Historic Victories for Union
The coming years would bring much more adversity: Strikes and boycotts, marches and fasts, victories and defeats. But through it all, Cesar learned and taught others how commitment and sacrifice can set you free from the constraints imposed by depending entirely on money and material things.
Over four decades, Cesar saw his share of defeats, but also historic victories. Under Cesar, the UFW achieved unprecedented gains for farm workers, establishing it as the first successful farm workers union in American history. Among them were:
The first union contracts requiring rest periods, toilets in the fields, clean drinking water, hand washing facilities, banning discrimination in employment and sexual harassment of women workers, requiring protective clothing against pesticide exposure, prohibiting pesticide spraying while workers are in the fields and outlawing DDT and other dangerous pesticides (years before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency acted).
The first comprehensive union medical (and later dental and vision) benefits for farm workers and their families through a joint union-employer health and welfare fund, the Robert F. Kennedy Medical Plan, which has paid out more than $250 million in benefits.
Because of Cesar and millions of Americans who supported farm workers by boycotting grapes and other products, under then-Gov. Jerry Brown California passed the landmark Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, the nation's first, and still the only, law guaranteeing farm workers the right to organize, choose their own union representative and negotiate with their employers.