Why are the libraries closed on Monday? The answer is Cesar Chavez Day. The holiday celebrates the birthday and legacy of the civil rights and labor movement activist Cesar Chavez.
Cesar Chavez was born near Yuma, Arizona, on March 31, 1927. As a migrant farm worker himself from the age of 10, Cesar Chavez became active with organizations that helped fight discrimination against Chicano residents and migrant farm workers. Along with Dolores Huerta, Chavez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (later to become the United Farm Workers) in the early 1960s. The focus of the UFW was the plight of migrant farm workers and their labor conditions.
As the organization gained support, it eventually became the first successful farm workers’ union in the United States. The UFW organized many strikes and boycotts including the Salad Bowl strike, the largest farm worker strike in U.S. history, to protest for, and later win, higher wages for those farm workers who were working for grape and lettuce growers. Cesar Chavez remained president of the UFW until his death on April 23, 1993.
The Los Angeles Public Library has an amazing collection of historic photos documenting Chavez’s activism in Los Angeles, as well as a number of books about Chavez and the labor movement in California.