Sample History Paper on The Legacy of Cesar Chavez

Introduction

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the United States was one of the regions receiving a high number of immigrants from all over the world. Some of the immigrants came as free men seeking a better life through employment, while others were slaves[1]. The available job opportunities included working as house managers, casuals in industries, and farmworkers. The expansion of farming activities in the United States saw a widened market for farm laborers but little coordination and control from the federal government resulted into violation of workers’ rights[2]. The farm owners subjected the laborers to inhuman activities where some worked for long hours without shifts, small wages, and harsh working conditions with fewer considerations to health check-ups. These conditions paved the way for the rise of labor and human rights activists such as Cesar Chavez[3] and among others. Cesar Chavez is an iconic figure in the United States for the organized labor politics and supporting workers through empowerment by forming grassroots organizations.

History

Cesar Chavez was born in 1927 in Arizona in a place called Yuma. His name comes from his paternal grandfather, who was a Mexican[4]. Cesar Chavez was an immigrant from Mexico, although he was born and raised in America. Their establishment in Texas was after his grandfather, Cesario Chavez, bought a farm and established a wood business in Yuma[5]. Later his grandfather went for the wife and settled there with their eight children. Chavez was raised in a family that was not that rich, but they would not go hungry. Chavez went to school in 1933 in Laguna Dam School, where he changed his name from Cesario to Cesar[6]. His experience with labor rights and the politics involved came after the death of Dorotea in 1937. After Dorotea’s death, her properties, including her farmstead, were auctioned to pay back taxes[7]. These actions of selling the only dwelling place for the family were considered unjust by Cesar[8]. As a Roman Catholic, Cesar saw the power structure as Anglo-American, and the moral goodness belonged to the poor only.

The great depression made Cesar and the family move to California to seek for suitable living conditions. During their stay in California, Cesar and the family joined other immigrants in Oxnard as avocado and pea pickers. After a while, the family relocated to San Jose, where they established their home in a Mexican garage[9]. The family also worked as agricultural laborers.

The period of moving from one place to the other made his performance in school to be average. At school, he faced various challenges as he was not white. On some occasions, he was not served in his school as the European-American criticized his origin. After completing school in 1942, Cesar Chavez was a full-time laborer in farms[10]. In 1948, he married Helen Fabela in Nevada and got their first child Fernando in 1949. The family later relocated to San Jose, where Cesar worked in various farms as an apricot picker. He then joined General Box Company as a handler of Lumber.

 

Activities

At General Box Company, Cesar Chavez established a friendship with justice activists such as Father Donald McDonell and Fred Ross. The two activists for social justice were both European-Americans who majored in advocating for the rights of the Mexican immigrants living in America. The community of Mexican-Americans were the primary source of farm labor in the region of California and were also the most extensive group subjected to injustices[11]. The friendship between Cesar and Ross paved the way for the formation of the Community Service Organization. The chapter focused on the issues of voting for the farm laborers in the region[12]. Later, his activities in the chapter made him be elected as the vice president. His association with McDonell was fruitful as the latter helped Cesar with books to read and develop knowledge of history. Among the materials given by McDonell to Cesar included the history of American laborer activist Lewis John and Mahatma Gandhi[13]. These books shaped the way Cesar organized his non-violent activities.

Cesar’s work at the Community Service Organization after been laid off by his former employer, General Box Company, entailed moving from one region to the other in California[14]. He established other chapters and sourcing for the organization’s funding. After Ross and Cesar stopped running the organization, it failed to perform. Later, Cesar was persuaded by Saul Alinsky to unite the twenty chapters and make them one body which will extend influence at a national level[15]. Reestablishment of the Community service organization coincided with the cold war. Thus, the government, through the Federal Bureau of Investigation, cross-monitored the movements of Cesar as they believed he was influenced and funded by Marxist groups.

Cesar’s Community Service Organization received $20,000 from United Packinghouse Workers of America to open another chapter in Oxnard to cater to the Mexican laborers in various farms. The establishment of the branch in Oxnard was accompanied by complaints from the Mexicans who were occasionally fired for the owners of the farms and companies to source for cheaper and desperate Mexican workers[16]. These actions were in line with the violation of the Federal Laws. These allegations made him establish a committee that advocated for the registration of workers. Under the registration campaigns, the workers would sign indicating the desire to work[17].

The success of the employment committee saw a replacement of the cheaper braceros’ workers with unemployed Americans. The tactics used to influence the changes included sit-ins of the laborers to demonstrates the seriousness of the complaints been aired[18]. The tactic of sit-ins was famous among the civil rights movement activists such as Martin Luther King Junior in the 1960s through the 70s.

After some struggles, the federal officials agreed to investigate the issues, and thus assurances were made to stop using the cheap bracero workers and replace them with the unemployed Americans.

Farm Workers Association

Cesar formed the Farm Workers Association in 1962. However, the people who enquired about the association were informed that it was movement aiming at identifying the number of Mexican workers and their individual needs[19]. As time moved, the labor union had gathered adequate data for the formation of a trade union through persuading workers on the importance of the movement. These activities were co-assisted by Cesar’s wife and Dolores Huerta. He ensured that he fully controlled the organization as he was the general director. The second convention of the Farm Workers Association in 1963 at Delano saw the beginning of the collection of membership dues. Later Cesar established a life insurance policy to help in a massive accumulation of funds. The Farm Workers Association has later rebranded the United Farmworkers (UFW).

Roles of the United Farm Workers

Under the leadership of Cesar Chavez, the United Farm Workers supported and organized workers’ strikes. These strikes were mostly aiming at advocating for better working conditions for workers, better wages, and the rights of the workers[20]. Cesar and his organization primarily supported the famous five years strike of the grape pickers and the historic march to the capital of California. The boycott at the grape farms was supported by other great leaders such as Walter Reuther, who went a step further to contribute $7,500 per month[21]. The cash was used during the striking period for the workers for various purposes.

The strikes and demonstrations organized Cesar Chavez, and his organization was the leading cause that led to the sprouting of other strikes across the country[22]. These strikes made the United States Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare to have seating and declared the support. After the seating of the committee, various policies were formulated to favor and support the welfare of the workers.

Among the success of the union is the signing of the California Agricultural Labor Relation Act by governor Jerry Brown in 1975. The act gave room for collective bargaining of workers[23]. The collective bargaining helped in establishing better working conditions, gave permission for trade unions, raised wages, and also establishment of life insurance policies for workers. As the trade union gained support, other strategies were formulated to help in the proper evaluation of the conditions of workers. These policies were in line with the human rights acts that had been advocated by great leaders such as Martin Luther. The human rights movements and labor relations were the cornerstones for the establishment of suitable conditions to support the wellbeing of locals and foreigners in the United States.

                                                                 Conclusion

The passion of Cesar Chavez was to form a labor union that will help in improving the conditions of farmworkers. Although he had little or no money and less political connections, he was able to achieve his dreams. Cesar Chavez is now a celebrated activist for his role in promoting the wellbeing of the workers. Through forging the United Farm Workers, Cesar challenged the established powerful political and economic interests and thus paved the way for a new system of respecting and valuing farmworkers.

 

 

 

 

 

                                                              Bibliography

Bardacke, Frank. Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers. New York and London: Verso 2011. ISBN 978-1-84467-718-4

Daniel, Cletus E. “Cesar Chavez and the Unionization of California Farm Workers.” ed.       Dubofsky, Melvyn and Warren Van Tine. Labor Leaders in America. University of IL:         1987.

Del Castillo, Richard Griswold and Garcia, Richard A. Cesar Chavez: A Triumph of             Spirit. Stillwater, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997. ISBN 0-8061-2957-3

Etulain, Richard W. Cesar Chavez: A Brief Biography with Documents. Palgrave Macmillan.      2002, p. 18. ISBN 9780312294274.

Pawal, Miriam. “Decisions of Long Ago Shape the Union Today”. Los Angeles Times. 2006.   Retrieved from https://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-history10jan10-story.html

Rodman, Andrew. “Power Grape: Cesar Chavez’s Labor Legacy”. In Good Tilth, 2016.             Retrieved from https://igt.tilth.org/power-grapes-cesar-chavezs-labor-legacy/

Ross, Fred. Conquering Goliath: Cesar Chavez at the Beginning. Keene, California: United Farm Workers: Distributed by El Taller Grafico, 1989. ISBN 0-9625298-0-X.

Shaw, Randy. Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW, and the Struggle for Justice in the   21st Century. Los Angeles: University of California Press. 2008, p. 253. ISBN 978-0-   520-25107-6.

Smith, T. John. “Background Essay on Late 19th and Early 20th Century Immigration.”  The      American History, 2019. Retrieved from https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/513

Soto, Gary. Cesar Chavez: A Hero for Everyone. New York: Aladdin, 2003. ISBN 0-689-     85923-6 and ISBN 0-689-85922-8

[1]. Smith, T. John. “Background Essay on Late 19th and Early 20th Century Immigration.”  The American History. 2019.  Retrieved from https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/513

[2].  Smith. “Background Essay on Late 19th and Early 20th Century Immigration.” https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/513

[3]. Etulain, Richard W. Cesar Chavez: A Brief Biography with Documents. Palgrave Macmillan. 2002, p. 18

[4]. Etulain 5.

[5]. Etulain 7.

[6]. Ross, Fred. Conquering Goliath: Cesar Chavez at the Beginning. Keene, California: United Farm Workers: Distributed by El Taller Graffito, 1989.

[7]. Etulain, Richard W. Cesar Chavez: A Brief Biography with Documents. Palgrave Macmillan. 2002, p. 20

[8]. Soto, Gary. Cesar Chavez: A Hero for Everyone. New York: Aladdin, 2003.

[9]. Soto 22.

[10]. Etulian 25.

[11]. Daniel, Cletus E. “Cesar Chavez and the Unionization of California Farm Workers.” ed. Dubinsky, Melvyn and Warren Van Tine. Labor Leaders in America. University of IL: 1987.

[12]. Pawel, Miriam. “Decisions of Long Ago Shape the Union Today”. Los Angeles Times. 2006. https://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-history10jan10-story.html

[13]. Del Castillo, Richard Griswold and Garcia, Richard A. Cesar Chavez: A Triumph of Spirit. Stillwater, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997.

[14]. See note 11 above.

[15]. See note 13 above.

[16]. Shaw, Randy. Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW, and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. Los Angeles: University of California Press. 2008, p. 253.

[17]. Shaw, 258.

[18]. Rodman, Andrew. “Power Grape: Cesar Chavez’s Labour Legacy”. In Good Tilth, 2016. https://igt.tilth.org/power-grapes-cesar-chavezs-labor-legacy/

[19].  Bardacke, Frank. Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers. New York and London: Verso 2011.

[20]. Shaw, Randy. Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW, and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. Los Angeles: University of California Press. 2008, p. 253

[21]. Rodman, Andrew. “Power Grape: Cesar Chavez’s Labour Legacy”. In Good Tilth, 2016.

[22]. See note 21 above.

[23]. See note 20 above.