By Hal Marcovitz
A biography of the union activist who led the fight of migrant farm staff for higher operating stipulations.
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Extra resources for Cesar Chavez (Great Hispanic Heritage)
Not only would he ask other unions to observe the boycott, but he would also call on consumers to join the cause. By then, the National Farm Workers Association had merged with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee. q 1/8/03 1:23 AM Page 59 Leading a protest at a Seattle Safeway grocery store in 1969, Chavez (front right, holding sign) hoped to expand awareness of the poor conditions of California’s farm workers into the public realm. He urged people to buy only produce that carried the “Aztec eagle,” which indicated that it had been picked by union workers.
Cesar Chavez convened the meeting because his efforts to organize the farm workers had been going so well that he felt it was time to solidify the membership by calling them together for a convention. Indeed, in just six months, Chavez had distributed 80,000 invitations to migrant farm workers, and the vast majority of them returned the cards, indicating a willingness to join the union. There was a lot of business to conduct at the meeting. First on the agenda was the election of officers. Chavez was named president of the union.
But the competing union, the AWOC, believed it had the resources to call a strike. Then led by Larry Itliong, a Filipino immigrant, the AWOC had been unable to convince many Mexican Americans to join its ranks. Instead, Itliong concentrated on recruiting fellow immigrants from the Philippines. The AWOC called a strike on September 8, 1965, at vineyards in Kern and Tulare counties when growers refused to consider a wage increase. At the time, Filipino workers could count on wages of no more than $1 an hour, and few of them were guaranteed work for more than a few months a year.
Cesar Chavez (Great Hispanic Heritage) by Hal Marcovitz