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César Chávez: 1927-1993: Labor Leader Biography

Grew Up In Poverty, Risked Life Savings To Form Union, Began Hunger Strike, Pressured By Larger Labor Union

César Chávez: 1927-1993: Labor leader.

From his birth into brutal poverty as the son of Mexican immigrants, César Estrada Chávez dedicated his life to improving the lot of migrant farm workers in the United States. Through his courage and devotion to "La Causa," he created the first union to successfully represent the interest of the farm laborers who had for generations been exploited because of poverty, ignorance, and racism. Although his first strike, in 1965 against California grape growers, was unsuccessful in its immediate aims, Chávez drew national attention to the abysmal living and working conditions endured by many migrant workers in Arizona, Texas, Florida, and California. In his role as the founder of the United Farm Workers labor union, Chávez marshaled grassroots support, and by the 1970s had motivated Americans from all walks of life to join in protests and boycotts in support of agricultural workers. After his union joined the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and he became executive director, Chávez broadened his support to environmental hazards in the workplace. His tireless efforts during the mid-twentieth century also made Chávez one of the first national role models for Hispanic Americans, who had until then been invisible to the U.S. media.

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