Cesar Chavez at UCI March 24, 2014Posted by ucisca in Student Life.
Tags: Cesar Chavez, Student Activism
On May 1, 1968, several UCI students formed the UCI Students for Delano Strikers (later, the UCI Grape Boycott Committee) to “inform the UCI community of the plight of the Delano strikers”. Active efforts included collecting food for strikers, distributing literature, and engaging speakers on the Delano strike. The students also worked with the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC) to actively support labor and civil rights.
That same year, Cesar Chavez concluded a 25 day fast for non-violence on March 10, 1968. Cesar Chavez was founder and president of the United Farm Workers of America, which unionized California farm workers.
Almost 20 years later, Cesar Chavez visited UCI on March 6, 1985, engaging in a presentation sponsored by The University Center’s Program Board as part of its “Remember When” series. This series examined how various political, social, and cultural phenomena in the prior thirty years impacted life in the 80s. The video of his speech, Cesar Chavez: the Man and the Movement, is available to view on the Online Archive of UCI History. A transcript of the speech is also available.
Here are excerpts from his powerful speech:
All my life, I have been driven by one dream, one goal, one vision: to overthrow a farm labor system in this nation that treats farm workers as if they are not important human beings.
Those who attack our union often say, “It’s not really a union, it’s something else. A social movement, a civil rights movement, it’s something dangerous”. They’re half right. The United Farm Workers is first and foremost a union and like any other union, a union that either produces for its members on the bread and butter issues, or it doesn’t survive. But the UFW has always been something more than a union. Although, it has never been dangerous if you believe in the Bill of Rights.
Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.
So, what does Cesar Chavez Day commemorate? Chavez challenged the labor conditions of farm workers, promoting better pay and safer living conditions — and succeeded by using nonviolent tactics including boycotts, fasting, pickets, and strikes.
Represented materials were discovered in the Student Activities Office Records [AS-016]; Central Records [AS-004]; and United Farm Workers Information Fair Collection [MS-R015]. The recording of the Cesar Chavez presentation is from the UCI Instructional Resources Center Videotape Collection [AS-020].