Cesar Chavez Honor Criticized

The USN Cesar E. Chavez is expected to be revealed Wednesday in San Diego

By Lori Preuitt
|  Wednesday, May 18, 2011  |  Updated 2:05 PM PDT
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Images From the Salinas Valley Farm Fields

Chavez, who died in 1993 at the age of 66, is credited with helping to secure a U.S. law that recognized farmworkers' rights to organize unions and engage in collective bargaining.

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Cesar Chavez Family on Comunidad

Cesar Estrada Chavez was an American farm worker and civil rights activist who helped gets basic rights to farmworkers here in Northern California and across the country.
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A plan by the U.S. Navy to name a new cargo vessel "The USN Cesar E. Chavez" is causing some controversy.  The naming of the ship after the civil rights leader is not been made a official yet, but that hasn't stopped the comments from elected officials.

Chavez is the labor and civil right leader who began his farmworker organizing campaign in San Jose.

NBC Bay Area's Damian Trujillo broke the story about the naming of the ship Monday when members of the Chavez family told him they would fly to San Diego for the dedication ceremony. Chavez served two years in the U.S. Navy in 1940s after World War II.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is expected to announce the decision during the ceremony at he facilities of General Dynamic NASSCO in San Diego Wednesday.

A Southern California congressman calls the naming unfair to military war heroes.        

Rep. Duncan Hunter, from San Diego, told the Associated Press, "Naming a ship after Cesar Chavez goes right along with other recent decisions by the Navy that appear to be more about making a political statement than upholding the Navy's history and tradition."

The boat builder's spokesman, James Gill, said NASSCO suggested the name to the Navy because it wanted to honor its mostly Hispanic workforce and the neighborhood where it is located. The kind of ship in question is called a T-AKE ship. It will be used to deliver food, ammunition, fuel and other provisions to combat ships at sea.

A spokesman for the Cesar Chavez Foundation said Tuesday that Chavez was a humble man who never wanted the spotlight.       

"He was always uncomfortable being singled out for praise because he knew there were many Cesar Chavezes farmworkers who  made great sacrifices and accomplished great things but who were  unknown,'' Marc Grossman said.

U.S. Senator Boxer commended the decision. “I applaud Secretary Mabus for continuing the Navy’s rich tradition of naming these supply ships after pioneers, explorers and visionaries by honoring Cesar Chavez, who worked tirelessly to promote fair working conditions and equal rights for all Americans. This is a fitting tribute to Chavez, who served in the Navy, and follows the Navy’s recent decisions to name other supply ships after American visionaries from Medgar Evers to Amelia Earhart to Lewis and Clark.

Navy officials declined to comment Tuesday.  The ship isn't scheduled to be delivered to the Navy until late next year.

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