By Niesha Lofing
Managing Editor, Sacramento Labor Bulletin
Thousands of workers, union members, labor advocates and elected officials braved torrential downpours on March 31 to pay tribute to the life and work of César Chávez during the 12th annual march and rally in Sacramento.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the United Farm Workers, and Chávez’s hard work continues today, noted Bill Camp, executive secretary of the Sacramento Central Labor Council.
Farm workers have recently won new protections through contracts with the largest strawberry grower and winery in the country, the biggest vegetable growers in the state and one of the largest dairies in the nation.
But the work isn’t yet done, he said.
“This year, the UFW has another bill heading for Governor Brown’s desk,” Camp said. “It would give farm workers what nearly all other American workers have enjoyed for decades – overtime pay after eight hours a day.
“This UFW bill would end the shameful exclusion of farm workers in California from the federal minimum wage and hour law dating back almost three-quarters of a century.”
The union also is sponsoring other legislation to improve working conditions for farm workers and championing a bill that would let undocumented farm workers earn the legal right to permanently stay.
“The best way all of us can honor César on this 50th anniversary of his union is by supporting the people he selflessly championed, including the ongoing organizing and contract struggles of the UFW,” Camp said.
The march was followed by a rally and a dinner event, which included a surprise donation of two cases of wine by Sheet Metal Workers Local 162 member Bud McKinney.
Proceeds from the wine will help fund an annual college scholarship and next year’s march, said Shalom Rojas, president of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.
“It was much welcomed,” she said.
Rojas said it’s critical that people take time to honor Chávez’s life with events like the march.
“It’s almost like asking how critical is it that you go to the doctor?” she said. “We’re dealing with labor and the union and if it wasn’t for the union, we wouldn’t have those benefits.”
But to ensure that his legacy of fighting for the safety and lives of workers lives on, more solidarity is needed.
“There are so many rank-and-file members, and some think that we can’t make a difference,” she said. “But we do make a difference … It’s very important for us to continue marching and fighting.”
The Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, along with Union Civica and other labor organizations, is planning to host another march in support of workers rights and labor issues at 10 a.m. May 1. The march will begin at Southside Park and loop around the Capitol. It will be followed by a rally at Southside Park.
Filed under: Immigrant Workers, Labor History, Organizing, Politics Tagged: | California, Cesar Chavez, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Sacramento California, Trade union, UFW, United Farm Workers, United States