How did Cesar Chavez become the best known leader and voice for Mexican Americans?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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After a lifetime in the migrant worker community in California, Cesar Chavez rose to national prominence as the leader of first the National Farm Workers Association and then the AFL-CIO affiliated United Farm Workers of America.

Chavez helped organize California's overwhelmingly Latino and Asian-American migrant agricultural workers. Several strikes, and perhaps most important, boycotts, persuaded grape growers to agree to collective bargaining contracts with the UFWOC, and even though Chavez suffered a major setback in attempting to replicate his achievement with lettuce growers in the 1970s, his efforts led to legislation governing labor relations between farm workers and growers, and by the 1980s, agricultural workers in California had seen their wages increase by 70 percent, and even gained previously unthinkable concessions, including health care.

Chavez also helped organize UFW chapters and negotiate on behalf of workers in other states, including Florida, where he obtained major concessions from orange growers. His insistence on nonviolent methods set an example for workers whose struggles could easily have ended in violence.

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