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Solis Bill Will Honor Latinos Working for Environment

(Beyond Pesticides, April 4, 2007) On March 29, 2007, Representative Hilda Solis (D-CA) testified before the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands in support of legislation she introduced to honor Cesar Chavez. Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers (UFW) gave hope that farm workers and others would finally stop being put at risk by deadly pesticides such as methyl bromide.

In her testimony, Rep. Solis said, “Cesar Chavez’s work to protect health, the environment and workers’ rights paved the way for people like me to use my voice to fight for greater equality, to be courageous, and to bring justice to those who cannot achieve it themselves. Through this legislation, future generations of young Latinos and Latinas may have the opportunity to understand who Cesar Chavez was, the significance of his work, and know that yes, it can be done.”

An organizer and man of vision who challenged the use of toxic chemicals used for agriculture, Ceasar Chavez was an ardent proponent of sustainable, natural farming methods, who himself grew vegetables organically at La Paz, the UFW headquarters and living complex in Keene, California. He was deeply concerned over the toxic burden of pesticides borne so disproportionately by farm workers and their families. He grieved over farm workers’ children with cancer and birth defects.

H.R. 359, known as the Cesar Chavez Special Resources Study Act, was introduced in the House of Representatives January 9, 2007, and has broad bipartisan support, including 65 cosponsors. Rep. Solis said that this legislation may be considered by the full Natural Resources Committee and the U.S. House. The bill, also introduced in the Senate (S. 327) by Senators McCain (R-AZ) and Salazar (R-CO), will authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a special resource study of sites associated with the life of Cesar Estrada Chavez and the farm labor movement.

Rep. Solis said, “H.R. 359 is not a memorial bill. H.R. 359 simply authorizes a study to determine whether sufficient historic resources still exist, so his story and the story of the farm labor movement could be added to the National Park System. At issue in the legislation is not the rightness of his cause, but the significance of his cause.” Given the lives that he touched and the changes made regarding pesticide legislation and worker protection that his organizing was responsible for, Rep. Solis continued, “the significance of his cause cannot be denied.”

According to Rep. Solis, “He courageously took up causes to improve the life of farm worker families, and as a result many farm worker families have benefited from the results of Chavez’ missions, including fair wages, health care coverage, pension benefits, housing improvements, and pesticide and health regulations. These changes have meant considerable improvements for the life of the farm worker, three-fourths of which are Latino. But his contributions extend farm beyond the lives of farm workers and well beyond any imaginable political limitations.

“For many Latinos,” Rep. Solis testified, “this appreciation of the environment is cultural. However, there is not a single unit of the National Park System dedicated to Latinos.” Rep. Solis said that it is her “hope that one day Latino families have a place in the National Park Service where they can appreciate, honor and learn about Cesar Chavez’s work and beliefs, just as African American families can visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. historical site and the Selma-Montgomery trail.”

TAKE ACTION: Today, Congresswoman Solis will be joined by Dolores Huerta and other Latino Leaders to call on Congress to pass H.R. 359, the Cesar Chavez Special Resources Study Act. This event will be held at Olvera Street in Los Angeles. Joining her will be Dolores Huerta (Co-Founder United Farm Workers and President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation), Reverend Deacon Sal Alvarez (LULAC and National Farm Worker Ministry), Paul Park (President, Cesar E. Chavez Foundation), Father Richard Estrada (Archdiocese of Los Angeles), John Trasvina (MALDEF President and General Counsel), and Deborah DeMeo (National Parks Conservation Association).


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