On March 31, 2014 Senator Menendez of New Jersey asked for and was granted permission to address the United States Senate regarding S. 1737, the Minimum Wage Fairness Act. There he spoke of Cesar Chavez – the labor rights activist:
“Mr. President, I shortly am going to make a unanimous consent request on S. Res. 404, a resolution I submitted honoring the life and legacy of Cesar Chavez. This resolution has been blocked by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle every time it has come up for the last 7 consecutive years–every time.
Now, today, on what would have been Cesar Chavez’s 87th birthday, I ask my Republican colleagues to find it in their hearts to honor a man who really made a difference in our country. Frankly, I do not understand their reluctance. I do not understand their obstructionism. I do not understand how they can look back at that time in history, at the sacrifices Cesar Chavez made for our country, asking for nothing more than fair treatment and justice.
I realize it is uncommon to make a live unanimous consent request for a commemorative resolution, but if Republicans are going to object yet again–for an eighth year in a row–to honoring, in my view, a great American hero, I really want it to be on the record. I think Republicans need to answer to the American people as to why, as a party, they can agree to passing resolutions honoring World Plumbing Day or congratulating the Penn State Dance Marathon–both Senate resolutions that were adopted this month by unanimous consent–but insist on standing in the way of honoring a civil rights trailblazer who changed the course of our Nation’s history.
Cesar Chavez was a man before his time, and he deserves proper recognition. He dedicated his life to fighting for equality, justice, and dignity–not only for Hispanic farm workers but for all workers in the United States. Yet our friends on the other side cannot find it in their hearts to honor him. I have to ask why. Why can’t they simply say yes, he was an extraordinary man who gave of himself for his cause and deserves to be remembered and honored by the U.S. Senate?
The President of the United States proclaimed today, March 31, 2014, as Cesar Chavez Day. Over 10 States honor his life and legacy each year on this day. The Secretary of the Interior established a national monument in his honor, and across the country you will find schools, parks, streets, libraries, and other public facilities named after Cesar Chavez as well.
So I implore Senate Republicans to reconsider denying Cesar Chavez’s legacy for an eighth year in a row. Adopt this commemorative resolution by unanimous consent. Give Cesar Chavez the recognition he so deserves. That is all we ask–nothing more.
This year there is a new movie chronicling the life of Cesar Chavez–a life lived with honor and dignity and decency for the betterment of all of us. The film is long overdue. That life, that dedication, that spirit will always be missed.
He was born near his family’s farm in Yuma, AZ. When he was 10, in the hard times of the Depression, the family lost their farm, like millions of Americans, and they became migrant farm workers, laboring in vineyards across the Southwest, where he learned of the injustice and hardship of a farm worker’s life. He never left those fields. He never left the land. He never turned his back on the people who worked it. And the rest is history.
Robert Kennedy called him one of the most heroic figures of our time. I think it is because Cesar Chavez understood and believed in one fundamental truth. He always said: “The fight is never about grapes or lettuce; it’s always about people.”
He was right. And that fight continues today. The struggle for fairness and dignity for every American goes on, and Cesar Chavez was and is its inspiration. He certainly is an American hero but most definitely a hero to the Hispanic community. He paved the way for the contributions of Hispanic Americans–for innovative progress and social improvements. If there is one man who redefined leadership, it is Cesar Chavez.
I think my colleagues need to know that the community stands with me today and stands firmly behind my resolution honoring the life and legacy of Cesar Chavez.
Mr. President, I have a list–and in the interest of time, I will not read it–of 37 national Hispanic and labor organizations that all support the resolution. I ask unanimous consent to have that list printed in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:
2014 CESAR CHAVEZ RESOLUTION (S. Res. 404)”, said Senator Menendez