September 20, 2002   #191
Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness
From a Public Interest Perspective

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LISA GIRION, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES: In a setback for multinational corporations, a federal appeals panel ruled [September 18] that such companies can be held liable in U.S. courts for aiding and abetting human-rights violations committed abroad.

The ruling, which the panel said was unprecedented, came in a case that accuses El Segundo, California-based Unocal Corp. of turning a blind eye to alleged human-rights abuses, including murder and rape, against Burmese villagers who were forced by Myanmar government soldiers to work on a $1.2 billion natural-gas pipeline.

The decision by a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, California, was seen as a breakthrough for foreigners seeking to hold multinational corporations accountable for their alleged complicity with repressive foreign regimes in human-rights abuses.

At least ten similar lawsuits are pending around the United States against corporations, including ChevronTexaco and Coca-Cola, and human-rights lawyers have several other cases waiting in the wings. With yesterday's ruling, they are likely to move forward. "That's an enormously big decision," said Robert Benson, a Loyola Law School professor and longtime critic of Unocal's participation in the pipeline in Myanmar, also known as Burma. "This now makes it the leading case" in this area of the law.

Added Terry Collingsworth, a lawyer for some of the plaintiffs: "Unocal was saying you can't hold us liable because we didn't hold the gun. That's the classic Nuremberg defense: We weren't the Nazis. We merely profited from them. Now this court has clarified that you cannot knowingly assist a crime and claim you are not responsible."

Corporations usually succeed in getting such cases dismissed before trial, but the Unocal case, thrown out of federal court, was refiled in a California state court and is set to go before a Los Angeles jury in February.

Lawyers for the 13 Burmese villagers pressing their grievances from a refugee camp in Thailand said the decision was a huge victory, both for them and as an example for courts to follow in similar lawsuits.

Officials at Unocal were considering their appeals options and confident the company would prevail, said Daniel Petrocelli, a lawyer Unocal brought into the case about a month ago.

"What the case is about is whether a private American company can be held responsible for the actions of a foreign military regime when the company itself didn't do any of the offending conduct," Petrocelli said. A French company ran the pipeline project, and Unocal's involvement was as an investor, he said. "No Unocal person participated in any acts of wrongdoing," Petrocelli said.

"Unocal does not have, nor ever had, any control over the actions of the Myanmar military. The company does not direct, countenance or condone the violation of any person's human rights, and it certainly did not aid or abet the violation of anyone's human rights. And if that is the standard that is applied in this case, we are confident we will meet that standard."

The legal battle began six years ago when Burmese villagers filed suit in U.S. federal court demanding Unocal pay tens of millions of dollars in damages for the alleged abuses committed by soldiers along the Yadana pipeline.

A trial court judge found that the evidence suggests "that Unocal knew that forced labor was being utilized and that the Joint Venturers benefited from the practice." But he threw out the case because the company's conduct did not rise to the level of "active participation" ---  a liability standard the court borrowed from the Nuremberg war-crimes tribunals of German industrialists in the Nazi forced-labor program.

Lawyers for the villagers responded by filing a new lawsuit in Superior Court in Los Angeles, making many of the same charges under California state law. The lawyers also appealed the federal judge's dismissal, which led to yesterday's ruling.

Although the appeals panel sent the case back to the lower federal court for trial, the villagers' lawyers said they would ask Superior Court Judge Victoria Gerrard Cheney to apply the new liability standard in the state trial.

The decision was issued by a three-judge panel sitting in Pasadena for arguments last December. In the majority opinion, judges Harry Pregerson and A. Wallace Tashima said Unocal should be held to an international-law standard developed in recent war-crimes tribunals in Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

Given the "sufficient evidence in the present case that Unocal gave assistance and encouragement to the Myanmar Military ... (w)e may impose aiding and abetting liability for knowing practical assistance or encouragement, which has a substantial effect on perpetuation of the crime," they wrote.

The ruling may encourage multinational corporations to apply U.S. workplace standards to operations abroad, said Christine Rosen, an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley's Haas School of Business.

"It should be a wake-up call to companies that they may be held to American standards of liability, that it now makes even more sense for them to apply American standards in labor relations and environmental affairs and so forth in the developing world."


EMILY GERSEMA, ASSOCIATED PRESS: The Agriculture Department has failed to adequately explain how it handled a recall of 19 million pounds of contaminated hamburger meat, some members of Congress say.

The lawmakers --- Reps. Henry Waxman, Dem.-California; Mary Kaptur, Dem.- Ohio; Rosa DeLauro, Dem.-Connecticut.; and Sen. Richard Durbin Rep.-Illinois --- have sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, asking that her department explain why it failed to quickly recall the meat after initial tests proved it was contaminated with E. coli bacteria.

They told Veneman in a letter [September 12] that Elsa Murano, the department's undersecretary for food safety, didn't answer important questions although she did release more details about the ConAgra Beef Co. recall in a letter she wrote to them on September 5.

Murano didn't explain why the department's Food Safety and Inspection Service took nearly three months to stop the sale of the meat after tests in May and June showed it had E. coli bacteria, the lawmakers said. The Agriculture Department didn't issue a full recall until July 19.

"We made these requests because ConAgra, one of the largest meat producers in the United States, may have had evidence of positive E. coli 0157:H7 results as early as mid-April," lawmakers wrote. Murano also didn't elaborate on ConAgra's actions, they noted.

The politicians said they heard ConAgra hasn't been cooperating with meat inspectors since the recall. "We have heard reports that USDA asked ConAgra for the additional bacterial samples, but the company has refused to provide them. Is this true?" the congressional members asked Veneman.

In addition, the lawmakers want to know if food safety officials are providing the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with enough information to link cases of human illness to the contaminated beef.

Among their concerns, the lawmakers said they were alarmed that inspectors found safety problems at the ConAgra beef plant, as Murano's letter pointed out. They asked that Veneman's agency disclose what those deficiencies were. Alisa Harrison, an Agriculture Department spokeswoman, declined to comment on the letter, saying the agency hasn't had time to review it.

The recall of meat from Greeley, Colorado.-based ConAgra was the country's second largest meat recall ever. Company officials did not return calls for comment. The Agriculture Department issued a nationwide recall because it was uncertain where the meat was sold. At the time of the recall, 17 people in Colorado had been sickened by the beef.


MICHAEL DAVIS, THE VIRGINIAN PILOT: Meat giant Smithfield Foods Inc. has voluntarily recalled more than 100 tons of ground beef that may be contaminated with potentially deadly bacteria.

The company's Moyer Packing Co. unit, based in Souderton, Pennsylvania., is pulling back 203,600 pounds of beef that could be tainted with E. coli. Smithfield bought the company when it entered the beef business last year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture rated the meat a "high" risk, the most severe, indicating a threat to consumer health.

E. coli can cause diarrhea and dehydration and lead to kidney failure, coma and even death in children, the elderly and people with weak immune systems. Cooking meat to 160 degrees Fahrenheit kills the bacteria. No illnesses have been linked to the suspect meat, which is being pulled from shelves and returned to Moyer to be destroyed.

Moyer recalled the ground beef after the agriculture department notified the company of a positive E. coli result at an unnamed establishment it supplied. Moyer's plant was sanitized over the before production resumed, the company said in a statement.

The recalled meat was produced August 31. and sent to a manufacturer in Pennsylvania and to five grocery chains with stores around the eastern United States, including Virginia. Smithfield declined to disclose the name of retailers that may have received tainted meat, citing competitive pressures.

"Customer lists are considered proprietary at all times," said David Bartlett, vice president of Washington, D.C.-based crisis management firm Rowan and Blewitt Inc., hired as a spokesman for Smithfield. "It has nothing to do with the recall." Bartlett recommended that concerned consumers check with their stores to see if they received ground beef from Moyer.

The department of agriculture said companies typically keep retailers private during recalls. "Unfortunately, it's up to the company to release" the names of stores, said department spokesman Dan Puzo. . . . .

Smithfield does not yet know how much ground beef may have been consumed or how much might be recovered, according to Bartlett, or how long the recall may take. "There's no word back yet" from retailers, he said.

Markets often use beef from numerous sources together to produce their ground beef. So the Moyer meat could be distributed throughout products on grocers' shelves, requiring more than the recalled amount to be pulled. The recall is relatively minor by the standards of large national meatpackers.

In July, ConAgra Foods Inc. was forced to make the second-largest beef recall in history, pulling 18.6 million pounds after 19 people became ill in the western Plains. In August 1997, Hudson Foods recalled 25 million pounds of frozen hamburger, some of which was tainted with E. coli.

Smithfield, the world's biggest hog producer, acquired closely held Moyer in June 2001. That purchase plus the acquisition of Packerland Holdings Inc. have made Smithfield the nation's No. 5 beef processor, with about seven percent of the market.

Moyer also recalled 253,350 pounds of ground beef in August 2000 and 346,700 pounds of ground beef in July 2000, both for potential E. coli contamination, USDA records show.

Consumers with questions can call Kelly Romaniello, director of company relations, at (215) 723-5559. Consumers with other food safety questions can call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at (800) 535-4555, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.


ASSOCIATED PRESS: A federal judge has dismissed a lingering lawsuit that accused Oprah Winfrey of violating Texas' "veggie libel" law by maligning the beef industry.

U.S. District Judge Mary Robinson threw out "all claims and causes of action asserted or that could have been asserted" by Cactus Feeding Club Inc. against Ms. Winfrey, her production company and vegetarian activist Howard Lyman (See Issue #65).

The lawsuit, filed in 1998, was similar to another suit filed two years earlier that went to trial in Judge Robinson's court. The first suit caused Ms. Winfrey to move her talk show to Amarillo for several episodes during the trial.

After Ms. Winfrey won the first case, 138 livestock owners sued her again. The second case was quickly moved back to Judge Robinson's court and had sat there for four years. "It was kind of a soft landing to a hard trial," said attorney Chip Babcock, who represented Ms. Winfrey.

Cactus chairman and chief executive officer Paul Engler, who was behind both lawsuits, said September 17 he agreed to the dismissal because he believes he won in the court of public opinion. "We had two objectives in the initial suit," Mr. Engler said in a statement. "One was to recover the tremendous losses we experienced. The second was to prove to our consumers that America's beef is wholesome and nutritious."

Cattlemen contended in both suits that Mr. Lyman violated Texas' "veggie libel" law during a 1996 episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" by saying U.S. beef could be at risk of spreading mad-cow disease. The incurable illness, blamed for several human deaths in England, hadn't been detected in U.S. herds before the show or in the six years since.

The cattlemen also accused Ms. Winfrey's show of editing the program to portray the beef industry negatively and complained her vow never to eat another hamburger damaged potential sales. Judge Robinson's order was issued August 27.


NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL: Many of America's farmers and ranchers are in a bad way. Some parts of the country are now enduring a fifth consecutive year of drought. Yields are dismal, families desperate. That said, it was mainly politics, not compassion, that drove the Senate last week to approve nearly $6 billion in emergency drought relief, thereby defying President Bush and deepening Washington's budget woes. Budget experts say that with only modest adjustments, the Senate could have easily extracted the $6 billion in drought relief from the extravagant $180 billion farm-subsidy bill it approved last spring. But that would have required trimming some of the bill's lavish entitlements, a step few senators were prepared to take.

As the midterm elections draw near, it is becoming increasingly clear that control of the Senate, where the Democrats have a one-vote margin, may hinge on what happens in a few closely contested, sparsely populated states where regional concerns outweigh big issues like the economy, taxes, corporate malfeasance and even Iraq. A case in point is this summer's forest fires, another natural disaster that, like drought, has created both personal hardship and bad public policy. Western and Plains-state senators are falling all over each other to see who can cut down the most trees in the name of fire control.

But nothing quite matches farm policy for election-year mischief. Back when the ten-year omnibus farm bill was passed last spring --- a bill,  incidentally, that represented a staggering increase over the money the federal government had already been spending on farm programs ---Senate leaders said there would be no further need for "ad hoc" disaster payments. But as the drought worsened and the election neared, these promises shriveled like autumn corn.

Not surprisingly, farm-state senators in tight races led the debate in favor of aid. The Democrats included Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Jean Carnahan of Missouri and Tom Harkin of Iowa, a co-sponsor with the majority leader, Tom Daschle, of last spring's gargantuan bill. Republicans like Wayne Allard of Colorado and Tim Hutchinson of Arkansas, equally worried about retaining their seats, joined the chorus.

The Bush administration promptly complained about the bill's budgetary impact. One prominent Republican senator who is not facing re-election this fall, Phil Gramm of Texas, said he did not want to hear any more lectures from the Democrats about deficit spending, and he had a point. Mr. Daschle's home state, South Dakota, has been the epicenter of farm bill politics, and he probably bears more responsibility than any other  legislator for this unconscionable overspending.

Nevertheless, Mr. Bush cannot escape all the blame. A little more than a year ago, when Congress first took up the farm bill, the president promised a different course. Lavish subsidies, he argued, stimulate excess production, hurt the environment and benefit only a select group of big growers at enormous public expense.

As it happened, there was a reform vehicle readily at hand that would have made the omnibus farm bill fairer and cheaper. A bill sponsored by Senator Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana, would have helped farmers buy generous insurance against economic downturns of all kinds. The program would have covered all farmers, big and small, including livestock producers, who are excluded from traditional commodity payment programs but whose sorry plight is one of the main reasons why Congress is now seeking emergency relief.

But Mr. Bush did not lift a finger on behalf of the Lugar bill, and in the end the old and manifestly inequitable price-support system was allowed to  prevail. In effect, by not vetoing the farm bill or working harder for an alterative, Mr. Bush allowed Congress to put politics ahead of principle and sound policy. He should not be surprised that the Senate is trying to do so again.


SCOTT KILMAN, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL:The Agriculture Department raised its tally of drought damage to U.S. crops as evidence mounts that some farm states are slipping into recession.

The government's monthly crop report showed that farmers abandoned nearly 690,000 acres during August. While rains have returned in recent weeks to some parts of the Plains, triggering a race by farmers in Kansas and Nebraska to plant winter wheat, the drought is intensifying in the eastern half of the farm belt.

Ohio farmers are expected to harvest 27% less corn than last year, and 19% fewer bushels of soybeans. The department said it expects the Indiana corn crop to shrink 29% from last year.

The department's forecast of total U.S. crop production changed relatively little from a month ago, when the government first slashed its outlook to account for drought invading the Midwest from the East and the West. That is largely because crop prospects continued to improve in a few states such as Iowa and Minnesota, which have escaped the drought. Iowa is on track to harvest its third-biggest corn crop.

Based on September 1 conditions, the department said it expects U.S. farmers to harvest 8.85 billion bushels of corn, down less than 1% from its August outlook but down seven percent from last year. U.S. soybean farmers are expected to harvest 2.66 billion bushels, up one percent from August but down eight percent from last year.

The farm economy usually bounces back quickly from drought, helped by a corresponding jump in crop prices and disaster aid from Congress. True to form, the price of a bushel of wheat has soared 64% since March. Prices of corn and soybeans are up 46% and 38%, respectively. Congress is preparing a $5.9 billion disaster aid package.

But this drought --- which has dragged on for three years in parts of the Plains --- will likely dent the economy of farm towns there for several years.

Several rivers, such as the Republican and North Platte, that supply water to farmers are so low they likely will need years to return to normal, limiting supplies for irrigation. Ranges in parts of Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming and Colorado are so dry it also will take years before the grass can support the same number of cattle as before the drought.

"This drought has gone on for so long here that we will feel it for years," said Martin Albright, a Kansas State University economist who estimates ranchers and farmers in the state are losing nearly $1.4 billion in income this year.

Some small-town tractor dealers, fertilizer makers and grain elevators are laying off employees or otherwise cutting costs as farmers spend less money in their stores. Farmco Inc., a Tribune, Kansas, grain cooperative, has seen its revenue plunge 70% so far this year because a paltry wheat harvest left it with little grain to handle.

"In the last month, things slowed considerably," said Orville Kaschke, a Deere & Co. implement dealer in Hershey, Nebraska.

Kelly Sittner, president of the Hershey State Bank, is worried the cow population in the area will drop 25% this year --- a decline that would take ranchers years to repair. "The pastures look like cardboard," said Mr. Sittner, who estimates that 15% of his farmer-borrowers are in such poor financial condition they probably won't qualify for loans from his bank next year.

Ernest Goss, an economist at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, said his survey of 1,100 central U.S. businesses shows the drought is threatening to tip some Plains states back into the recession they emerged from last winter.

Prof. Goss's leading-indicators index for Nebraska, for example, has dropped three consecutive months, including August. The eight-year-old Mid-American Business Conditions index, which tracks new orders, production and employment, among other things, also shows slowing business activity in Kansas and the Dakotas. "The drought is giving the Plains states a cold and the fear is it could turn into pneumonia," he said.


ANDREW ROSS SORKIN, NEW YORK TIMES: The charitable trust that controls the Hershey Foods Corporation abandoned its auction late [September 17] even though it was on the verge of accepting a $12.5 billion cash-and-stock offer from the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, executives close to the negotiations said.

After a ten-hour board meeting in the Philadelphia suburb of Valley Forge,  the trust said it had asked company executives to end their search for a buyer. Ten of the board's 17 members voted to halt the auction, a person close to the board said.

Hershey's board had planned to meet today to vote to accept Wrigley's offer, valued at $89 a share, the executives said. Wrigley's offer, a 42% premium over Hershey's stock price before the company was put up for sale, had included several provisions, including a guarantee that the company's factories would be kept open, to make it more acceptable to local politicians and employees, who had objected to the sale, the executives said.

The combined company was going to be called Wrigley Hershey, they said. A deal with Wrigley would have been a radical transaction, fundamentally reshaping the company, whose brands include Doublemint and Big Red chewing gum.

A person close to the trust's board said that the trustees had been overwhelmed by the outcry of protest from the community since the trust announced in July that it was considering selling its stake in Hershey  Foods to diversify the trust's $5.9 billion base of assets.

"The trust board has rejected all the bids that have been received," Rick  Kelly, a spokesman for the trust, said after the board meeting last night. "It is asking the company to end the process of exploring a sale." He  added, "This is the culmination of months and months of reviewing the diversification options."

The executives said that the trust had also received a second offer in the form of a joint bid from Nestle and Cadbury Schweppes worth about $10.5 billion.

Now the trust, which controls 77% of Hershey's voting stock and owns 31% of the common shares, plans to consider a stock buyback program, a person close to the company said.

The trust had argued that it needed to diversify its holdings to protect the financing for its main beneficiary, the Milton Hershey School, which educates and shelters nearly 1,300 students.

But Pennsylvania's attorney general, Mike Fisher, sought to block any sale  in the Dauphin County Orphans Court, which oversees charitable trust activities, arguing that court approval was needed for any deal and  contending that a sale could devastate the town, where about 6,200 people work for the company.

Two weeks ago, Judge Warren Morgan issued a temporary injunction to block the possible sale of the Hershey after Mr. Fisher argued that a sale would cause "irreparable harm" to the hometown of the candy maker, the nation's largest. Judge Morgan criticized the Hershey Trust for considering a sale in his 16-page opinion, saying that the trustees showed "a capriciousness that is an abuse of their discretion."

The trust appealed last week, arguing that the temporary injunction  preventing the trust from selling the company should be overturned and contending that the injunction prevents the trustees from carrying out their obligation.

Most legal experts had expected the decision to be overturned eventually. The injunction prevented the trust from entering into a binding arrangement but did not prevent the company from continuing the auction and making a preliminary deal.

Jack Stover, a lawyer for the trust, said in court that Mr. Fisher, who is running for governor, "has staged what we believe is an unprecedented  attempt to exercise authority over a charitable trust in Pennsylvania." Several trustees were particularly upset with Mr. Fisher, who recommended in December that the trust consider diversifying its assets only to become its most vocal critic after the auction was announced.


THOMAS B. EDSALL, WASHINGTON POST: When Vice President Cheney and the 14 other statutory members of President Bush's Cabinet meet, ten of them have one thing in common: They are millionaires.

In fact, one-third of the Cabinet members, according to their financial disclosure statements, are in the $10 million-plus range, while another third are in the $1 million to $5 million range.

The heaviest hitter is former Alcoa chief executive Paul H. O'Neill, now the treasury secretary. He is worth between $67 million and $253 million. Disclosure forms do not give specific price valuations for holdings, but instead require officials to state whether an asset is worth from, for example, $100,000 to $250,000, or $5 million to $25 million.

Like most of his affluent colleagues in the administration, O'Neill has taken money out of directly owned stocks to avoid allegations of conflicts of interest and placed it in mutual, index and other funds with a wide variety of holdings, or into government notes.

O'Neill, for example, reported that he has between $25 million and $50 million in the Vanguard Institutional Index fund, $5 million to $25 million in a Salomon Smith Barney money market fund, and $5 million to $25 million in the Dodge & Cox Stock Fund.

The Cabinet member with roughly the same amount of assets as O'Neill is Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Over the past 25 years, Rumsfeld has been chief executive of G.D. Searle & Co. and General Instrument Corp., and served on a number of corporate boards, including the Tribune Co., which owns the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune; and Kellogg Co., Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Allstate Corp.

Rumsfeld reported that he is worth between $62.1 million and $115.8 million. Over the past year, he has purchased $5 million to $25 million in the Vanguard Municipal Bond Intermediate Fund and the Bernstein Diversified Municipal Fund, and made smaller investments of $1 million to $5 million in the USAA Tax Exempt Intermediate Term Fund, the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund and the Fidelity Spartan Total Market Index Fund.

Vice President Cheney was in third place. The former chief executive of Halliburton Co. is worth between $22 million and $104.1 million, according to his disclosure form. Cheney has invested heavily in tax-exempt funds, including $1 million to $5 million in the Vanguard Tax-Exempt Money Market Fund, and $5 million to $25 million in both the Limited-Term Tax-Exempt and Short Term Tax-Exempt Admiral Shares Funds.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has also put some of his money into tax-exempt funds, including $5 million to $25 million into the Calvert Fund Tax Free Long-Term Fund. His other major holding is an investment of $5 million to $25 million in the Brandywine Blue Fund. Powell, a retired Army general who has made a fortune by making speeches, writing and serving on corporate boards, is worth, according to his accounting, somewhere between $14.6 million and $65.5 million.

Donald L. Evans, former chief executive of Tom Brown Inc., an oil and gas company, and a board member of TMBR/Sharp Drilling Inc., helped the Bush campaign raise more than $100 million before he became commerce secretary.

Evans, fifth in the financial ranking of Cabinet members, is worth between $10 million and $47.4 million, according to his disclosure statement. Evans has money market accounts each worth $1 million to $5 million at Petrie Parkman & Co. and Michael A. Steinberg & Co., and $5 million to $25 million in the Heritage Cash Trust Municipal Fund at Raymond James Financial Services Inc.

There is a considerable drop in assets in the rankings after Evans. The most affluent woman in the Cabinet is Elaine L. Chao, who, prior to becoming secretary of labor, served on a number of corporate boards, including Dole Food Co., Clorox Co., C.R. Bard Inc. and HCA Inc. Chao, who is married to Sen. Mitch McConnell (Rep.-Kentucky), reported holdings of $100,000 to $500,000 in two Vanguard funds and a Merrill Lynch tax-exempt money market fund.

Other Cabinet members whose low-end estimates of their worth broke $1 million included Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, $1.5 million to $3.6 million; Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, $1.5 million to $3.3 million; Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel R. Martinez, $1.3 million to $3.2 million; and Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony J. Principi, $1.5 million to $2.8 million.


On September 18 at the U.S. Capitol the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation and the United States Postal Service (USPS) honored civil rights and farm labor leader Cesar E. Chavez, best known as the founder of the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO, by unveiling the Cesar E. Chavez commemorative Stamp. Chavez family members, the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation, and the USPS were joined by national leaders and others for brief remarks and an unveiling of the stamp in recognition of Chavez's tireless work for justice and equality for all people through service to others.

The Cesar E. Chavez Commemorative Stamp will be issued in April 2003 on the tenth anniversary of Cesar's death, to honor his life's work and legacy, which continues to inspire others. In addition, the stamp will be incorporated into programming and events around Cesar Chavez Day 2003, which is an official state holiday in California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas, as well as in dozens of cities and counties throughout the nation. The inaugural unveiling and subsequent issuance of the stamp is a tribute to Chavez's significance in American history, and to his legacy's potential in Americaís future.

"My father's teachings of compassion, justice and dignity still ring true almost a decade after his passing," said Paul Chavez, Chairman of the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation. "The Cesar E. Chavez commemorative stamp is a powerful vehicle to introduce future generations of Americans to his vital legacy, teaching them that through determination and hard work they can improve their own lives and communities."

Chavez's work transcended any one movement or cause. He inspired millions of Americans to seek social justice and civil rights for the poor and disenfranchised. He advocated for nonviolent social reform. He was an environmentalist and labor leader. Ultimately, he forged an extraordinary and diverse national coalition of students, middle-class consumers, trade unionists, religious groups, and women and minorities.

Chavez was born on March 31, 1927, near his family's farm in Yuma, Arizona. He spent his youth working with his family in agricultural fields throughout the Southwest. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1946, and served in the Western Pacific in the aftermath of World War II. In 1952, he became a community organizer for the most prominent Latino civil rights organization of that time, the Community Service Organization, before founding the United Farm Workers of America.  He died in his sleep on April 23, 1993, a few miles from the farm where he was born.

"I'm honored to be part of the stamp unveiling," said Senator Edward M. Kennedy.  "Cesar Chavez is a true American hero. His untiring leadership and his commitment to non-violence gave hope to thousands of oppressed farm workers, and his legacy continues to inspire millions of Americans to challenge injustice and achieve peaceful change."

The Cesar E. Chavez Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization 501(c)(3) established by Chavezís family and friends in 1993, whose mission is to preserve, promote and apply the legacy and values of civil rights and farm labor leader Cesar E. Chavez through contemporary programming and scholarships that promote community involvement, non-violence, education, environmental stewardship, justice and equality for all Americans. The Foundation's programming utilizes Chavezís vital legacy to teach individuals that they have inherent and unlimited potential to make a difference in their own lives, in their communities, and in the world as a whole.


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