53. Cesar Chavez: The Voice of Equality

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During the 1970s, one of the biggest movements occurring in the United States was the fight for equal rights. Many members of American society felt disenfranchised and discriminated against, especially in the workplace. Some American workers enjoyed a living wage complete with benefits and other advantages, while others struggled to earn enough to survive. One of the most oppressed groups of workers during this time period was California farm workers.

The farm workers were migrant workers who came into the country mostly without documentation to work in the fertile fields of California's Great Central Valley. This region in central California has often been described as the country's fruit basket because of its rich soil and high yields. Farm workers tended these fields during the day, and lived and slept on the farm at night. They earned less than the state's minimum wage, and had no fringe benefits other American workers enjoyed. Cesar Chavez changed all that.

Cesar Chavez, the Arizona-born civil-rights activist and labor leader, became the voice of these workers, and began a movement to bring basic rights to this group. Taking the lead from the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Chavez began a series of non-violent demonstrations protesting the deplorable conditions farm workers had to endure. Many of these workers worked much longer than eight hours a day, and received no overtime pay. Chavez, who was a farm worker himself in the 50s, led marches, and called for boycotts. These activities were very effective in changing the working conditions for farm workers and other oppressed workers.

Chavez was highly recognized during his lifetime, and his legacy increased after his death in 1993. He has reached iconic status among the Mexican-American community.

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