September 15 – October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month, a month that honors the histories, cultures, and contributions of Hispanic Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. The Hispanic Heritage observance began in 1968 when Congress deemed Hispanic Heritage Week on September 15 to celebrate the contributions and achievements of the diverse cultures within the Hispanic community, then later expanded to 30 days of celebration.
The September 15 date is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for the Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively.
“This month, we celebrate the contributions and achievements of the diverse cultures within the Hispanic community,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said. “For generations, members of the Hispanic community have enriched our nation and strengthened our democracy through public service, education, entrepreneurship, and much more.”
To kick off National Hispanic Heritage Month, we proudly highlight one of the most notable labor leaders, César Chávez. Chávez was instrumental in securing union rights for migrant farm workers during the 1960s. As a young boy, he dropped out of school to help support his family through field work. After a stint in the U.S. Navy, Chávez returned to the fields with determination to better the lives of workers like him. He began organizing, forming the National Farmworkers Association, which is now known as the United Farm Workers of America, to advocate for improved working conditions and wages.
Chávez was a champion of nonviolent protesting, using tactics like marching, fasting and boycotting to assert farmworkers' needs. In 1968, Chávez orchestrated a boycott that resulted in a collective bargaining agreement guaranteeing field workers the right to unionize. Chávez was also a champion of broader human rights, including an early supporter of gay rights and an opposer of the Vietnam War.
Chávez died in 1993, but his legacy lives on in many of the labor protections we see today.
Our nation and the labor movement are only as strong as our diversity. We are thankful to our Hispanic comrades for their contributions to the labor community, our nation and our world. We will continue to fight to uplift the voices of all communities in our fight for true equality.