Ramón Del Castillo, PhD
Protecting Essential Workers is Essential Justice, is the theme for the 20th year César Chávez Peace and Justice Committee of Denver (CCPJCD) celebration. We congregate at a time when we are at war with an invisible enemy, a pandemic that has taken over half a million American lives.
Over half a century ago, under the United Farm Workers (UFW) Union, farmworkers struggled for union representation, fair wages, collective bargaining rights, and decent working conditions. They were mistreated in the fields by insensitive growers and lacked representation from policy pundits who shaped policy that kept them as virtual slaves to América’s corporations.
The struggle continues today but with different issues.
Let us not abandon farm workers whose labor is essential—caring for mother earth producing food that Americans need to nourish their bodies, essentially a healing substance during this contentious war.
Farmworkers continue to be subjected to inhumane conditions. They are first responders and need to be given access to vaccinations, protective gear, and upgrades in pay. The U.S. government, state governments, and City governance structures that shape labor policy have an obligation to provide policies for farmworkers that will protect them and simultaneously protect the American public from harm as well.
In many cases, “farm workers, particularly those who are undocumented, endure daily harm from the effects of systemic racism, inequities, and anti-immigrant policy.” First and foremost, many farmworkers need protection from threats of ICE and Homeland Security that monitor the border that historically has caused farmworkers to live in fear of deportation.
We must take a strong stance against the abuse of any children on the borders. It is the children who always suffer from adults caught in the quagmire of 2-party politics, greedy landowners, and the wealthy that control the purse strings. Local and state policymakers need to reach out to federal bureaucrats and demand protection for our children. Chávez believed in protecting worker’s rights through progressive legislation. When that did not work, he took action. As César Chávez so eloquently stated during the grape and lettuce boycotts, “It is never about the grapes and the lettuce, it is about the people.”
Let me share the program that the César Chávez Peace and Justice Committee of Denver (CCPJCD) has developed for this year, especially since we are unable to have a march for the second year in a row because of the pandemic. At 9 am, on Saturday, March 27th the (CCPJCD), in conjunction with Regis University, is hosting its annual mass at St. John Francis Regis Chapel. The mass will also be held virtually. The mass will be followed by a Program and Awards Ceremony from 10:15 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. MST.
The Annual César Chávez Leadership Awards ceremony will feature Dolores Huerta as the keynote speaker. Dolores has become a national icon. In the latest book on her life, (Si Ella Pueda! (2019), written by Stacey K. Sowards, she states, “As a farm worker organizer and a cofounder of the United Farm Workers union, Dolores has demonstrated a lifelong commitment and social justice orientation to fighting for the rights of the poor and oppressed.”
As César Chávez so eloquently stated during the grape and lettuce boycotts, “It is never about the grapes and the lettuce, it is about the people.”
This year’s César Chávez Leadership Awards will be given to the following persons: Female Leader: Rhonda Solis, Greeley, CO; Male Leader: Mitchell Garcia, Center, CO; Youth Leader: Orlando Moreno, Denver, CO; Anciana/o Leaders: Juan and Deborah Espinosa, Pueblo, CO; Anciana Leader: Ellen Alires Trujillo, Denver, CO; and the Organizational Leadership Award to Tepeyac Community Health Center, Denver, CO.
On March 31st, the (CCPJCD) is partnering with DISH Network Hispanic/Latinx Employee Resource Group (Adelante) that is hosting a César Chávez celebration for its employees. Featured speakers include Dolores Huerta and Paul Chávez, grandson of César Chávez. CCPJCD members, Charlene Barrientos Ortíz and Dr. Ramón Del Castillo have been asked to participate. Charlene will do a presentation on the history of the CCPJCD and Dr. Del Castillo will recite “Una Despedida Para César Chávez.”
On March 31st, the (CCPJCD) is partnering with several nonprofit organizations on the César Chávez’s Legacy: La Lucha Continúa, a community town hall meeting designed to inform Latina/o Coloradoans about the many challenges our communities face during these trying times. Several speakers will share personal stories on how César Chávez has touched their lives. This will be followed by group breakouts sessions facilitated by Dr. Michael Cortes, with the following themes: Immigration Reform; The Chávez Legacy: the road ahead; Organizing for Action; Labor & Wealth Creation; Future Leaders; and Criminal Justice. Isidoro Jaramillo will give “a call to action,” challenging community participants makes things come to life.
¡Que Viva César Chávez y Dolores Huerta! ¡Que Viva La Huelga!!
Dr. Ramón Del Castillo is an Independent Journalist. © 3-23-2021 Ramón Del Castillo.
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