW website, www.ufw.org/la.htm