New legislation will honor César Chávez and all farmworkers

Sculpture of César Chávez being followed by representations of the immigrant farmworkers her help unionize. located in César Chávez Plaza in downtown Sacramento, California
Sculpture located in César Chávez Plaza in downtown Sacramento, California

The Illinois House is introducing HR79 to declare March 31, 2021 Farmworkers Awareness Day. The date was chosen to honor the 94th birthday of the American labor leader, community organizer, and Latino American civil rights activist César Chávez; a true steward, striving to protect his land and people.

Chávez is being recognized during a particularly difficult time for our essential farmworkers. 2020 exposed the fragility of our corporate food system and the human toll it takes on those workers we deem “essential” while marginalizing and denying them essential rights, access to healthcare, and fair wages. You can read more on the struggles of essential workers here:

Full Text of House Resolution HR79

WHEREAS, Throughout history, farmworkers had been denied a decent life in the fields and communities of our agricultural valleys; they were considered essential to the State’s biggest industry, but only as long as they remained exploited and submissive; and

WHEREAS, Farmworkers had tried but failed so many times to organize the giant agribusiness farms that most observers considered it a hopeless task; and

WHEREAS, Farm labor contractors played favorites with workers by selecting friends first ands ometimes accepting bribes; child labor was rampant, and many workers were injured or died in easily preventable accidents; the average life expectancy of a farmworker was 49 years; and

WHEREAS, By the early 1960s, things were beginning to change beneath the surface thanks to grassroots organizations that attempted to represent and organize farmworkers; within another fifteen years, more than 50,000 farmworkers were protected by unionc ontracts; and

WHEREAS, In 1962, a young Chicano named César Estrada Chávez founded The National Farm Workers Association; the son of a family of extremely poor farmworkers, he had risen through the ranks of the grassroots Community Service Organization to become its national director; and

WHEREAS, César Chávez worked with communities to solve problems through organizing and direct action; from his base in Delano, he traveled for three years from town to town in the central valleys of California to meet with groups of farmworkers in their homes and to tirelessly build an organization that he hoped would one day become an effective union; and

WHEREAS, César Chávez spent a great deal of his life promoting and leading boycotts of preying companies and organizations; this eventually led to legislation changes and collective bargaining agreements aimed at guaranteeing fieldworkers the right to more humane working conditions and the right to unionize; and

WHEREAS, Because of individuals like César Chávez and his undeniable duty of selfless service, farmwork has evolved, not only in the State, but throughout the agricultural global community; this has enhanced the lives and life expectancy of all farmworkers alike; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ONE HUNDRED SECOND GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, that we declare March 31, 2021, the birthdate of César Estrada Chávez, as Farmworkers Awareness Day in order to help raise awareness of these often forgotten bastions of the economy and remind us to be thankful for their hard work; and be it further

RESOLVED, That suitable copies of this resolution be delivered to the Governor’s Office and all members of the Illinois General Assembly.

Read the resolution here