Skip to main content
Cesar Chavez
Photo: Arthur Schatz/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Cesar Chavez

Biography
(1927–1993)
  • Publish date:
Union leader and labor organizer Cesar Chavez dedicated his life to improving treatment, pay and working conditions for farm workers.

Who Was Cesar Chavez?

Born near Yuma, Arizona, on March 31, 1927, Cesar Chavez employed nonviolent means to bring attention to the plight of farmworkers and formed both the National Farm Workers Association, which later became United Farm Workers. As a labor leader, Chavez led marches, called for boycotts and went on several hunger strikes. It is believed that Chavez's hunger strikes contributed to his death on April 23, 1993, in San Luis, Arizona.

Early Life

Union leader and labor organizer Chavez was born Cesario Estrada Chavez on March 31, 1927, near Yuma, Arizona. Chavez dedicated his life to improving the treatment, pay and working conditions for farmworkers. He knew all too well the hardships farm workers faced. When he was young, Chavez and his family toiled in the fields as migrant farmworkers.

Labor Leader

After working as a community and labor organizer in the 1950s, Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Association in 1962. This union joined with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee in its first strike against grape growers in California in 1965. A year later, the two unions merged, and the resulting union was renamed the United Farm Workers in 1972.

Scroll to Continue

READ NEXT

Representative Deb Haaland, a Democrat from New Mexico, speaks during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, June 29, 2020. The hearing is titled "U.S. Park Police Attack on Peaceful Protesters at Lafayette Square Park." Photographer: Bonnie Cash/The Hill/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Deb Haaland

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 09: John Major attends the annual Remembrance Sunday Service at the Cenotaph on Whitehall on November 9, 2014 in London, United Kingdom. People across the UK gather to pay tribute to service personnel who have died in the two World Wars and subsequent conflicts, with this year taking on added significance as it is the centenary of the outbreak of World War One. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

John Major

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 1: Jason Collins #35 of the New Jersey Nets poses for a portrait during NBA Media Day at the Nets Practice Facility on October 1, 2007 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2007 NBAE (Photo by Ed Jimenez/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jason Collins

In early 1968, Chavez called for a national boycott of California table grape growers. Chavez's battle with the grape growers for improved compensation and labor conditions would last for years. At the end, Chavez and his union won several victories for the workers when many growers signed contracts with the union. He faced more challenges through the years from other growers and the Teamsters Union. All the while, he continued to oversee the union and work to advance his cause.

As a labor leader, Chavez employed nonviolent means to bring attention to the plight of farm workers. He led marches, called for boycotts and went on several hunger strikes. He also brought the national awareness to the dangers of pesticides to workers' health. His dedication to his work earned him numerous friends and supporters, including Robert Kennedy and Jesse Jackson.

Death and Commemorative Holiday

It is believed that Chavez's hunger strikes contributed to his death: He died on April 23, 1993, in San Luis, Arizona.

In 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that Chavez's birthday, March 31, would be recognized as a federal commemorative holiday.

Fact Check

We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!

Tags: