Tile work by Pima County’s Las Artes’ students prominently displayed at U.S. Department of Laborby Pima County News on Mar. 27, 2012, under One-Stop Career Center, Pima County, Southern Arizona, Tucson
A mosaic of César Chávez created by students at Pima County’s Las Artes Arts & Education Center was part of a ceremony Monday in Washington, D.C., inducting the “Pioneers of the Farm Worker Movement” into the Department of Labor’s Hall of Honor.
The department also renamed its auditorium for the founder of the United Farm Workers, which worked for decades to improve health and safety conditions for fruit and vegetable pickers.
The mosaic of Chávez, which was unveiled Monday by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, was sent to Solis in March 2010 after she visited Las Artes and the Pima County One-Stop Career Center a month earlier.
Las Artes, a program of the Pima County Community Services, Employment and Training Department at 23 W. 27th St. in South Tucson, combines structured classroom study with community art projects to prepare students for GED testing and to build their employability skills. More than 500 Las Artes students have obtained their GEDs since the program opened more than 15 years ago.
Las Artes students’ murals, ceramic tiles and other artwork can be seen across Pima County – in South Tucson, Sahuarita, Marana and Tucson. They will be contributing to the public art that will be part of the Santa Cruz River Park between Silverlake Road and Ajo Way and the University of Arizona Bioscience Park at Kino Parkway and East 36th Street.
The ceremony Monday was attended by Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden; Interior Secretary Ken Salazar; Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack; Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Tucson; Michael Peña, who is playing Chávez in an upcoming movie of the same name; and hundreds of labor leaders, families of farmworkers, and others.
Chávez, who died in 1993 at age 66, was added in 1998 to the Department of Labor’s Hall of Honor, which includes Helen Keller, George Meany, the 9/11 rescue workers and the Memphis, Tenn., sanitation workers whom the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was seeking to help when he was assassinated in 1968.
On Friday, President Obama declared March 31, Chávez’s birthday, César Chávez Day.
The United Farm Workers union is marking its 50th anniversary in May.
“The farm worker movement took the very best of other social justice movements – including lessons from Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., effective civil disobedience and other peaceful tactics – and married them with modern strategies that involved consumers, students and effecting change by working within existing institutions,” the Labor Department said. “It wasn’t just about one single person. It was thousands of ordinary people inspired to act with extraordinary courage.”
For more information about Las Artes, go to www.pima.gov/CED/CR/LasArtes.html.
To see more photos of Monday’s event, go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/usdol/sets/72157629309388768/.