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The Leader According to the World of Business Organizations

Cesar E. Chavez was a leader and a servant of the people who needed him the most. He triumphed as a leader among those who followed him because he knew how to be a servant first. This essay highlights the connection between Chavez's life and work, as well as the idea of "servant leadership." To do this, I pay close attention to the recollections of the people he seemed to have served well, the farm workers. Chavez helped them to see the way to a better life by improving their working conditions and by showing them how to do it for themselves, working together as a Union.

The people in this essay followed his leadership and example, and they were able to change many of the inhumane working conditions in the agricultural fields of California.

Their memories of him underscore a passion for service and work for a better life. Cesar E. Chavez's leadership had a purpose - to serve and create a community of service that would enhance the lives of all those who saw his example. He was a humble man, but his words were more powerful because he supported them with actions, and people understood.

The idea of "servant-leader" was developed by Mr. Robert K. Greenleaf in 1968. In a 1970 essay entitled "The Servant as Leader", he recounts the way in which he thought of the term "Servant-Leadership." Mr. Greenleaf recalls reading the novel Journey to the East by Herman Hess. In this fictional account, Leo, the servant of a group of men in a mythical journey, is the central figure performing menial tasks while sustaining the group with his spiritual presence. Greenleaf's interpretation leads to the conclusion that "a great leader is seen as a servant first, and that simple fact is the key to his greatness."

This idea is now guiding the efforts of many people working with business and international organizations to see that they serve societies of the world, and not just their own financial or political interests. The work of Mr. Greenleaf was very important to business organizations because it gave them guidance on how to be more humane while conducting their business. However, the idea of "Servant-Leadership" was not new. Many people have lived their lives as servants to others before they were leaders to them. The life of Cesar E. Chavez is a good example of that idea.

I read his words and I am reminded that there are still many people who lived near him and worked with him on this struggle for justice. Some of these people, many of whom were farm workers themselves, knew him and remember him well. Mr. Paulino Pacheco, for example, was one who knew and worked with Chavez since 1969. He remembers him this way:
"He came from a peasant family. His grandfather was a peasant; came from Mexico when he was two years old. His father was also a peasant. So, he knew the life of a peasant. He knew what it is like. He knew the suffering and enslavement of peasantry. When we were struggling, his message was 'We fight together. We fight for a cause and we do not use violence.' And so we stay together and fight for our cause, for our race, and for our rights. We stick together for justice."

 

Timeline of the Life of Cesar Chavez

 

1927

Cesar Chavez is born in Yuma Arizona to Juana and Librado Chavez. He will be one of seven children

1935

The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) is formed

1936

The National Labor Relations Act takes effect, excluding farm workers from protections enjoyed by other workers

1937

The Chavez family loses their store and farm, and become migrant farm workers in California. In order to help support his family and prevent his mother from the burden of working in the fields, Cesar Chavez becomes a farm worker after having only completed the eighth grade

1942

The Bracero program begins, authorizing the importation of Mexican workers into the United States under contract to do agricultural and railroad work

1946

Cesar Chavez joins the Navy and serves 2 years in the Pacific

1947

The Taft-Hartley act limiting labor organizing is passed by Congress over President Truman's veto

1948

Cesar Chavez marries Helen Febela

1952

Fred Ross recruits Cesar Chavez into the Community Services Organization (CSO). Chavez becomes a community organizer, first coordinating voter registration drives and eventually rising to head the organization

1955

The American Federation of Labor (AFL) and CIO merge to become the AFL-CIO

1962

Cesar Chavez leaves CSO and moves to Delano, California to start the National Farm Worker Association (NFWA). He is joined by Dolores Huerta, Gilbert Padilla, Jim Drake and others

1965

Inspired by the struggle of Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez begins the nonviolent Delano grape strike. The mostly Mexican NFWA joins the mostly Filipino Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC)

1966

Farm workers walk 300 miles from Delano to Sacramento in a pilgrimage that ends on Easter Sunday. The NFWA signs its first contract with Schenley Industries Incorporated, a liquor conglomerate with a small grape ranch. The NFWA and AWOC merge to become the United Farm Workers Organizing
Committee (UFWOC)

1967

Striking farm workers and supporters begin a national boycott of California table grapes

1968

Cesar Chavez fasts in Delano for 25 days. Senator Robert Kennedy joins him at the end for a public ceremonial breaking of the fast. The UFW campaigns for Robert Kennedy in the California primary
Robert Kennedy is assassinated in Los Angeles California on the night of the California Presidential primary

1970

The UFWOC signs three-year contracts with the Delano growers, ending the grape strike and boycott
Salinas lettuce and vegetable growers sign with the Teamsters Union. The UFW protests deal and declares a strike and boycott

1972

The UFW is admitted as a full member to the AFL-CIO.
Chavez fasts in Arizona against a restrictive farm labor law. The slogan of his fast is Si Se Puede! (It can be done!)

1973

When the grape contracts expire, growers sign with the Teamsters Union. Major UFW strikes spread throughout California, with thousands arrested and two dead

1975

California passes the Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA), the first law recognizing the rights of farm workers to organize and bargain collectively. The UFW wins a majority of union elections

1978

The Teamsters Union withdraws from the fields

1982

George Dukmeijian is elected governor of California with strong support from agriculture. Enforcement of the ALRA slows

1988

Cesar Chavez conducts a Fast for Life, his last and longest fast, in Delano California

1993

Cesar Chavez dies in Yuma, Arizona. His funeral in Delano CA is attended by 40,000 people.
Arturo Rodriguez is named the new UFW president

1994

Cesar Chavez is awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor by President Clinton

1994
to
2004

The UFW wins new contracts representing workers in rose, mushroom, strawberry, wine grape, lettuce and vegetable workers in California, Florida and Washington state

2000

California establishes a state holiday in honor of Cesar Chavez

2003

The Cesar E. Chavez commemorative stamp is issued by the United States Postal Service

2009

As of 2009, eight states recognize Cesar Chavez's birthday, March 31st, as a state holiday (AZ, CA, CO, MI, NM, TX, UT, WI).
THE FIGHT IN THE FIELDS CONTINUES...

 

 

     
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