Baca leads effort to honor Cesar Chavez with Congressional Gold Medal
Washington - Rep. Joe Baca (D-Rialto) reintroduced legislation today to posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal to civil rights leader Cesar Chavez.
"Cesar Chavez is a true hero of American civil rights. He is an inspiration to Hispanics and all people in America. He fought to ensure better conditions for farm workers and brought national attention to the labor movement. His work opened up opportunities for Hispanics throughout the nation," said Rep. Baca. "It is time that Congress recognize Cesar Chavez for his role in shaping American history. No American Hispanic has ever been honored with the Congressional Gold Medal, and it is time for that to change."
An ardent follower of the pacifist teachings of Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Chavez fought for social change, becoming an inspiration and resource to all Americans and people throughout the world. In 1994, Chavez became only the second Mexican-American to be honored as a recipient of the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.
"His life not only represents hope, but also the prospect of a better life for those who need it most. This bill will demonstrate our nation's appreciation for Cesar Chavez' non-violent struggle on behalf of farm workers," said Rep. Baca.
Chavez was the grandson of a Mexican immigrant and grew up working as a migrant farm worker. He organized farm workers to campaign for safe and fair working conditions, reasonable wages, decent housing and to outlaw child labor.
In 1962, Cesar Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Association, the predecessor to the United Farm Workers of America, the first successful farm workers organization. "La Causa" became his life's work, and the rallying cry for thousands of farm workers and immigrants. He organized several grape boycotts to draw attention to pesticide poisoning of grape pickers and their children. It is estimated that up to 17 million Americans joined the boycott in the 1970s. His nonviolent struggle became an inspiration to Americans and people around the world.
Rep. Baca has also introduced H.Res. 127, which will establish an un-paid legal holiday in honor of Chavez and require schools to teach about his life and work and the farm workers movement.
"I am going to be persistent, until Congress gives Cesar Chavez the recognition he deserves. If it takes me the remainder of my time in the United States Congress, I will keep pushing for the life and work of Cesar Chavez to be honored."
The bill has 89 original cosponsors, including all members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and U.S. House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. It has the support of the United Farm Workers of America and the Cesar Chavez Foundation.