Small Changes Bring Encouragement
On Feb. 16, the Fresno City Council passed a resolution that could change the name of Kings Canyon Avenue to Cesar Chavez Avenue. The process could take up to two months to become a reality.
In 1993, the same avenue was close to being renamed after the union leader. Following heated public discussion, though, there were not enough City Council votes to make it happen.
Many cities in California and Texas have named streets and parks after Chavez, so you might wonder why Fresno hasn’t. Resentment from those holding power might be the main reason.
Chavez made enemies among powerful growers and conservatives, who never forgave him for drawing attention to the appalling working and living conditions of farmworkers. Even worse, Chavez and the United Farm Workers succeeded in forcing growers to pay a little bit more to farmworkers and provide some basic improvements in the fields.
As far as I know, no grower went bankrupt because of these changes. Yet they cried and threatened that the sky would fall.
Growers didn’t change. They still cry when confronted with the need to increase the minimum wage or improve workers’ conditions.
Of course, growers aren’t the only ones resisting change. In the 1970s, when installing seat belts in cars became mandatory, automakers desperately claimed that car prices would rise to the point people couldn’t afford to buy them, sending the auto industry into bankruptcy. That didn’t happen either.
Those who make the most are always opposing social and economic changes that could result in sharing a small portion of their fortune, oblivious to the fact that their wealth derives from the workers. That’s why those in power make generous donations to politicians. Controlling the political apparatus guarantees that little or nothing will change.
And we can see that here in the Central Valley. However, there are reasons for optimism. We are seeing more young, college-educated people running for office even in small towns. They bring new ideas and different visions. There is hope for change in the coming years.
The overall balance of power nationwide is going to the right. Let’s work together so that does not happen in the Valley. Conservatives and big ag have done considerable social damage.
Changing the name of a street might be symbolic, but it’s something. It gives us encouragement.
Till next month.