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The Legacy of César Chávez on César Chávez Day – How his vision inspires our work on child labor

Do you ever think about people from the past you wish you could go back in time to meet? At the top or near the top of my list is César Chávez, who was born on March 31st in 1927. César died in 1993 a few months before I started working for a farmworker organization, the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP).

César Chávez

César Chávez

For the last 22 years, my work with that AFOP and then the National Consumers League and the Child Labor Coalition has involved trying to obtain equal protection for farmworker children under US labor law. The legacy of César cast a big shadow on our efforts. His success in raising the public consciousness gave all of us hope in the advocacy community that we might help Americans to care about migrant farmworkers and their plight and the conditions endured by their children working in the fields beside them.

César was born in 1927 in Yuma, Arizona in an adobe home on his parent’s ranch, which eventually was lost during the Great Depression. His family joined the exodus to California where they began work as migrant farmworkers and faced many hardships. The family would pick peas and lettuce in the winter, cherries and beans in the spring, corn and grapes in the summer and cotton in the fall.

Poverty forced César to drop out of school in the 8th grade to work in the fields. After he returned from a two-year stint in the Navy, César returned to California, married and eventually had eight children.… Read the rest