California Democrats Sen. Alex Padilla and Rep. Raul Ruiz want the U.S. to create a national park dedicated to labor rights icon César Chávez and the farmworker movement.
On Thursday, the lawmakers introduced a bill to preserve several sites in California and Arizona as the César E. Chávez and the Farmworker Movement National Historical Park. The park would include the César E. Chávez National Monument in Keene, California, as well as designate as a National Historic Trail the over 300-mile route which farm workers marched from Delano to Sacramento calling for the state to allow them to unionize.
Establishing this park would “pay proper homage to a Latino icon and civil rights leader who fought tirelessly for the dignity, respect and equal treatment of farmworkers and to the movement he created that carries on today,” Padilla said in a news release.
Chávez, who was born in Arizona in 1927 to farm worker parents, moved to California as a child and worked the fields with his family. In the 1960s, he co-founded the United Farm Workers movement with fellow labor activist Dolores Huerta. They fought for migrant farm workers to have better pay and working conditions, organizing grape workers to strike and launch a nationwide boycott. These efforts led to some of the nation’s first union contracts for farmworkers.
United Farm Workers pushed for policy changes that led to the 1975 passage of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act in California, which granted farmworkers in the state the right to bargain collectively as part of a union.
To this day, United Farm Workers continues to fight for the rights of migrant agricultural laborers, who work the fields under tough conditions for little pay, including under extreme heat amid the climate crisis.
Padilla’s office noted in its release that “too few national park units primarily focus on women, communities of color, or other historically marginalized groups.”