In an expression of labor and community solidarity, close to 500 New Mexicans gathered Saturday, November 16th at the Albuquerque Plumbers and Pipefitters' Hall, in order to continue the campaign to remember Cesar Chavez, the deceased Farm Workers' leader.
People from all corners of the state came together for a full afternoon of music, poetry, dance and speeches to further this campaign. This gathering of Recuerda a Cesar Chavez had the support of most of the trade union locals in Albuquerque, three Latino radio stations and many prominent Latino personalities in the political and cultural field.
One of the immediate results of this campaign was the fact that seven out of nine members of the Albuquerque City Council, under the leadership of Councilman Gallegos, are sponsoring the renaming of Stadium Boulevard to that of Cesar Chavez. This is in sharp contrast to the City Council's rejection of a previous effort in the spring to have a new street connecting to the airport named after Chavez. The official vote on Avenida Cesar Chavez is to come before the Council on December 16th. However, since the Council majority signed on to this idea beforehand, the resolution is guaranteed to pass.
The previous rejection by the City Council, after a hearing where the vast majority favored the name change and a small real estate minority opposed it, caused the creation of this city-wide committee to further the ideals of Chavez.
Guest of Honor was Dolores Huerta, Vice President of the United Farm Workers of America. One of the first things Huerta indicated was the full support of the new AFL-CIO leadership led by John Sweeney for the UFW campaign in support of the strawberry workers. She also stated that despite the passage of Proposition 209 in California, the labor movement had made some significant headway, among which was a Democratic state legislature in order to stem the most reactionary efforts of Governor Wilson, and election in Orange County of a Latina Congresswoman who defeated one of the most reactionary Republicans. She concluded by pointing out that a labor-community coalition can accomplish many things.
Other speakers at the celebration were Richard Moore, of the Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, and Delma DeLora, former president of the New Mexico Health and Hospital Workers Union 1199. DeLora recalled a time when the hospital workers in Santa Fe were attempting to organize and had difficulties connecting with many hospital workers. Cesar Chavez was invited to help in this organizing drive and made it possible for the union to win the election at the city's major hospital.
Moore spoke about the need to continue the struggle of Chavez on the front of fighting toxics in the workplace and in the field. He also referred to ongoing struggles against police brutality and struggles against racism in the schools.
Prominent radio and television personalities Lobo Larry of radio station KLVO and Bonita Ulibarri of TV channel 41 (KLUZ) were the MC's of the event. Many statewide and local musicians such as Chuy Martinez and Fernando Manuel, performed. One of the highlights of the afternoon was Baile Folklorico of Expresiones Academia de Artes.
Recuerda a Cesar Chavez has a 5-point program of activity:
1) To have a major street in Albuquerque named in his honor.
2) To collect 1 million keys to be melted into a statue depicting his struggles.
3) To introduce to the State Legislature a memorial to make March 31 (Chavez's birthday), a state holiday.
4) To support state labor legislation to further the struggle of all workers.
5) To begin an educational program in the schools on the meaning of the life of the former farmworker leader.