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Jewish World Review August 18, 2000 / 17 Menachem-Av, 5760

Greg Crosby

Greg Crosby
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Consumer Reports

Sour Grapes -- California is set to become the first state in the nation to honor Cesar Chavez, the legendary leader of the United Farm Workers union, with an official paid holiday. California lawmakers Thursday approved a measure to make March 31, Chavezís birthday, a paid holiday for about 210,000 state workers---the first such state holiday in America to honor a Latino or an organized labor figure. Gov. Gray Davis said he soon will sign it into law.
     Los Angeles Times -- August 11, 2000
It may just be sour grapes on my part, but after reading the above story last week, a few thoughts crossed my mind which I would like to throw into the big tossed salad of public discourse (sorry for the fruit and vegetable metaphors, but as a former gag writer I sometimes canít help himself).

1. As we know, Chavez was a champion of poor, immigrant Mexican farm workers -- but those are not the people who will be getting this day off. Under this new law only state government workers will be rewarded with a paid holiday, not the private sector. The people whom Chavez represented, therefore, gain nothing while government offices and services will be shut down. But Iím pretty sure all the government workers will celebrate on this new holiday by going out and eating lots of grapes and stuff.

2. It seems to me thereís something inherently cockeyed in our government celebrating the birthday of a labor union boss, ANY labor union boss --- especially when it has stopped recognizing the individual birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln (now rolled into one generic ďPresidents DayĒ).

3. Do government workers really need ANOTHER paid holiday?

4. Whether or not one considers Cesar Chavez a hero worthy of a state holiday at all, depends on whether one was helped of hurt by the demonstrations, boycotts and protests staged by Chavezís group, the National Farm Workers Association (later to become the United Farmworkers Union). Certainly, most if not all, farm laborers adore what Chavez accomplished for them in terms of historic pay raises and improved working conditions.

But what about the small, family-owned California farms that were unable to meet the union demands and were forced to sell their land or go into bankruptcy? What about the plight of todayís American farms, which, because of the high cost of labor, simply cannot compete against the low-cost growers south of the border and elsewhere? Next time youíre in the supermarket, check out the percentage of fruit and vegetables grown in this country as compared to what is being shipped in from abroad. If you havenít paid attention lately, you may be in for a shock.

5. As part of this new law, public schools will be expected to teach students about the life and work of Cesar Chavez as a Mexican American farm worker turned civil rights figure through a special state-funded curriculum. Then, on Cesar Chavez Day, students will leave their classrooms and perform community service work with the California Conservation Corps or the national Americorps program. This kind of indoctrination reminds me of the Communist youth programs I used to read about. Leftist propaganda training.

Interestingly, no such educational programs currently exist in our public schools to honor individuals who have succeeded in industry and other capitalistic ventures and who have gone on to set up charities and other philanthropic foundations which have done wonderfully good work. I wonder why. Probably for the same reasons that we donít honor Washington and Lincoln anymore. Just not politically correct. One more good reason to get your child out of public school.

6. And last but not least the cost to the taxpayers. $46.5 million for the state worker holiday. $5 million for grants to agencies to run community service programs in schools. $1 million to the State Department of Education to write lessons on Chavezís life. Such a deal.

What do you think -- is this an example of Gray Davis pandering to special interests?

Or is it just sour grapes on my part?

JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. You may contact him by clicking here.


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© 2000, Greg Crosby