Congressman Bob Filner recently introduced his “Si Se Puede” resolution that commemorates the spirit and legacy of César E. Chávez.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor and remember a great American leader and hero, César Chávez. He was a husband, father, grandfather, labor organizer, community leader and symbol of the ongoing struggle for equal rights and equal opportunity.
César was the son of migrant farm workers who dedicated his life to fighting for the human rights and dignity of farm laborers. He was born on March 31, 1927, on a small farm near Yuma, Arizona, and died nearly 12 years ago in April of 1993. Over the course of his 66-year life, César Chávez’ work inspired millions and made him a major force in American history.
In 1962, César Chávez and his family founded the National Farm Workers Association which organized thousands of farm workers to confront one of the most powerful industries in our Nation. He inspired them to join together and nonviolently demand safe and fair working conditions.
Through the use of a grape boycott, he was able to secure the first union contracts for farm workers in this country. These contracts provided farm workers with the basic services that most workers take for granted, services such as clean drinking water and sanitary facilities. Because of his fight to enforce child labor laws, farm workers could also be certain that their children would not be working side by side with them and would instead attend the migrant schools he helped to establish. In addition, César Chávez made the world aware of the exposure to dangerous chemicals that farm workers and consumers face every day.
As a labor leader, he earned great support from unions and elected officials across the country. The movement he began continues today as the United Farm Workers of America.
César Chávez’ influence extends far beyond agriculture. He was instrumental in forming the Community Service Organization, one of the first civic action groups in the Mexican-American communities of California and Arizona.
He worked in urban areas, organized voter registration drives and brought complaints against mistreatment by government agencies. He taught community members how to deal with governmental, school and financial institutions and empowered many thousands to seek further advancement in education and politics. There are countless stories of judges, engineers, lawyers, teachers, church leaders, organizers and other hardwork-ing professionals who credit César Chávez as the inspiring force in their lives.
During a time of great social upheaval, he was sought out by groups from all walks of life and all religions to help bring calm with his nonviolent practices. In his fight for peace, justice, respect and self-determination, he gained the admiration and respect of millions of Americans and most Members of this House of Representatives.
César Chávez will be remembered for his tireless commitment to improve the plight of farm workers, children and the poor throughout the United States and for the inspiration his heroic efforts gave to so many Americans.
We in Congress must make certain that the movement César Chávez began and the timeless lessons of justice and fairness he taught be preserved and honored in our national conscience. To make sure that these fundamental principles are never forgotten, I urge my colleagues to support this resolution. In the words of César and the United Farm Workers, si se puede, yes, we can!
Congressman Bob Filner represents California’s 51st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.