In a San Diego shipyard on Wednesday, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told a largely Latino workforce gathered for a ceremony that it was an honor to name a Lewis and Clark class cargo ship after United Farm Workers co-founder Cesar Chavez.
According to the Associated Press, Democrat Senators Boxer and Reid, as well as several others sent a letter praising the Secretary of the Navy's choice, stating:
"It is clear that Cesar Chavez is a fitting namesake for this fourteenth and final ship," said the letter, which was provided to The Associated Press by Boxer's office. "Any comments to the contrary reflect a total disregard for Cesar Chavez, who deserves our respect and gratitude for the lifetime he spent promoting the fair treatment of workers and equal rights and justice for all Americans."
While Chavez did serve in the Navy in the late 1940s, it is no small irony that the naming of a ship after him comes the same week the California legislature passed a bill stripping farmworkers of their right to a secret-ballot election:
The Assembly approved SB104 on a 51-25, party-line vote Monday. It would allow field laborers to organize by submitting a petition to the state instead of holding a secret-ballot election.
Workers would sign and turn in state-issued representation cards. If the state determined the cards had been signed by a majority of workers, the union would be certified without holding an election.
The legislation was passed previously in the Senate and now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown.
As was noted just over a month ago, California's SB104 also imposes harsh $20,000 penalties against employers who engage in unfair labor practices, while ignoring unions entirely.
The bill also provides fines of $10,000 for each day an employer does not furnish the union and California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board employee information.
Meanwhile, back at the ship-naming ceremony, Cesar Chavez's son, Paul, acknowledged the honor of having his father's work in "making sure the nation kept it's promise as a 'beacon of equality and freedom.'"
And, of course, the underlying issue behind it all—political pandering.
[Attendee Martin Sanchez] acknowledged that politics probably played into the Navy's decision and that it will likely help President Barack Obama in getting support from the Latino community. But he said that's not a bad thing.
"At this point, he made a lot of Hispanic[s] happy," he said. "It's going to go a long way."
It's somewhat mystifying that a lot of Hispanics will be happy at having a ship named after a man that most never knew, while ignoring the fact that many of the farmworkers that Cesar Chavez fought so hard for are about to lose one of the most important rights he fought to win...the right to vote.
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776