As part of an event at the White House March 30 to honor Cesar Chavez, Mary Jo Dudley, director of the Cornell Farmworker Program, discussed the research and extension conducted by the Cornell Farmworker Program with U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Christine Chavez, program leader for farmworker coordination, Office of Advocacy and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and granddaughter of Chavez.
The event in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building involved Cecilia Munoz, White House director of intergovernmental affairs, and Solis welcoming the family of Chavez, co-founder of the United Farm Workers Association, on what would have been Chavez's 84th birthday.
Raised by migrant farm workers, Chavez led the charge for fair wages and safer working conditions after witnessing the abuses workers endured simply trying to earn a living. "At the time, farmworkers were deeply impoverished and often exploited by employers. Rarely did they have access to safe drinking water or basic necessities like bathrooms, and they were routinely exposed to the harsh chemicals used to treat crops and fields," says a White House blog on the event.
Chavez went on to establish what would become the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), which continues to champion the causes of farmworkers.
"I was fortunate to have met and interviewed Cesar Chavez, and since he dedicated his life to raising the visibility of farmworker issues, I can imagine no better tribute than this White House recognition," said Dudley. "Several Latino leaders, many of whom came from farmworker families, spoke eloquently about Chavez's influence on their lives and represent part of his living legacy."