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Opinion |  Who will realize Cesar Chavez’s vision?

Eladio Bobadilla was 11 when he moved from Mexico to Delano, where his parents worked in the vineyards. Undocumented and frustrated with his lack of options, Mr. Bobadilla almost dropped out of high school; eventually, he became an immigrant rights historian.

In some ways, he noted last week in a lecture on Mr Chavez, conditions in the fields are worse than they were decades ago. In real dollars, many farm workers earn less today than they did in the 1970s. Before Mr. Bobadilla’s parents retired, they had to take home the dirty trays they used. to pick the grapes during the week and wash them on the day off. They did not know, nor their son, that it was against the law; they only knew they would lose their jobs if they didn’t comply.

“The struggle continues,” Bobadilla said. “It’s still a deeply exploitative type of work. It doesn’t have to be unworthy work. It doesn’t have to be cruel work. It has always been difficult. But it doesn’t have to be cruel.

On the day President Biden took office, the White House released a photo showing a bust of Caesar Chavez prominently in the Oval Office. The first lady is expected to attend an event on March 31, Mr Chavez’s birthday, a holiday in California, at the former UFW headquarters in Delano, now a historic landmark.

Symbols are important. But they are not enough. Just as Mr. Chavez’s legacy must be more than the name of the Delano High School that Mayor Osorio attended, commitments to “fairness” and “a new normal” must mean more than tributes to the bravery of the workers. essential.

Perhaps the administration should look not to the past but to new models, such as the worker-focused programs established by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Fair Food Program, which have made real progress for workers in the community. Florida.

It will be up to the next generation, the one Mr. Chavez foresightedly predicted, to make changes, not only in the cities, but also in the fields. Not to recreate failed guest worker programs, but to find ways to bring dignity and living wages to millions of American farm workers.

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