President Obama has declared March 31st to be Cesar Chavez Day. In his proclamation, I was amused to see the president claim Chavez as a fellow community organizer:
“Cesar Chavez saw the promise of change – the unlimited potential of a community organized around a common purpose.”
While the president doesn’t say much about his community-organizing days, we do have knowledge of Chavez’s activities. So, how did the Mexican-American Chavez organize his community? Let me tell you…
…but first, if you grew up east of the Rocky Mountains, in a “green, leafy” suburb, like I did, chances are that you have no idea who Chavez was. Maybe you have vague memories of a lettuce shortage, or something about a grape boycott. Well, that was Chavez and his United Farm Workers. The Mexican-Americans that I knew in California spoke of Chavez as a deity; one rung below Jesus himself. If John Steinbeck had written a sequel to “Grapes of Wrath”, his Tom Joad character may have evolved into a gringo version of Chavez. And Bruce Springsteen would have written even more songs about him.
One of the things that Chavez did was try to improve the condition of farm workers by restricting the supply of workers; to raise the equilibrium wage to a point where they could live better than farm animals.
To that end, Chavez’s men picketed the INS to get them to enforce immigration laws. Chavez ratted out his fellow Mexicans to the INS if they were illegals. If he found them on the job, he turned a blind eye while his men administered beatings. And in 1973, Chavez even sent his troops to the border to battle illegals! See this, and this.
The word “immigration” doesn’t appear at all in the President’s proclamation. And for good reason. Because if Chavez were alive today, he just might be voting Republican in November. You see, when Chavez’s men were fighting bloody battles on the border, legal immigration to the USA was around 400,000 per year. Under the Obama administration, it has been nearly triple that – over a million per year. (See my immigration charts.)
Obama’s policy, unspoken though it may be, is to smash down wages all across the economy to goose corporate profits. The exact opposite of what Chavez tried to accomplish.
Today, activists will speak out against state immigration laws like the ones adopted by Arizona and Alabama. And in doing so, they will cite Cesar Chavez.
Some of those activists are simply ignorant of what Chavez stood for. Others, I’m sure, are agents of Team Plutocracy fighting hard to turn the USA into an Asian-style, high-population, low-wage nation, blanketed from sea-to-shining sea with sweatshops and shanty towns, and a stratospheric Gini coefficient.