Californians Campaign for a Cesar Chavez Day; Some Oppose a Paid Holiday for Union Leader

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 5, 2002 | Go to article overview

Californians Campaign for a Cesar Chavez Day; Some Oppose a Paid Holiday for Union Leader


Byline: Ellen Sorokin, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A group of community leaders and politicians in California has started a national campaign to create a federal holiday honoring the late labor leader Cesar E. Chavez, despite resistance from some local governments that remain split on the issue.

The group, which calls itself the Chavez Holiday Campaign, said it will hold a petition drive aimed at winning congressional and presidential approval to have a paid federal holiday commemorating Mr. Chavez, whom Hispanics of Mexican descent regard as a hero.

"Cesar Chavez is one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century, and he deserves a holiday," said Evelina Alarcon, the campaign's national coordinator. "Cesar is the working-class David who fought the agri-business Goliath and won."

U.S. Reps. Susan A. Davis and Bob Filner, California Democrats, are supporting the effort. Mr. Filner submitted several resolutions in Congress last year calling for a national Chavez holiday.

Mr. Chavez founded the United Farm Workers union in the 1960s and sought better pay and working conditions for laborers through hunger strikes and boycotts. He died in 1993 at age 66. President Clinton posthumously awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994.

The Cesar Chavez Foundation in Los Angeles supports the movement. "It would be a fitting tribute if it honors his values and philosophies," said Andres Irlando, the nonprofit foundation's executive director. "And if some states or cities decide against it, that's their decision to make."

So far, California is the only state that made his birthday - March 31 - a paid holiday for state employees. That effort, born in East Los Angeles, led to Gov. Gray Davis signing legislation in 2000.

Four other states - Texas, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico - have declared Cesar Chavez holidays. Colorado and New Mexico legislators are trying to put on the ballot this November an amendment that would make Cesar Chavez Day a paid state holiday. And, across the country, at least 29 schools, 17 streets, 17 libraries and parks, four plazas and one bridge have been named after Mr. …

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