Illustration of people working in a field

All illustrations by Dave Shephard

César Chávez

He fought for the rights of America's farmworkers.

How did a Latino leader named César Chávez help change thousands of people’s lives? It’s a story of hard work and courage.

Chávez was born in 1927 in Arizona. When he was 11, his family lost their farm. They moved to California, where his parents became migrant workers. They traveled to different farms to work.

After eighth grade, Chávez left school and worked in the fields to help his family earn money.

Chávez and other workers picked crops in the heat. Many didn’t have clean water to drink. Most weren’t paid fairly, didn’t get breaks, and worked in unsafe conditions.

Helping Workers

Chávez wanted better lives for farmworkers. In 1962, he helped start a group of workers that later became the United Farm Workers union.

“It was all about fairness and respect,” says Paul Chávez, César’s son. “He said, ‘Once they see us as human beings and respect us, the rest will follow.’”

Chávez used other peaceful methods. In 1965, he took on the owners of California grape farms. He asked their workers to strike, or refuse to work. He helped set up a boycott, which convinced people to stop buying grapes.

In 1966, he brought more attention to his ideas. He led farmworkers on a 300-mile march to California’s capital, Sacramento.

“When he marched, he inspired people to go out and exercise their rights,” Paul Chávez says.

Ten years later, California passed a law that let farmworkers form unions. This helped more workers get fair pay and better working conditions.

A Lasting Change

Chávez continued to fight for the rights of migrant workers until he died in 1993. Since then, schools and parks have been named after him. Eleven states, including California, celebrate holidays in his honor.

  1. What clue in the text helps you understand what migrant workers do?
  2. What are some peaceful methods that Chávez used to help farmworkers?
  3. What is the section “A Lasting Change” mostly about? What is another good heading for it?
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