Chronology

1927

- Cesar Estrada Chavez is born on March 31 in Yuma, Arizona, the son of Librado Chavez and Juana Estrada Chavez.

1929

- Stock Market crashes, October 29; this signals the onset of the worst American Depression ever.

1937

- Owing $4,080 in back taxes, the state takes possession of the Chavez family grocery store and land.

- Auto and steel labor unions win their first big contracts.

1939

- The Chavez family loses its farm and business, leaves for California and joins the thousands of other migrant families in the fields.

- Einstein alerts FDR to the possibility of building an atomic bomb.

- U.S. declares neutrality in the European War.

1942

- Chavez's father is hurt in a car accident and cannot work. Cesar quits school to work in the fields with with his brother and sister; they thin lettuce and beets with the short-handled hoe, a practice he later helps to outlaw.

- Federal government forcibly moves 110,000 individuals of Japanese descent (of which the majority--75,000--are American citizens) to detention camps.

- Sleepy Lagoon murder case makes national news; 9 teenagers are convicted and sentenced to long terms in San Quentin.

1943

- The "Zoot Suit Riots": servicemen go on a rampage through East Los Angeles and the downtown district, attacking Chicanos and African-Americans.

1944

- Chavez challenges the segregated theater system by refusing to sit in the section for Mexicans; he is held in custody for one hour.

- Cesar Chavez joins the U.S. Navy where he finds that Americans of other nationalities also suffer discrimination.

- U.S. and Allied forces invade Europe at Normandy.

1946

- Chavez is discharged from the navy and returns to his family in Delano; resumes work in the fields.

1948

- The Chavez family joins the National Farm Labor Union (NFLU) and participates in a cotton strike; a union strike against the large family-owned fruit growing Di Giorgio Corporation lasts two and a half years.

- Cesar marries Helen Fabela.

1952

- The Chavez family moves to San Jose, where Cesar works in a lumber mill.

- U.S. seizure of nation's steel mills is ordered by President Truman to avert a strike; this action is ruled illegal by the Supreme Court.

- Chavez meets Father Donald McDonnell, a Catholic priest from San Franciso sent to work with the farm laborers and braceros. Fr. McDonnell teaches the workers about the Church's social doctrines on labor organizing and social justice.

- Chavez reads the papal encyclicals on labor, books on labor history, the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi, and Louis Fisher's The Life of Gandhi. These works heavily influence his philosophical approach to the farmworker movement.

- Chavez is recruited by Fred Ross to be an organizer for Saul Alinsky's Community Service Organization (CSO).

- Senator Joseph McCarthy hunts for communist infiltrators in the State Department and the U.S. Army; this is the start of the "red scare" in America.

- The Immigration and Nationality Act is passed, providing for the construction of 6 concentration camps for the purpose of interning subversives during states of national emergency.

- The Immigration and Naturalization Service is granted new powers to denaturalize citizens, resulting in the deportation of many Mexican labor and civil rights organizers.

1958-1959

- Chavez is sent to Oxnard by the CSO to confront the bracero program, which was used by the growers, in league with state and federal officials, to depress wages and exploit the farm laborers.

- Chavez documents abuses by the Farm Placement Service, organizes a boycott of local merchants to protest their support of the system, organizes sit-down strikes in the fields to challenge the hiring of braceros, and marches under a banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe to protest the lack of jobs for local residents. These tactics later become standard techniques used in the United Farm Workers Union struggles.

- The Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) is founded in Stockton, CA. by Fr. Donald McDonnell, Fr. Thomas McCullough and Dolores Huerta.

1962

- Chavez resigns from the CSO and moves to Delano with his family to start the Farm Workers Association (FWA). He begins to recruit the workers and opens a credit union to provide for members with financial emergencies.

- Chavez convinces his cousin, Manuel Chavez, to help with the organization, and he persuades Delores Huerta to quit the CSO and join the FWA.

- The National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), a forerunner of the UFW, is formally established at an organizing convention. Chavez is elected president and executive officer, Dolores Huerta and Gilbert Padilla are chosen as vice-presidents, and Antonio Orendain is elected secretary-treasurer. The Union flag of the black eagle on red background is accepted as the official emblem. "Viva la Causa" is accepted as the official motto. Dues are $3.50 a month.

- Publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring launches the environmentalist movement.

1963

- March on Washington by 200,000 persons in support of civil rights demands. Dr. Martin Luther King delivers his "I Have a Dream" speech.

- President John F. Kennedy is assassinated; Vice-president Lyndon Johnson is sworn in as president.

1964

- The NFWA has 1,000 dues paying members and 50 locals. The union office opens in Delano.

- U.S and Mexico negotiate the end to the Bracero Program.

- Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and increasing involvement in Vietnam.

- The newspaper El Malcriado is founded by Chavez as the official voice of the NFWA.

- Civil rights bill is passed banning discrimination in voting, jobs, and public accommodation.

- Congress passes War on Poverty bill.

1965

- President Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act.

- At the request of the flower workers, Chavez leads a strike in McFarland; the workers win wage increases.

- Migrant workers in Porterville go on strike to protest increases in rents in migrant farm worker camps.

- Growers get a temporary dispensation from the Labor Department to continue importing braceros to harvest the grape crop. Braceros earn $1.40 an hour; Filipino workers receive $1.25 an hour; Mexican American, $1.10. Filipinos go on strike, and after 10 days win a raise for Filipino- and Mexican-American workers.

- Larry Itliong, under the banner of AWOC, leads Filipino workers on a strike against grape growers in Delano. The NFWA votes to support the AWOC strike. Among the many groups joining the strike efforts are the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress of Racial Equality.

- Luis Valdez, a young Chicano theater student from San Jose, joins the strikers and co-founds "El Teatro Campesino". Teatro members follow the harvest to recruit union members.

- NBC screens "A Harvest of Shame", a television special which depicts the tragic conditions of migrant laborers in the United States.

- More than 200,000 troops are sent to Vietnam.

- 35,000 people assemble on the Mall in Washington D.C. to protest the U.S. government's policy in Vietnam.

- NFWA, along with AWOC, launches a boycott against the Schenley Corporation, DiGiorgio Corporation, S & W Fine Foods and TreeSweet.

- Walter P. Reuther, head of the United Auto Workers, meets with Chavez and the strikers in Delano bringing national attention to the strike and boycott.

- Malcolm X, leader of Black Muslims, is assassinated.

- Chavez and the farm workers become part of "The Movement", a catchall phrase describing those sharing a commitment to end the injustices of racism, the war in Vietnam, the sufferings of the poor, and the degradations of the farm workers.

1966

- The National Farm Workers Association is now the National Farm Workers Union.

- Robert Kennedy conducts Senate subcommittee hearings on agricultural labor in Delano. Senator Kennedy openly express his support for the NFWA grape boycott and strike.

- Beginning of the march from Delano to Sacramento (3/16) which Chavez organizes to dramatize the strike and get the support of California Governor Pat Brown. The march starts with 75 people. Marchers from Delano arrive in Sacramento (4/10). 10,000 people are present at the rally.

- The Schenley boycott ends; the first farm labor agreement is signed.

- AWOC and the NFWU merge to form a united union within the AFL-CIO. The United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (later to become the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO) is formed under the direction of Chavez.

1967

- Table grape boycott begins.

- DiGiorgio contract signed.

- The union moves from its cramped offices to a new complex of buildings on property bought with funds from private donations and contributions from various AFL-CIO unions. The complex is called "The Forty Acres".

1968

- Tet offensive disaster in Vietnam.

- Chavez begins (2/14) his first fast for non-violence in order to put a stop to nascent violence among picketers in the Giumarra strike

- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sends a telegram of support.

- Chavez breaks his fast (3/10) with his wife Helen, mother Juana, and Senator Robert Kennedy at his side.

- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, Tenn.

- Senator Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated in Los Angeles, CA. after celebrating presidential primary victories.

- Nationwide boycott of all California grapes is called.

- Farm workers start to appear at the union's health clinics with symptoms of pesticide poisoning. The union begins researching the dangers of pesticides to the workers and consumers.

1969

- Expanded Vietnam Peace talks begin.

- Bakersfield pesticide hearings begin.

- When renegotiating its contracts, the union adds very strong pesticide clauses which regulate the use of and amount of exposure to the workers. This strong language proves to be a block in negotiating with growers.

- British dockworkers refuse to unload California grapes.

- International Grape Boycott Day declared (5/10).

- Chavez organizes a march through the Coachella and Imperial Valleys to the United States-Mexico border to protest grower-use of undocumented immigrants from Mexico as strike breakers. He is joined along the way by the Rev. Ralph Abernathy and Senator Walter Mondale.

- Nationwide grape boycott continues. Shipment of California table grapes is practically stopped to the cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Montreal and Toronto.

- Defense Dept. confirms that during the previous 2 years it had greatly increased purchases of grapes for armed forces.

- Chavez and union leaders picket the Food and Drug Administration to protest pesticide hazards.

1970

- First table grape contract is signed with the Freedman Corporation.

- First Earth Day celebrated to focus attention on environmental concerns.

- Walter P. Reuther, former head of UAW and long time union organizer, dies.

- 4 students at Kent State are killed by National Guardsmen during a protest against the Vietnam War.

- Chavez calls a general strike against growers who had signed highly unfavorable contracts with the Teamster's

- National Chicano Moratorium Rally held in East Los Angeles to protest the Vietnam War and the high number of Latino casualties in the war. Chavez sends a strong letter of support to the organizers. 3 people are killed: a 15-year-old boy, a young Chicano, and Ruben Salazar, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times.

- Chavez is jailed for defying a court injunction against boycotting (12/14). He is visited in jail by Coretta Scott King and Ethel Kennedy. On Christmas Eve the California State Supreme Court ordered Chavez released, pending appeal.

1971

- The union moves its offices to Keene, CA., just south of Bakersfield. The new complex, named "La Paz", is a former tuberculosis hospital.

1972

- Coca Cola signs first union contract in Florida.

- In Arizona Chavez begins (5/12) another fast to raise awareness in the recall campaign of Governor Jack Williams. Medical problems force him to end the fast (6/4). The recall campaign fails but as UFW members gather signatures for the recall they also register voters leading to the election of the first Mexican American governor in the state's history, Raul Castro.

- 5 men are arrested in Washington D.C. for the Watergate break-in of the offices of the Democratic National Committee.

- California Proposition 22, an initiative to outlaw boycotting and limit secret ballot elections to full-time non-seasonal farm workers, is soundly defeated.

- Nan Freeman, a college student and voulunteer from Sarasota, Fla., is killed outside of Belle Glade, Fla., while on a UFW picket.

1973

- Vietnam Peace Pacts signed in Paris.

- End of military draft.

- UFW Union member Negri Daifulla, an immigrant from Yemen, is killed on the picket line.

- UFW Union member Juan de la Cruz is killed on the picket line.

- United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO, hold First Constitutional Convention in Fresno, CA. Senator Edward Kennedy and Leonard Woodcock, UAW president, give speeches of support. A 111 page constitution is adopted.

- Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew resigns; Gerald Ford is appointed Vice-President.

1974

- President Nixon resigns; Vice-President Gerald Ford is sworn in as the 38th president.

- Jerry Brown, a supporter of the farm workers cause, is elected Governor of California.

1975

- The California Labor Relations Act is enacted. It is the first law governing farm labor organizing in the continental U.S. It provides for secret ballot elections, the right to boycott, voting rights for migrant seasonal workers and control over the timing of elections.

- The Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) is established to administer the elections. Governor Brown appoints LeRoy Chatfield, a former union organizer, and Bishop Roger Mahoney, who had earlier mediated between the union and the Teamster's, to the five member board.

- Chavez leads a 1,000 mile march through the Imperial and San Joaquin Valleys in order to advertize upcoming union elections.

- After years of lobbying by the union and California Rural Legal Aid, a Supreme Court ruling ("Sebastian Carmona et al vs. Division of Industrial Safety, 1975") and a California administrative ruling outlaw the use of "el cortito", the short handled hoe.

- Illegal CIA operations, including records on 300,000 persons and groups, and infiltration of agents into African-American, antiwar, and political movements, are described by a "blue-ribbon" panel headed by Vice-President Rockefeller.

1976

- The United States celebrates its bicentennial.

- Jimmy Carter is elected president.

- Proposition 14, which would have funded the ALRB, making it possible for it to carry out its tasks, is defeated by a 2 to 1 margin.

1977

- President Jimmy Carter pardons most Vietnam War draft evaders.

- New law improved worker-compensation for field workers.

- Conservative mood in the California leads to the appointment of pro-grower members of the ALRB. The board consistently rules against the union in any grievances brought before it.

1978

- Chavez announces that grape and lettuce boycotts are over; union will now only boycott select labels.

1979

- Chavez begins an internal reorganization of the UFW. Several longtime staff members leave the union.

- 90 people, including 63 Americans, are taken hostage at the American Embassy in Tehran.

- UFW member Rufino Contreras is shot and killed during a lettuce strike in the Imperial Valley.

Early 1980s.

The UFW looses momentum. Fewer and fewer contracts are signed and fewer elections are won. The ALRB's bias toward growers, the power of the growing number of multinational corporations in agribusiness and the internal divisions within the union all play a part in this.

1980

- Ronald Reagan elected President.

1981

- The 52 remaining Americans held hostage in Iran are released after 444 days.

- Federal air traffic controllers begin a nationwide strike after their union rejected the governments final offer for a new contract. Most of the 13,000 strikers defy a back-to-work order and are dismissed by President Reagan.

1982

- The Equal Rights Amendment is defeated after a 10 year struggle for ratification.

- Lech Walesa, former leader of the Polish union Solidarity, is freed after 11 months of internment following the imposition of martial law and the outlawing of Solidarity.

1983

- Rene Lopez is shot to death near Fresno as strikers picketed in order to bring in the UFW to represent them.

1984

- American Vietnam war veterans reach an out-of-court settlement with 7 chemical companies in their class action suit regarding the herbicide Agent Orange.

- In an historic move, Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale chooses a woman, Rep. Geraldine Ferraro as candidate for vice-president.

- Chavez announces that the UFW is embarking on a new grape boycott. In order to reach more people, he emphasizes the issue of pesticide residues on fruit.

- Ronald Reagan is reelected president in a landslide victory.

1986

- The U.S. officially observed Martin Luther King Day for the first time.

- Immigration Reform and Control Act made law. Among other things it institutes employer sanctions for hiring illegal aliens and strengthens border patrol enforcement. Supported by Chavez because it protects workers and convinces many undocumented aliens to become legal immigrants.

1987

- The UFW produces "The Wrath of Grapes", a movie in which graphic footage shows birth defects and high rates of cancer produced by pesticide poisoning among farm workers and consumers. Chavez travels throughout the Mid-West and East screening the movie and discussing the dangers of pesticides.

- Wall Street crashes.

1988

- 1.4 million illegal aliens meet the deadline for applying for amnesty under the INS policy. An estimated 50+% of applications were in California; nationwide, about 71% had entered the U.S. from Mexico.

- U.S. suffers the worst drought in more than 50 years; half the nation's agricultural counties are designated disaster areas.

- Chavez starts a fast (8/16) at La Paz to protest pesticide usage. A visit by Robert Kennedy's children to lend their support brings the fast to the attention of the public. Thirty-six days later, Chavez breaks his fast with Jesse Jackson and the Robert Kennedy family at his side.

- George Bush elected president.

1989

- President Bush signs into law a minimum wage increase.

1990

- President Bush signs the Americans With Disabilities Act, barring discrimination against such individuals.

- President Bush vetoes a civil rights bill.

- Grapes delivered for sale decline in 12 major cities.

1991

- 4th District Court upholds a judgment against the UFW in favor of Paggio Inc., an Imperial Valley grower, for $1.1 million. The UFW mounts a nationwide campaign to raise funds to pay the fine.

- Bruce Church Inc., wins a $5.4 million judgment against the UFW for alleged damages incurred during a boycott.

1992

- Civil unrest in Los Angeles after the jury acquits 4 policemen on all but 1 count in the beating of a black man, Rodney King.

- Bill Clinton elected President.

- Chavez and the UFW continue organizing the grape boycott.

- UFW helps organize large-scale walkouts in the Coachella Valley to protest lack of drinking water and sanitary facilities.

- In the Salinas Valley, Chavez leads more than 10,000 workers in a protest march for better conditions in the field.

1993

- Federal jury finds 2 Los Angeles police officers guilty and 2 officers not guilty of violating the civil rights of Rodney King.

- Chavez travels to San Luis, Arizona to testify in the union's appeal against the award to Bruce Church Inc.

- On April 23, after fasting for a few days to gain moral strength, Cesar Chavez dies in his sleep.

- At Chavez's funeral (4/29), more than 35,000 people follow the casket for 3 miles, from Delano to Forty Acres. Cardinal Roger Mahoney leads the funeral mass, offering a personal condolence from the pope. Cesar E. Chavez is put to rest at La Paz, Keene, California.

Postscripts

1994

- Cesar E. Chavez is posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United State's highest civilian honor, by President Bill Clinton.

1995

- A Los Angeles Times front page article reveals that Chavez had been investigated by and the UFW union infiltrated by the FBI during the Johnson and Nixon administrations.

1996

- The $5.4 million award against the union in favor of Bruce Church, Inc. is overturned.


Information compiled from:
1974 United Farm Worker Calendar
The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 1996
Griswold del Castillo, Richard and Garcia, Richard A. Cesar Chavez: A Triump of Spirit. Norman, Okla.: Univerity of Oklahoma Press, 1995.