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After encountering the violent sword of injustice at a young age, Cesar  Chavez became the voice of the unheard. The revolutionary civil rights  activist demanded equal rights for migrant field workers from all walks  of life. He was famous for his civil disobedience tactics and  controversial fasts. In 1962, Chavez founded the National Farm Workers  Association, which is presently known as the United Farm Workers (UFW).
Arturo  Rodriguez, UFW president and fellow warrior of Chavez says, [Chavez]  is a symbol of hope. Through his leadership, the rights of migrant farm  workers were recognized and laborers gained the respect they deserved.  Rodriguez recalls the fasts saying, The fasts focused national  attention to the problems of farm workers.  Chavez was willing to  sacrifice his own life for the rights of the people. Many thought he was  crazy for doing these long fasts, with his final one lasting 36 days.  Other farm workers were outraged and felt they were ineffective and too  religious. Rodriguez recalls Chavezs words, We have proved it before  through persistence, hard work, faith and willingness to sacrifice. We  can win and keep our own self-respect and recommitment to the struggle  for justice through non violence.
Chavez had strong ties to the  African American community in the midst of the civil rights movement.  Chicano/a studies professor, Jorge Garcia at California State University  at Northridge remembers the fight. He says, the movement was a two  edged sword. It gave the opportunity to work together with the Philipino  community and the African American community. Garcia says the Black  Panthers were heavily involved with the UFW. They frequently supported  boycotts, protests and published articles about the UFW in the Panthers  newsletter, The Crusader. At the time, black workers were in the  field, particularly in Fresno and Bakersfield, Garcia says.
Although  they only met once, Chavez and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a  close relationship, communicating by telegram. Irv Hershenbaum, first  vice president of UFW and with the Los Angeles County Federation of  Labor (AFL-CIO) worked with Chavez 21 years and remembers Dr. King  saying, Our separate struggles are really one. A struggle for freedom,  for dignity, and for humanity.  Hershenbaum says Chavez was motivated  by his own experience with segregation.
Born March 31, 1927 in Yuma,  Ariz., Cesar Estrada Chavez experienced discrimination at a young age.  Watching white land owners take advantage of his family and experiencing  racism during and after his service in the US military, Chavezs  passion grew for justice and education. He studied Gandhi and other  peaceful civil rights leaders. Much of his inspiration came from the  Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King as well.
Chavez has inspired others  world wide and has harvested a garden of labor organizations. Mary  Gutierrez of the AFL-CIO explains the foundation of the organization,  He is everything of what we do. He is one those labor leaders that is  recognized around the world. The AFL-CIO is dedicated in supporting and  servicing labor workers of Los Angeles.
Recently, the AFL-CIO  victoriously fought for the rights of sixteen hotel workers near the  LAX. With the help of a seven day fast and persistence, a law was passed  for fair living wages for hotel workers in the LAX district.
Several  laws and regulations have been instituted through the efforts of Chavez  and his supporters. The biggest was the passage of the Agricultural  Labor Relations Act, which gives farm workers the right to organize,  vote in state-supervised secret-ballot elections and bargaining with  their employers, Rodriguez says. Chavez and labor workers fought to  have regular breaks, fair wages and necessary accommodations in the  field like bathrooms and water.
After his untimely death April 23,  1993, workers nationwide continue to unite in the spirit of Cesar  Chavez. Gutierrez says Chavez brought unity and reinforced the  teachings of Dr. King in the Latino community. She says he was the MLK  for farm workers. Chavezs legacy lives on.