Labor organizer Cesar Chavez spent most of December, 1970 behind bars at the Old Monterey County Jail. Now, 48 years later, Chavez was honored during a commemorative plaque presentation that recognized his incarceration during what was known as the “Salad Bowl Strike” or 1970. Andres Chavez, director of strategic initiatives for the Cesar Chavez Foundation and grandson to the late advocate for farmworkers’ rights, spoke about his grandfather’s legacy and the ongoing importance of protecting the rights of migrant laborers.
A Proud History
Cesar Chavez, leader of the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC) during the late 1960s and early 1970s, vocally protested unfair labor contracts, most notably the 5-year Delano grape strike. By August of 1970, Chavez called for a boycott of iceberg lettuce against Bud Antle, Inc. The UFWOC protested the company’s labor contract with packing workers in the Salinas Valley, as farmworkers lacked negotiating rights. In response, Monterey County Superior Court Judge Gordon Campbell issued a warrant for Chavez’s arrest, as he failed to call off the lettuce boycott as preciously instructed. On December 4, 1970, Chavez turned himself in to the court, spending time behind bars until Christmas Eve a few weeks later.
During his incarceration, vigils were held outside of the jail, sometimes swelling to include 2,000 individuals. Supporters brought guitars and would sing songs in support of Chavez and his movement. Ultimately, the California Supreme Court compelled the Monterey Superior Court to release Chavez.
Honoring Chavez’s Legacy
The Old Monterey County Courthouse became a national landmark in 2004, protected by the efforts of the Architectural Heritage Association of Monterey County. In 2017, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors invited requests for proposals to repurpose the property. While plans have not yet been confirmed, many believe that the newly refurbished building will include a museum that would honor the legacy of Cesar Chavez and the UFWOC.
If you want to learn more about how to protect the rights of farmworkers in Salinas Valley, Accident Recovery Legal Center is here to help. Call us today at (888) 931-WORK to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated and compassionate workers’ compensation and personal injury attorney.