Stamp honors Cesar Chavez
Cesar E. Chavez - the charismatic civil-rights and farm-labor leader who wine lovers may remember primarily for the national boycotts of major West Coast wine producers and other agribusiness industries that he organized to fight for the rights of migrant farm workers - will be honored next week with a commemorative postage stamp in his memory.
The 37-cent U.S. stamp shows a painting of Chavez with vineyards in the background. The first-day-of-issue ceremony will be at noon Wednesday, April 23, in Los Angeles. The stamp will be available nationwide beginning on Thursday.
Chavez is best known as the founder of the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO (UFW). In a brief biography, the U.S. Postal Service calls him, "a tireless advocate for nonviolent social change [who] dedicated his life to working in service of others. The late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy called Chavez 'one of the heroic figures of our time'."
A second-generation American, Chavez was born in 1927 near his family's farm in Yuma, Ariz., and became a migrant farm worker as a child of 10 after his family lost the farm in the Depression. "Throughout his youth and into his adulthood, Chavez migrated across the Southwest laboring in the fields and vineyards, where he was exposed to the hardships and injustices of farm worker life," the Postal Service biography says.
After service in the Navy, Chavez became a community organizer in 1952 when he joined the Community Service Organization (CSO), a prominent Latino civil rights group, eventually rising to its national directorship. He went on to establish the National Farm Workers Association - which later became the United Farm Workers - in 1962.
"For more then three decades Chavez led the first successful farm workers union in American history, achieving dignity, respect, fair wages, medical coverage, pension benefits and humane living conditions as well as countless other rights and protections for hundreds of thousands of farm workers," the Postal Service biography goes on. "His union's efforts brought about the passage of the groundbreaking 1975 California Agricultural Labor Relations Act to protect farm workers. Today, it remains the only law in the nation that protects the right of farm workers to unionize."
Chavez died in Arizona on April 23, 1993. The first day of issue marks the 10th anniversary of his death.
While the celebration surrounding the Chavez stamp goes on, the battle that he led for 30 years apparently continues unabated. Just this week, three years after the UFW declared victory in its 30-year battle to gain union recognition from E. & J. Gallo winery, union officials filed a formal complaint with the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, charging that officials of the winery's Gallo of Sonoma brand had illegally coerced its workers to vote to "decertify" the union.
The complaint puts on hold a March election in which Gallo workers had voted on the union's status. The ballots will remain uncounted in a locked vault while the charges are being resolved.
WEB LINK: The U.S. Postal Service's news release announcing the the Chavez stamp is online at:
To purchase the Chavez stamp online (after April 23), visit the U.S. Postal Store,
For more about farm-labor issues and the grape boycott, you might enjoy "The United Farm Workers' Union, The 1965 Grape Boycott: A Case Study in Strategy," at
A Reuters news service report on the recent dispute between the UFW and Gallo of Sonoma is online at
Finally, for information about the United Farm Workers from the union's own perspective, you'll find the UFW Official Web Page at
It wouldn't make sense to toast the memory of Cesar Chavez with anything but a California wine, and better still, one made from the ultimate American immigrant grape, Zinfandel. Here's a good one from Toad Hollow, a Sonoma producer whose proprietor, Todd "Dr. Toad" Williams, is the brother of actor Robin Williams.
This Zin is named "Cacophony," which the winery notes is a fancy word for "raucous, tempestuous, discordant. Sounds more like the good Dr. Toad." Adds the winery publicity sheet: "Reverse the words to describe the wine: elegant, smooth, harmonious. Toad Hollow still dances to a different tune, as this rich Paso Robles Zin will attest."
Indeed. It's an appealing Zin, and in the spirit of the season, it would make a fine match with Easter lamb or Easter ham.
Toad Hollow 2001 "Cacophony" Paso Robles Zinfandel ($15.59)
Dark reddish-purple with glints of cherry red against the light. Mixed-berry fruit aroma, a bit on the delicate side by Zinfandel standards, gains interest with appealing herbal notes, a shake of dried oregano and a dash of brown spices. Bright, fresh berry fruit flavor is backed by plenty of crisp acidity and just a whisper of tannic astringency to give it structure. (Feb. 25, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: Fine with red meat or ham; put to work in a meatless match, its relatively delicate fruit made an unexpectedly happy marriage with a simple omelet filled with sharp Cabot Vermont white Cheddar.
VALUE: A fair price for a stylish Zin.
WHEN TO DRINK: Although I generally favor drinking Zinfandel young while its exuberant fruit is fresh, delicacy and balance suggests that this one won't deteriorate over another year or two on the wine rack.
WEB LINK: You'll find a Cacophony fact sheet on the Toad Hollow Website at
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Friday, April 18, 2003