State offices, including the Department of Motor Vehicles and Los Angeles Superior Courts, will be closed today to observe Cesar Chavez Day.Federal offices and services, including the U.S. Postal Service, will be open. Then-Gov. Gray Davis signed legislation in 2000 creating the state holiday honoring the late labor leader credited with improving work and quality-of-life conditions for immigrant farm workers in central California.
Chavez, an advocate of nonviolence, is remembered for spearheading a grape boycott in 1965 that went nationwide in 1968 and lasted until 1978,resulting in higher wages for farm workers and focusing national attention on their plight. Born March 31, 1927, in Yuma, Arizona, Chavez dropped out of school after the eighth grade to help support his family by joining them in the fields as a migrant farm worker, witnessing the many adversities migrant workers faced daily.
Chavez joined the Latino civil rights Community Service Organization in 1952, urging Latinos to register to vote. In 1962, Chavez joined Dolores Huerta in co-founding the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers. Chavez and the UFW played an instrumental role in the passage of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act in 1975, which made California the first state to give farm workers the right to seek union representation and bargain collectively within an established legal framework. Chavez died in 1993 at age 66. In 2011, President Barack Obama proclaimed March 31 of each year as Cesar Chavez Day nationally, although it is not a federal holiday. In this year's proclamation, Obama recalled that after Chavez "foughtfor higher wages, he pushed for fresh drinking water, workers' compensation, pension plans, and protection from pesticides. He strove every day for the America he knew was possible.''
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