Cesar Estrada Chavez was bom in Yuma, Arizona on March 31, 1927. He died on April 23, 1993. Cesar E. Chavez organized farm workers into the United Farm Workers (UFW). The son of a migrant farm worker, he attended more than 30 elementary schools. From 1952 to 1962 he worked with the Community Service Organization founded by Saul Alinsky; he registered voters and worked in community relations, becoming general director in 1958. In 1962 he left to begin organizing farm workers and went on to found the UFW. He organized nationwide boycotts of grapes, wine, and lettuce in an attempt to bring pressure on California growers to sign contracts with the UFW. By 1972 the UFW had more than 60,000 members. Membership dropped, however, after the Teamsters’ union began to organize farm workers in competition with the UFW. The two unions agreed in March 1977 that the UFW would have jurisdiction primarily over field workers and that the teamsters would organize truck drivers and cannery workers. UFWT membership is about 100,000.
From the beginning, the United Farm Worker’s Union adhered to the principals of non-violence practiced by M.K. Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The 1965 strikers took a pledge of non-violence and Cesar conducted a 25 day fast in 1968 to reaffirm the UFW’s commitment to non-violence. The late Senator Robert F. Kennedy called Cesar “one of the heroic figures of our time,” and flew to Delano to be with him when he ended the fast.