Delano, Calif.—Dr. Jill Biden honors a man who dedicated his life to serving others by spending Cesar Chavez’s birthday, Wednesday, March 31, at the historic “Forty Acres” property where the union began outside Delano and where thousands of farm workers are being vaccinated against COVID-19. Dr. Biden will participate as another 250 workers get vaccinated on Wednesday. Vaccination clinics there have administered about 1,100 shots each weekend over the previous three weeks in March through a partnership between the Cesar Chavez Foundation (which owns and manages the Forty Acres), United Farm Workers, UFW Foundation, Kern County Latino COVID-19 Task Force, Kern County and Kern Medical Center.
The Chavez foundation’s network of Spanish- and English-language radio stations has encouraged farm workers to call the bilingual toll free call centers of UFW Foundation and the Latino COVID-19 task force for appointments to get their shots. They are administered at the Forty Acres by staff from Kern Medical Center that handles check-in and administration.
Vaccinations are open to all farm workers 18 years and older at no charge and regardless of immigration status. No health insurance or doctor’s order is required.
The First Lady will be greeted and meet at the Forty Acres with farm worker movement leaders, farm workers, Chavez family members and staff and volunteers who have been organizing the vaccinations throughout the month of March.
Agricultural workers have turned to the Forty Acres with their problems since the 1960s. The 40-acre grounds include the spacious Reuther Hall where medical personnel set up shop. Workers and other Latinos have regularly visited the Forty Acres during the pandemic for distribution of large quantities of emergency food and face masks.
An adobe-brick former co-op service station at the entrance to the complex is where Cesar Chavez fasted for 25 days to rededicate the UFW to nonviolence and where he was joined by Senator Robert F. Kennedy when the fast ended on March 10, 1968. “It is my deepest belief that only by giving our lives do we find life,” Chavez said in a statement read for him because he was so weak.
Dr. Biden will visit that structure, which includes a large storeroom displaying photos of the 1965-1970 Delano grape strike and the small restored room where Chavez fasted in 1968. The Forty Acres was dedicated as a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service in 2008.
Dr. Biden will also meet with farm workers. Farm labor issues have evolved over time, but today coalesce around the UFW- and UFW Foundation-sponsored Farm Workforce Modernization Act letting immigrant field laborers earn legal status and a path to citizenship by continuing to work in agriculture, which President Biden strongly backs.
“Just as farm worker issues have evolved through the years—and our movement with them—it is powerful to see historic sites such as Forty Acres evolving with new purposes,” said United Farm Workers President Teresa Romero. "It’s also heartening when people in positions of power take the time to meet with and understand farm workers and the barriers they face. Most urgent for them now is immigration justice and the path forward with the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.”
"We are honored by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden’s visit to the Cesar Chavez Day vaccination event in Delano," said UFW Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres. "Farm workers have put their lives at risk during the pandemic to feed this nation and they want protection from COVID-19. Through partnerships like the one at the Forty Acres, we've been able to provide thousands of farm workers access to vaccines. We will continue to work with the Biden Administration to ensure that life-saving vaccines reach farm workers throughout the country."
“For us, the Forty Acres is sacred ground,” said Cesar Chavez Foundation President Paul F. Chavez. "It was the first permanent home for our movement and where my father fasted for 25 days in 1968, calling on all of us to dedicate ourselves to serving others. So what better way to keep my dad's legacy alive today than by vaccinating farm workers here at the Forty Acres? What more fitting way for Dr. Biden to honor him than by taking part in helping protect farm workers who have suffered so disproportionately from COVID-19?”
Some 63 miles away, southeast of Bakersfield at the Tehachapi Mountain town of Keene, is the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument where Chavez lived and labored his last quarter century, and where he is buried with his wife, Helen. It is the 398th unit of the National Park Service and administered in partnership by the park service and the National Chavez Center, part of the Cesar Chavez Foundation.
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