| Cesar Chavez was born near Yuma, Arizona, and grew up in migrant labor camps. From 1952 until 1962 he worked for the Community Service Organization, a self-help group. Then he began working to create a farm workers union. The union was chartered in 1966 by the American Federation of Labor and Congress on Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) as the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee, with Chavez as its president.
In 1965, Chavez and the UFW led a strike of California grape-pickers to demand higher wages. In addition to the strike, they encouraged all Americans to boycott table grapes as a show of support. The strike lasted five years and attracted national attention. When the U.S. Senate Subcommittee looked into the situation, Robert Kennedy gave Chavez his total support.
In 1968, Chavez began a fast to call attention to the migrant workers' cause. Although his dramatic act did little to solve the immediate problems, it increased public awareness of the problem. In the late 1960s, the Teamsters attempted to take power from the UFW. After many battles, an agreement was finally reached in 1977. It gave the UFW sole right to organize field workers.
In the early 1970s, the UFW organized strikes and boycotts to get higher wages from grape and lettuce growers. During the 1980s, Chavez led a boycott to protest the use of toxic pesticides on grapes. He again fasted to draw public attention. These strikes and boycotts generally ended with the signing of bargaining agreements.
Cesar Chavez died on April 23, 1993