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Milwaukee Leaders Celebrate Life And Legacy of Cesar Chavez

Cesar Chavez nominating California Governor Brown at the Democratic Convention in New York City, July 14, 1976.
Warren K. Leffler
Wikimedia Commons
César Chávez placing Jerry Brown's name for nomination for president during the roll call vote at the 1976 Democratic National Convention.

On Wednesday, state and local leaders celebrated the birthday, life and legacy of César Chávez with a virtual event hosted by the Marcus Performing Arts Center in Milwaukee.

Chávez, who died nearly 30 years ago was a community organizer, Latino civil rights activist and labor organizer. He’s probably best known for cofounding the National Farm Workers Association, a union for migrant workers. It later merged with another organization to create the United Farm Workers labor union.

High schooler Brandon Gordon spoke at the celebration. “In those days, migrant workers were not covered by the minimum wage law so many of them were exploited and not compensated for the hard labor they performed,” he said.

Gordon attends Ronald Reagan International Baccalaureate High School. He won first place in a spoken word contest about Chávez.

“Chávez used nonviolent methods to improve the wages and work conditions of migrant workers. Chávez once said, 'What we do know absolutely is that human lives are worth more than grapes,'” said Gordon.

In 1967, Chávez visited Milwaukee and met with Wisconsin’s migrant farm worker union to discuss disagreements between growers and farm workers.

While Chávez died three decades ago, Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said his impact can be felt — today not only when it comes to the fight for migrant workers to be treated fairly but in the fight for equality for all.

“Chávez knew that one of the most patriotic things we could do is to see the humanity in one another and remember that improving the lives for those most marginalized and underserved makes life better for all of us,” Crowley said.

Local leaders are calling for a national day of recognition on honor of Chávez.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
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