GREENFIELD — Cesar Chavez Elementary students celebrated Cesar Chavez and his birthday last Friday, March 29, with a special guest speaker and performances from the choir and mariachi band.
Roberto Bustos used to live in Salinas Valley and worked in the strawberry and lettuce fields. He later moved to Tulare County.
“In 1965, Cesar Chavez and I worked with thousands of farmworkers,” Bustos said. “We said, ‘Enough was enough. We want to be treated equally like any other workers’.” The farmworkers wanted to be paid good wages and to be treated like human beings.
Congress had passed a law giving millions of workers the right to organize and belong to a union. Bustos spoke about the law giving workers the right to negotiate with employers for better wages, better treatment and better working conditions.
“But, at the bottom of the law, it said ‘except farmworkers’,” he said. “We were left out. Why?”
Bustos asked the same question to Chavez and was told that farmworkers didn’t have any friends in Congress at the time.
“That’s what we were fighting,” Bustos said. “To be included, to be recognized.”
In the 1960s, farmworkers sometimes had to leave school to work to feed their families. To improve the working conditions, the farmworkers went on strike for five years in Delano, Calif.
The farmworkers took on the Delano Table Grape Growers and made history because they were fighting the biggest agricultural companies. About 40 companies were involved in the farmworker conflict.
The farmworkers led by Chavez traveled to Sacramento to see the governor for help. They walked to the capitol building and started the march on March 17. They got there 25 days later.
“Back then, working in the fields wasn’t that great,” Bustos said. “There were no restrooms, no cool water for the workers, no shade, no rest breaks.”
The Cesar Chavez choir, led by Mr. Anaya, sang two songs, “In Tu Dia” and “De Colores.” The choir was followed by the mariachi band, led by Martin Castillo.