Cesar Chaves jose Martinez

Union leader and labor organizer Cesar Chavez dedicated his life to improving treatment, pay and working conditions for farm workers.

Cesario Estrada Chavez was born on March 31, 1927, near Yuma, Arizona. Born to immigrant parents, Chavez moved to California with his family in 1939.

Early Life

Cesar's entire family worked on their 100 acre family farm. When Cesar was 10, he and his family lost their farm due to the great depression. Poor, hopeless, and struggling to survive, the Chaves family left Arizona, fleeing the great depression and widespread droughts in the Southwest. They moved to California in 1939 and became migrant workers. They worked for different Farm owners picking fruits and vegetables.

The Struggle

At the time, migrant workers were not allowed to own permanent homes. Families carried their few belongings in their trucks and sometimes lived in them while others lived in crowned public houses without running water, electricity, or bathrooms.

As far as education, Cesar Chaves attended 65 different elementary schools because of the amount of times his family had to move in order to find work. Spanish speaking students were often physically punished by teachers for speaking Spanish at school. Despite this, Cesar managed to graduate the 8th grade.


After school, Cesar worked all day in the fields with his family. This is where he got the first glimpse of the unfairness to migrant workers. Farm owners would often took advantage of their workers. Cesar asked for better wages and better safety regulations for migrant workers.


In 1952, Cesar Chaves joined the Community Service Organization. This group helped to inform farm workers of their rights. Cesar strived to help migrant workers gain individual rights, just like regular american citizens. He influenced Mexican workers to vote during the nights. Cesar joined CSO full time and motivated many workers in California to stand up in a non-violent manner for their rights.

Farm Union

Cesar Chaves decided to leave the CSO and organize his own farm union. In 6 months, he had 300 members joined in the United Farm Workers of America. Chaves lead these members to a revolt against farm owners. Farm owners ignored their request for better wages and working conditions which lead to a 5-year strike and a nation wide grape boycott.

Strike Results

Strikers were extremely beaten and abused. Many suffered jail time. Cesar and his union members fasted and marched many miles to stand up against racist farm owners and citizens. As the grape boycott spread across the country, grape growers lost millions of dollars. Lawmakers became overwhelmed by the movement and were soon forced to change laws and improve working conditions.

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