Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti . Photo by John Schreiber.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti . Photo by John Schreiber.

Mayor Eric Garcetti Tuesday hailed civil rights activist Helen Chavez — widow of labor leader Cesar Chavez– as a “force for justice.”

Helen Chavez died Monday in Bakersfield at the age of 88. She is survived by seven of her children.

Chavez “was a fierce and steady force for justice,” Garcetti said in a statement. “She gave us all an example to emulate — putting family first, performing indispensable work behind the scenes at United Farm Workers, and never shrinking from an important cause.”

The UFW was co-founded by her husband, who died in 1993 at the age of 66.

“Her work for UFW helped transform how people around the world saw workers’ rights and laid bare the evils of racial discrimination,” Garcetti said. “My sympathies are with her family, everyone who loved her, and all who were inspired by her quiet but powerful advocacy.”

Born Helen Fabela on Jan. 21, 1928, she married her high school sweetheart — Cesar Cesar — in 1948 in East Los Angeles.

Chavez was a farmworker herself, joining her family in the fields at age 14. Though she kept out of the spotlight, she walked the picket line and was arrested in 1978 while protesting working conditions at a canteloupe farm. Chavez did the accounting for the UFW, signed up workers, attended meetings and led the credit union, even as she raised eight children.

—City News Service

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