Obama Declaring César Chávez Day: Work for 'Better, Fairer America'

In this Sept. 16, 1975 file photo, head of the United Farm Workers Union Cesar Chavez speaks at the headquarters for California's Agriculture Labor Relations Board. (AP Photo, File)

President Obama proclaimed Thursday to be César Chávez Day by calling on legislators to address immigration reform and labor policies such as minimum wage and paid leave.

When he was a senator, Obama called for Chávez’s birthday to be a holiday. Though some states already recognize the day and Congress has not declared it a federal holiday, Obama declared the first national César Chávez Day in 2014.

In today’s proclamation, Obama said the late United Farm Workers co-founder “knew the importance of having an economy that works for everyone and devoted his life to ensuring our Nation upheld the values upon which it was founded.”

“On his birthday, we celebrate a man who reminded us — above all else — that we all share a common humanity, each of us having our own value and contributing to the same destiny, and we carry forward his legacy by echoing his peaceful and eloquent calls for a more just and equal society,” Obama continued.

“César Chávez demonstrated that true courage is revealed when the outlook is darkest, the resistance is strongest, and we still find it within ourselves to stand up for what we believe in.”

The president lauded the labor leader as a man who “stood up for the inherent dignity of every person, no matter their race, color, creed, or sexual orientation, and for the idea that when workers are treated fairly, we give meaning to our founding ideals.”

“Today, we honor César Chávez by continuing to fight for what he believed in, including a living wage for workers and their right to unionize and provide for their family,” Obama said. “Workers should have a safe workplace and the comfort of knowing that if they work hard, they can feed their family, earn decent benefits, and gain the skills they need to move up and get ahead. We will also keep up our efforts to reform our Nation’s broken immigration system so more people can contribute to our country’s success.”

“And as we strive for well-deserved policies for America’s workers, like a higher minimum wage and paid leave, we are reminded that the movement César Chávez led was sustained by a generation of organizers who spoke out and fought for a better, fairer America — and it is now upon us to do the same in our time.”

Obama encouraged Americans to “unite to reach for the America he knew was possible — one in which hard work is rewarded, prosperity is shared, and equal opportunity is the right of all our people.”