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Protecting Workers' Rights, Continuing the Chavez Legacy: Si Se Puede!

Monday, March 31, 2014
By Devika Jina

March 29th, Cezar Chavez Day

Today is Cesar Chavez’s birthday and we hope everyone will join us in honouring this great hero. If you don't know who he is, please go see the new movie. You could say that he was “a man guided by an enormous faith,” or a dedicated spokesperson for the rights of others. Either way you choose to say it, here at Green Rainbow Revolution, we think that Cesar Chavez was a true champion.

Chavez lived and worked at a time when the rights of farm labourers in the US lacked definition and security.  Too often they were unfairly treated, working long hours in unsafe conditions. Chavez took it upon himself to mobilize and organize his fellow laborers, to campaign for safe and secure working conditions, allowing them the dignity and respect they rightly deserved. 

I think we can all learn from Chavez’s example - part of caring is the perseverance to keep on trying and pushing, even when everything around you is set to oppose your every effort. The first twenty years of his efforts bore few fruits, but he saw the value in his cause and kept going. I know I’m not just speaking for myself when I say that the old "CBB" feeling can hit hard when one’s work reaps no reward… It’s a difficult thing indeed to imagine a world where Chavez and those like him were dragged down by this feeling, and I’m grateful that they pushed it aside. As the man himself said, ‘Si si pue!’

In 1962 Chavez founded the National Farm Worker’s Association with Dolores Huerta. Now called United Farm Workers of America (UFW), it continues to provide a valuable support network to farm laborers, and serves as an excellent example of how the ideal of the union can be put to proper and effective use. 

President Obama spoke of Chavez’s virtue of perseverance in his opening remarks to the White House's pre-screening of Diego Luna’s new film tribute to the social activist, applauding him as a tangible and real-life example of how much good can be done when we try just a little (or a lot) harder than we thought possible. We know that there are issues in the USA that are in desperate need of resolving, and exposure to synthetic pesticides, a problem Chavez is famed for combatting, lingers on what with over 17’000 pesticide products on the market, on drug and grocery store shelves, and in our homes. Everyone along the production line, from farmers to consumers, are exposed to these substances daily, with health put at risk. 

Thanks to the work of advocacy groups like PAN North America and the Equitable Food Initiative, reasoned research into the health risks posed by pesticides is being conducted, and lobbying to protect farm workers' health and rights is being advanced. 

Even as I write this from my parent’s dining room in the UK, I can see how the ‘Si, si pue!’ philosophy is the remedy we need to resolve our issues across the Atlantic, and the world over. We need to remember that these issues, like the welfare of everyone from agricultural labourers, factory workers and our educators are more about people than they are about policy. It’s thanks to people like Chavez reminding us of this fact that we can enjoy safe and clean working conditions, rest breaks, and medical benefits. He also championed the rights of disabled workers, and for the introduction of unemployment insurance for farm workers. A champion? We think so!

The great achievements of the human family have always been, and continue to be, the fruits of the hard work from those who dare to stand up and fight for what is right. Plain as day, they see the bad and call it out for what it is, dedicating themselves to the right cause until we end up that much happier, that much more enlightened. As Chavez championed the rights of farm workers, it’s exciting to see a growing number of organisations face up to the reality of the welfare of their workers, and take serious action to look after them with the dignity and respect they deserve. 

We're working to see that this movement grows and moves forward, and we hope that you'll join is in standing up for farm workers and workers' rights. The resources below can help you get in touch with excellent organizations working on these issues, and provide links to easy actions that you can take today. Si se peude!

Organizations & Government Partners Protecting Farm Workers

How You Can Get Involved

Devika Jina is Green Rainbow Revolution's rock star Social Media & Blog Intern. She has a background in Philosophy and Sustainability, and is conducting research for her Msc. She's also a keen blogger.  Check our her personal blog, Look Here, Listen Up! you can check out her material here: Look Here, Listen Up! 

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