Honoring César Chávez


March 31 is the birthday of the history-making Latino activist and farm worker César Chávez. Chávez spent decades working to protect both the earth and workers from toxic pesticides.

Chávez, founder of the United Farm Workers, was one of the first leaders to speak out for justice for such workers, a group that had long been without protection or benefits. Thanks to his leadership, the lives of thousands of farm workers were improved and communities made safer.Through his movement, Chávez linked people and the environment, teaching us that we all have a right to live in a healthy and safe environment - no matter who we are or where we were born. The work of Chávez and members of the environmental movement resulted in passage of landmark laws that protect our air, water, land and - most importantly - people.

To honor his birthday and his legacy, I encourage everyone to support the creation of a national holiday to honor Chávez. His courageous life has inspired many to continue the fight for environmental justice, so our children and families have a stronger, healthier future. Chávez' legacy, like that of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., continues to educate, inspire and empower people from all walks of life, and should be celebrated through the establishment of a federally recognized César E. Chávez National Holiday.

Another way to honor Chávez is to support recent federal lands legislation. The César E. Chávez Study Act would authorize the U.S. Department of the Interior to study significant lands in Chávez's life and work with the Farm Workers movement for inclusion into the National Park System. Despite the close connection between Latinos and the environment, there is not currently a single park unit dedicated to a Latino. You can support this bill by contacting your legislators.

Isabel Long, the Sierra Club's Associate Representative for Latino Partnerships, hopes everyone recognizes the great contributions Chávez made during his life. "I want to highlight the exemplary life of the Latino leader, César Chávez," said Long. "He was a leader who, through nonviolent protest, demanded justice for the forgotten workers of our society, the farm workers, and as an environmentalist, called us to protect our 'sacred trust' - the earth."

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