CA Senate Approves State Holiday for Cesar Chavez

July 7, 2008 - 7:02 PM

Los Angeles ( - With Republican lawmakers declining to vote, a proposal to memorialize farm labor leader Cesar Chavez with an official state holiday has unanimously passed the California state Senate.

Senate Bill 984 was approved 23-0 Monday, with 16 lawmakers abstaining. The proposal, written by Sen. Richard Polonaco, a Los Angeles Democrat, is now headed to the state Assembly.

The measure would create a 13th state holiday for state workers, public schools, courts and community colleges.

Republicans, including William "Pete" Knight (R-Santa Clarita) said they couldn't support the legislation for fiscal reasons, but given their efforts to woo Latino voters, they did not express their opposition to the bill in floor debate.

Sen. Charles Poochigian (R-Fresno) said, "We' ve got 13 or more state paid holidays now. Where does it end?"

Polanco said his bill represents an honor "long overdue" the labor leader who co-founded the United Farm Workers in Delano. "This vote sends a message that the California Senate recognizes and values the leadership, personal sacrifice and commitment to nonviolence that defined the life of Cesar Chavez," Polanco said.

In 1994, then Gov. Pete Wilson signed a bill setting aside a voluntary memorial day for Chavez, but the new legislation would elevate the holiday to official status, meaning state workers would be paid for the day off.

Analysts said that granting a paid day off to thousands of state workers might inspire city government employees to bargain for the holiday as part of their benefits packages.

If the state Assembly now passes the bill and Gov. Davis signs it, the Cesar Chavez holiday would fall on March 31 or, if the date occurs on a weekend, on the Monday or Friday before or after March 31. The holiday would not be mandatory for private businesses.

Actors Danny Glover, Edward James Olmos and musician Carlos Santana were among the celebrities supporting the legislation.

As for what the governor will do, a Davis spokesman said the governor doesn't care to comment on legislation before it reaches his desk.