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Statement from Arturo S. Rodriguez, President, United Farm Workers of America, Celebrating Cesar Chavez's Birthday 3/31/98-La Paz, Keene, Calif.


Celebrating Cesar Chavez's Birthday
March 31, 1998-La Paz, Keene, Calif.

We want to cover two items on this day that would have marked Cesar Chavez's 71st birthday.

First, we are pleased to announce a legal victory clearly establishing that the proud Latino civil rights slogan "Si Se Puede" (Yes, it can be done)-made famous by Cesar and Dolores Huerta-is the intellectual property of the United Farm Workers.

The Mexican airline AeroMexico had attempted to claim ownership of this phrase when it filed a trademark application with the Federal Trademark office in Washington, D.C. After months of litigation, the company agreed not to use the phrase and abandoned its trademark application.

Si Se Puede was coined by Cesar and our union's co-founder, Dolores Huerta, when he was fasting for 25 days in Phoenix, Arizona in 1972. Since then it has become a rallying cry for both farm workers and millions of Latino activists.

For more information on the Si Se Puede victory, you can contact the UFW's intellectual property attorney, Brooke Oliver, with the San Francisco law firm of Brooke Oliver & Associates, at 415-641-1116.

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Cesar often said that if the union didn't survive his death, his work would have been in vain.

In the four years since his passing, Cesar has been honored in dozens of communities across America. Streets, parks, schools and libraries have been named for him.

Yet the greatest monument to Cesar Chavez is not on a street sign or a building. It is seen in the continuing work of the union he founded and the courage to work for change he instilled in his own people.

Since a new United Farm Workers organizing campaign began in 1994, our union has won 15 straight secret ballot elections and signed new contracts with 17 growers.

Farm workers under UFW contracts at mushroom, rose, wine grape and vegetable companies enjoy decent pay, complete family medical care, job security, paid holidays and vacations, pensions and a host of other protections.

Most of our efforts in the last two years have focused on helping strawberry workers improve their lives. A major union organizing drive is gearing up again as berry harvesting gets underway on California's Central Coast.

Last year, the UFW helped strawberry workers file three major federal class action lawsuits of their own against growers who contract with Driscoll, America's largest strawberry corporation. These lawsuits charged Driscoll growers with violating state and federal laws by:

* Forcing workers to labor "off the clock" without pay and failing to permit breaks;

* Engaging in alleged widespread sex discrimination against women strawberry workers; and

* Failing to provide full overtime pay to berry workers. Two of those lawsuits have been settled.

The UFW has also filed legal actions under California's Proposition 65 law accusing 10 Driscoll growers with failing to notify workers they were exposed to significant levels of the cancer-causing fungicide captan.

In full page newspaper ads taken out in April 1997, Driscoll President Ken Morena declared that "all Driscoll growers provide toilets [and other sanitary facilities] for the comfort...of field workers and the protection" of consumers.

But on October 31, 1997, Mr. Morena sent letters to Driscoll growers in Oxnard citing "shocking" widespread field sanitation violations that were "an embarrassment to...the company."

This history is why we are asking supporters across North America to support workers who pick for Driscoll growers as they organize a union to end abuse and discrimination.

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