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Californians Observe Cesar Chavez Day

March 31, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Californians are honoring the birthday of the late civil rights and farm labor leader Cesar Chavez. According to California Assembly Speaker pro tem Nora Campos, Cesar Chavez Day today recognizes his work fighting for the rights of some of society's most vulnerable members.

"As the founder of the United Farm Workers union, he brought attention to the plight of people who strengthened the economy through their hard work but were often left behind," she declared.

Cesar Chavez Day is an official holiday in California and two other states, Colorado and Texas, and while it is not a federal holiday, President Barack Obama on Friday issued a proclamation honoring Chavez and urged Congress to pass a resolution recognizing March 31 as a national holiday. In California there are schools, libraries and streets named after Chavez. There's also a new national memorial honoring him, and the USNS Cesar Chavez became the first U.S. naval vessel named for a Latino.

Campos said this day should also be a reminder of work that still must be done.

"The gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow," she said. "Poverty continues to increase, with nearly one in four Californians not able to make ends meet."

The life of Chavez is also being documented in a new movie that opened nationwide on Friday. The movie titled, "Cesar Chavez," tells the story of the famed civil rights leader and labor organizer, who died in 1993 at age 66. It includes the founding of the United Farm Workers union and a national table grape boycott that Chavez spearheaded to get better wages for farm workers.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA