President Obama Designates Cesar Chavez's Home a National Monument

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October 3, 2012
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On October 8, President Obama will visit the San Joaquin Valley town of Keene to establish a new National Monument honoring United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez.

The site, known as La Paz, was the national headquarters of the farm labor union, as well as Chavez's home beginning in the early 1970s until Chavez's death in 1993. Chavez is also buried there.

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This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding by Chavez and others of the National Farm Workers, which merged with a Filipino group, the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, to form the United Farm Workers (UFW).

Throughout the 1960s, the UFW fought for the legal rights of agricultural workers. At the time, the sight of children working in the fields was still common. Farmworkers suffered 250 times the rate of tuberculosis as the general population. They had the third highest accident and death rates. A major cause of death was pesticide poisoning. In 1965, farmworkers' life expectancy was 49 years, compared to 73 years for the average American.

That year, the UFW launched a grape strike, which growers met with force. The UFW organized a successful international boycott of grapes which contributed to growers eventually signing contracts with the union banning child labor, establishing a fair basic wage, and safety and pesticide controls.