Cesar Chavez, Larry Itliong And Immigrant Labor

1154 words - 5 pages

When you try to describe Californians today, a common term that would probably appear more often than not, is diverse. California truly is a melting pot of different cultures that span the globe, from the Chinese and other Asian immigrants trying to attain the “golden mountain” to the Chicano community that was absorbed into American culture after the Mexican government ceded control of what is now, the Western United States. A common link between the past and present in California is the hard working immigrant laborer that put up with the harsh working conditions and got down and dirty to make a living. Weber recalls many money-hungry “entrepreneurs and capitalists that were happy to exploit the Chinese immigrants’ labor” (Weber, pg. 77) and how in the beginning, were accepted as a strong workforce that can be counted on to do jobs that whites, such as the Irish, were unwilling to do, and at a much lower cost. In reality, many of the Chinese were discontent with the conditions of the labor they were doing in the late 19th century, and as Weber mentions, went on strike and successfully got working conditions improved, albeit, with no increase in wages. A motivation for a betterment of the workforce was a state of mind that carried on from immigrant laborers in the late 19th century to those in the late 20th century, championed by labor leaders such as Cesar Chavez and Larry Itliong. Like Chinese workers during the “Gold Rush” of the 19th century, Californians came together as a united force to challenge the law for labor equality and usher in a new age that strived for a fair shot at the American Dream.

Cesar Chavez is probably the most iconic figure of the labor movement in California. He was a Mexican American labor activist and leader of the United Farm Workers. During the 20th century he was a leading voice for migrant farm workers and advocated change through peaceful protests akin to those of other civil leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Cesar Chavez could be described as a down to earth man, that embodied the cause he was fighting for. His influence was felt throughout California, and with his strategic and peaceful protests, government officials took notice of the inequalities not only of workers, but of Chicano Americans in general and greatly affected the civil rights movement of Latin Americans. His tireless leadership focused national attention on laborers' terrible working conditions, which eventually led to improvements in the community.

If Cesar Chavez was the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. of the labor movement, you can analogize that Larry “Seven Fingers” Itliong can be put in the same light as Malcolm X. Both Chavez and Itliong had the same primary goals, but differed in their mentalities on how the goals should actually be achieved. Itliong was much more aggressive with his methods, not necessarily violent, but he did stir up more of an uproar with his actions than Cesar Chavez did. Itliong had allies in the...

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