Born into poverty and raised by migrant workers, Cesar Estrada Chavez dedicated his life to improving conditions for workers across the country. We celebrate Cesar Chavez Day each year on March 31st, his birthday, to honor the work he did to organize farm workers and promote civil rights for all.
Cesar Chavez was not just a civil rights, Latino, and farm labor leader, but he was also a community organizer and social entrepreneur, a champion of radical nonviolent social change, and an advocate for the environment and consumer rights. In 1952, he became a mobilizer for a Latino civil rights group called the Community Service Organization (C.S.O.) where he fought against racial and economic discrimination. In 1962, he began working alongside Dolores Huerta, an American labor leader and civil rights activist. Together, they founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later merged with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee to become the United Farm Workers labor union. He spent the following years of his life involved in regular protests, strikes, and participating in labor uprisings throughout the country. He also led hundreds of sit-in protests and hunger strikes.
Thanks to the efforts of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers, California passed the landmark Agricultural Labor Relations Act in 1975, giving all farm workers the right to unionize and negotiate for better wages and working conditions.
Cesar Chavez passed in 1993 at the age of 66. The following year, President Bill Clinton awarded him a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.
Cesar Chavez Holiday was established by Los Angeles volunteers and signed into state law by the California Governor Gray Davis in 2000. It set into motion a wave of initiatives resulting in optional and commemorative Cesar Chavez Days in nine additional states (Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and Rhode Island).
We honor Cesar Chavez’s legacy of labor activism and social justice and remember how he made sure the voices of California farm workers were heard around the world.