The Nonviolent Fight Of Cesar Chavez For Labor Rights

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Labour rights are a group of rights that pertain to the relationship between workers and their superiors. Most of these rights are internationally recognized although every country has different labour and employment laws. The most common rights are an 8 hour work day, minimum wage, annual leave and laws related to child labour. All these rights have been fought for going back thousands of years with the first strike recorded occuring in the 12th century bc by workers in Ancient Egypt who demanded better pay to work on massive structures. It was not until the 19th century when the term 'workers rights was created' and workers began organizing themselves into groups known as Unions, inspired by Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto.

Minimum wage

The minimum wage, is a right that states the minimum amount of money a worker should receive each month, but this varies between countries, some of them give a lot, but others a lot less, but not every country nowadays have minimum wage. Minimum wage began to draw a lot o attention during the industrial revolution, to be able to understand, factory workers at those times were composed by men, women and children, and they were all paid differently. A man would receive 10 shillings (Britains old money) per week, while women would receive 5 per week, and children would receive one. A shilling then, is worth 0'13 cents nowadays. So in total, a man would receive a total amount of 7 euros a year, basically it wasn't enough to sustain themselves or even a family.

Because of this, the trade unions decided to take action, and in 1831, workers in Lyon decided to ho on a strike in order to achieve a minimum wage, to be able to sustain themselves. These strikes were repeated lots of times, until 3 years later, that they gave up because it was unsuccessful. But minimum wage would not be forgotten by workers, because later on more strikes in other countries occurred to achieve it. In 1984, the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act was signed in New Zealand that included minimum wage to all its workers. This was the first country to achieve it, and later on would be achieved by many other countries. Minimum wage at the time was not a lot, just enough to scrape by, but it was enough. Minimum wage has evolved a lot and increased since then, and will still continue to grow, giving workers the chance of a good life.

Child Labour

Child labour laws are laws created to prevent the exploitation of humans under 18 years of age. Child labour was a popular phenomenon from the 17th through 19th centuries as children could access tight spaces and they didnt require proper payment. The first nation to pass laws restricting child labour was Prussia in 1839, limiting the time a child could work and preventing them from working in factories and doing other types of hard labour. After Prussia passed this law Britain and France followed suit both enacting labour laws by 1844 and by the end of the century every country in Europe had some form of law against child labour. After the First World War the International Labor Organization was created setting international standards for labour law and especially child labour law this helped spread awareness on a global scale to countries known for their poor human rights.

Eight Hour Day

The eight-hour day movement was a reform in order to shorten the length of a normal working day at the time. And because of that preventing any type of abuse during work. It is said that this movement began during the Industrial Revolution in England. The large amount of factories and work positions it offered, made there to be a lot of demand and in that way, poor labor treatment. At that time, a normal working day would be minimum 10 hours a day, but could reach an astonishing 16 hours a day, on top of that, people worked six days of the week and children were also used as labor force.

Robert Owen, a factory owner, wanted to achieve a 10 hour working day in 1810, and imposed it in his own company at New Lanark. In 1817 he wanted to achieve an even harder goal, by trying to obtain an 8 hour working day. He was the one who created the slogan: 'Eight hours labour, Eight hours recreation, Eight hours rest'. With all of the pressure, by 1947 women and children gained a 10 hour working day. All French workers gained a 12 hour working day after the February Revolution of 1848. During the French Revolution, two main groups were created that fought against the government imposed at the time, in order to achieve a shorter working day and improved working conditions. Chartist, one out of these two groups, were actively trying to achieve this goal for French workers. After all of this, The International Workingmen's Association took in the eight-hour working day in 1866, declaring the eight hour working day as a very necessary right in order for the workers to work harder every day.

Paid Leave

After the industrial revolution and the popularity of factories because of the quantity of working force needed to operate one, people in Britain stopped enjoying any type of breaks from work that their previous jobs offered, for example, farming. Almost all of the British workers had Sundays off, but apart from that they did not have any other type of holiday except religious holidays like Christmas... The Bank Holiday act was enacted in 1871, that gave workers a few days of, more a less four days a year, and these four day leaves or holidays, were being paid for as if you had been at work that day, paid leave.

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Later on, during the XIX and XX century, more paid leave was granted, but only to those who had high ranking jobs, such as senior supervisors or even the managers of the factories, the rest of the british population still had what was given to them before, only the Holiday Bank Act that would allow them to have up to four days per year. Because of this, the Trade Union, finally began to campaign in order to achieve more paid leave in 1911, at the beginning of the XX century.

Before, workers didn't consider paid leave that important, but in the 1930s, the proletariat started to take action in order to receive more. On top of that, Trade unions also raised this issue making even more campaigns in order to pressurize the government to grant all British workers a two week paid holiday. In 1936, the International Labour Organization took in the paid leave and gave all workers at least six days of paid vacations each year, but having worked a whole year in the company before this.

But this pressure was not only applied in Britain, workers in Europe were also claiming paid leave, and because of all the pressure applied from trade unions on behalf of their members, in the late 1930s, European workers were granted between one or even two weeks of paid leave, but this depended on the country and company you worked in. For example, after one of these major strikes, the French government signed the Matignon Accords, which concluded that every worker in France had the right for 12 days of paid leave each year. In the UK, paid leave in 1938 gave all workers the right to one week of holiday each year. This law was later on extended to two weeks after pressurizing more, but not every worker achieved those paid holiday days.

Workplace free of discrimination

Workplace discrimination is a form of prejudice in the workplace which affects areas such as hiring, salary and job assignments. These forms of discrimination are usually based on race, gender, age or disabilities. Workplace discrimination is an issue that has happened since the start of time and only recently has it been addressed with laws such as the civil rights legislation in the United States. This was a piece of legislation passed after Martin Luther King's civil rights movement that required that the workplace was to be open to all employees, regardless of race. This law increased opportunities for people of color and although it did not end racism or the underlying issues that caused discrimination it was a step forward. After the September Eleventh terrorist attacks in New York discrimination went on the rise again as many American businesses did not want to hire muslim workers as there was a common perception that they were terrorists. This sort of discrimination did not extend exclusively to Arabs as anyone with dark skin such as Indians or Eastern Europeans were thought to be Muslim terrorists. This discrimination resulted in the arrests of over 3000 people making this the first time this law was actively enforced. These days workplaces in the Usa are obligated to have a poster stating their employees rights

Occupational safety and health

The right to occupational safety and health is a field that encompasses health, safety and welfare at the workplace. Most workplaces are responsible for enforcing certain standards to ensure safety and prevent injuries. There is a whole field which revolves around workplace health such as therapists, doctors and physical therapists. The research and regulation of occupational safety and health are a relatively recent phenomenon. As labor movements arose in response to worker concerns in the wake of the industrial revolution, worker's health entered consideration as a labor-related issue. The first pieces of legislation enforcing these rights came during the industrial revolution with the factory act of 1802 followed by the Factory inspectorate of 1833. These acts arose in concern of the health of children working in factories in Great Britain. Occupational hazards depend on specific industries the most at risk workers are usually people working in the construction, agriculture or mining sectors. Construction for example is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world with the having higher fatality rates than any other occupations in the Usa or Europe, most of these deaths were from falls. Miners are also very susceptible to injury as equipment can fail and unstable geological conditions can cause events such as tunnel collapses. Although as in every other area pertaining to labour rights conditions have improved there are still issues in this area. One issue we are currently facing that is related is the lack of masks and protective gear for health workers during the Covid 19 outbreak.

Some famous Defenders

  • U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis
  • United Steelworkers
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity
  • Senator Tom Harkin
  • State Enterprises Workers’ Relations Confederation (SERC) and the Migrant -Workers Rights Network (MWRN)
  • United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Warehouse Workers -United, Warehouse Workers for Justice, and the National Guestworker


  • Congressman George Miller
  • Communications Workers of America
  • Maquila Worker Organizing Project (CGT, Honduras)

Local defender

Cesar Chavez

Cesar Chavez was born the 31 of March 1927 in Arizona and came from a mexican family. They passed through difficult times, especially during the great depression, he joined the army, in this case the navy, and had a two year service. He died in 1993 from a disease, at 56 years of age.

Cesar Chavez was a union leader and labor rights defender based in California. Because of his experience as a migrant worker and the treatment they received, Chavez created the National Farm Workers Association in 1962, wanting to achieve labour rights with nonviolent methods, this is because he was greatly influenced by the indian independence movement leader, Gandhi. Chavez drew the attention of companies for his causes with boycotts, marches and hunger strikes. In just a few years Chavez was named national director of the company, but after reaching that spot, he quit the job in 1962 in order to create a farm workers union and devote his energy into it.

Chavez’s using the imagery of the civil rights movement, his opinion and resilience on nonviolent acts and ways and his use of great mobilization such as the march on Sacramento in 1966, gave the grape strike and consumer boycott into the Country’s awareness. In 1968 Chavez himself went on a hunger strike in order to protest against the increasing way of violence inside of the union itself, which was against his ideologies. In 1976 Chavez reorganised the union, intending to make the union more efficient and outreach the public. In 1984 the grape industry did not want to control the amount of chemicals and also pesticides that were being used on their crops, and were putting a lot more than what was necessary. Because of this Cesar Chavez created the international boycott of table grapes, in order to reduce and control the amount of pesticides and chemicals used.

In conclusion Labour rights are a group of rights that pertain to the relationship between workers and their superiors. Most of these rights are internationally recognized although every country has different labour and employment laws. These rights have been enforced more, recently but there are still companies and countries which do not care and blatantly ignore these standards.

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