César Estrada Chávez (March 31, 1927 - April 23, 1993) was the leader of a labor union. He wanted equal rights for Mexicans working in the United States. Chávez started the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA). This union became the United Farm Workers. He led a boycott against grape companies to gain rights for workers. Chávez used nonviolence to make these changes. Chavez is thought of as one of the leaders in the movement for Chicanos to gain more rights in the late-20th century.
In 1965, Chávez and the NFWA started a strike for grape-pickers in California. At the same time, he asked Americans to boycott grapes from California. In 1970, the migrant workers won their fight for better pay.
He kept working against unfair labor rules. He stopped eating in protest three times because of low pay and bad working conditions. When he died, he was leading another grape boycott to stop the use of pesticides.
Chávez was born near Yuma, Arizona and went to over 65 schools,[source?] but he did not graduate. He did most of his organizing in California, especially near Bakersfield. Fred Ross taught him to lead unions. Fred Ross was a student of Saul Alinsky.
Chávez is respected in California and other states. In 2000, California's state legislature started a holiday to honor him. The holiday is on March 31, Chávez's birthday. This is the first time that a US public holiday honored a Mexican American or a union leader. Many cities have streets or places named for him. These cities include San Francisco, Los Angeles, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Austin, Texas, Chicago, Illinois, Milwaukee, and Salt Lake City.