Today is Cesar Chavez Day. I know that because my mother was a supporter of unions, all unions, any union. In fact, when I was very small, she taught me to sing Woody Guthrie’s “Union Maid.” I suspect I was the only three-year-old on the swings in Devoe Park in the Bronx belting “Oh, you can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union, I’m sticking to the union, I’m sticking to the union, til the day I die.”
Now, my father majored in Business Administration at Fordham and, later, in grad school at Northeastern. He started in the Westinghouse Management Training Program immediately after graduating from college. This made him less than completely empathetic to the union cause. It also made for some interesting dinner table conversations.
“Where’s the salad?”
“Why not? I like a salad with dinner.”
“I am not buying lettuce: Cesar Chavez said to boycott lettuce.”
“I don’t give a fuck what Cesar Chavez said! I want a salad!”
The conversation was replicated with grapes, strawberries, and whatever else Chavez mentioned. (Later, attending a class at Stanford where I learned about the chronic back damage caused by the short-handled hoe, I knew my mother had been right to speak up for abused workers.)
So Happy Birthday, Cesar Chavez and thank you, Mom for teaching me about him.