The Cesar Chavez annual march had more groups attending than I had originally thought. In past years, the participation was just a few old-timers with memories of Cesar Chavez’ struggles with the United Farm Workers against growers and big companies.
This healthy group had plenty of youth from United Middle School, TAMIU’s CAMP program, Boy Scouts and of course, plenty of politicians. I think Monica Notzon ruled with the number of supporters in this event – about 1/3 of the marchers were wearing Monica shirts. Of course, the local labor unions were present to support the ideals of Cesar Chavez, even though the type of work each represents is different – they all ascribe to “El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido” (The people united will never be divided).
But I wonder how much they all actually knew what Cesar Chavez actually did? He did create a united movement, there is no doubt. He was a point person for Latinos across the country – whether they were agricultural workers or not. And he definitely changed a nation, whether there is a holiday named for him or not.
In my idealistic youth (yes, yes, I know, I am still idealistic) I worked with the OTHER farm worker union that started at the same time, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC). Baldemar Velasquez headed that one up but the major difference was where the battles were fought and against whom. FLOC was east coast, United Farm Workers (UFW) was west coast so the support was very different. Even how they approached labor organizing was different – UFW brought people together to fight against farmers, canneries, the big companies and FLOC brought farmers and farm workers together to fight the big companies. Both accomplished quite a bit in the struggle for fairness to farm workers but Cesar Chavez was the easiest to recognize.
It isn’t just about labor, either, it was about access to basic amenities. With FLOC, my main task aside from union organizing was to maintain a basic medical clinic staffed with volunteer nurses and a volunteer doctor that came in once a week on one of the farms. When I mean basic, I am talking one hanging lightbulb to light all 2 rooms. What was sad was that the clinic took up a family’s spot – meaning that the shack we were in was where a family of who knows how many would have lived. The water source was about 50 feet away, a communal water-spout for everyone who lived there. So when we look at the legacy of Cesar Chavez and Baldemar Velasquez, it wasn’t just about fair pay for work, it is also – medical care, housing, prevention of pesticide spray (we were only about 100 feet from where pesticide spraying started – don’t tell me that workers who lived on the farm didn’t get exposed), working conditions, child labor prevention, access to water, etc.
So yes, it was a good turnout but it should have been larger considering the impact that Cesar Chavez’ life had for working conditions for Latinos as a whole.