Labor icon no saint

The Crusades of Cesar Chavez

by Miriam Pawel

For those of us who grew up in the 1960s and ’70s in California, Cesar Chavez was our homegrown Gandhi. Through relentless determination and righteous dedication, he led a nonviolent revolution, creating not just a labor union for the long-exploited, largely Mexican farmworkers, but also a movement for social justice that drew the support of ecumenical clergy, college students, Hollywood celebrities, and progressive politicians nationally and abroad.

As Pulitzer Prize-winning editor and reporter Miriam Pawel writes in “The Crusades of Cesar Chavez,” the first comprehensive biography of the charismatic founder of the UFW, Chavez distrusted organized labor and “described himself as a community organizer, not a labor leader, and emphasized the distinction over and over.”

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Farmworker icon Cesar Chavez inspired workers but alienated union and community leaders.
Public domain photo.
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Michael Applegate

Pacific Media Workers Executive Officer