A small crowd of people sat in the University Student Union Pavillion to celebrate the legacy of Cesar Chavez on Thursday. Cesar Chavez was known for his efforts as a farm-labor rights leader and developing the National Farm Workers Association.
“I personally believe that this celebration brings a lot of things to the community. It makes us work as one, and represents the heritage of Hispanics here at Fresno State,” said Richard Batella, a member of Nu Alpha Kappa.
As a labor leader, Chavez directed nonviolent means to bring attention to the hard work of farm workers. He led marches, boycotts and strikes, all to advocate for the labor rights of farm workers and their pay. Chavez and his union won many victories for farm workers across California.
Armando Elenes, the vice president for the United Farm Workers union, was the guest speaker. He spoke about Cesar Chavez’s life, legacy and his commitment to community service.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done in the fields,” Elenes said. “We’re talking about farm workers of the last 10 years that have died after being exposed to too much heat, and we are still trying to change those conditions”
Elenes said there are workers who still receive a piece rate, making about 50 dollars a day, only being paid what they make, and not taking into account the hours or time they have worked.
“I think it is important we know the history. A lot of people say it’s a Hispanic thing, but it’s really a worker thing,” said Elenes.
Through the United Farm Workers union, new contracts were signed that established new minimums for hourly wages, ensuring workers that if they did show up to work, they would be paid. Prior to the contract reforms, farm workers were paid 52 cents for a 25-pound bucket, Elenes said. With the help of his union, they have increased bucket rates for farm workers.
The United Farm Workers union was able to establish new standards and develop some of the highest rates in the country. Elenes said that prior to these new contracts, workers would pick 25-pound buckets, but before they could turn them in for money, they had to top the bucket off.
“Topping off a buckets is an extra five pounds, and for every bucket that the workers pick, those extra five pounds add up over the course of 80 trips. That translates to 25 additional buckets that they are now being paid for,” Elenes said.
He said that the fight for farm-work reforms will not be completed in his lifetime but believes with the help of others in the community, it can be done. Celebrating Cesar Chavez Day gives people in the community a chance to know the history behind farm working and its wages.
“As a part of the Nu Kappa Alpha, we come here to help as much as we can and give support,” Richard Batella said. “Celebrating the legacy of Cesar Chavez is important to me, it’s a part of my heritage.”
Cesar Chavez dedicated his life to improve the treatment, pay and working conditions for farm workers. For his contributions, California, Texas and Colorado have all made Cesar Chavez Day a state holiday in order to promote community service and celebrate the life of this important figure.