Tucson councilwoman Regina Romero wants Cesar Chavez birthday to be official holiday

TUCSON, AZ - Councilwoman Regina Romero believes the time to honor one of Arizona's most renowned figures is long overdue.

So she's asking her fellow council members to add Cesar Chavez's birthday to the city's list of official holidays.

To avoid adding and 11th paid city holiday at taxpayer expense, Romero is suggesting eliminating employees' current floating holiday and replacing it with Cesar Chavez Day.

"It's important to highlight what he means to social justice and labor, and all of the work he did for workers and their families in Arizona and throughout the country," Romero said. "It's time for the city of Tucson to recognize it. And celebrate his life and his legacy of bringing rights to everyone, to the people. That's what it means to Tucson, and it falls in line with the values of our city."

Romero hasn't formally requested a date for the council to consider it, but she anticipates the conversation will occur sometime in early March. If approved, she expects it will take effect in 2015.

City officials couldn't confirm whether the holiday would increase expenses because Romero hasn't requested an agenda item yet. Once she does, the staff will perform a cost analysis, city spokeswoman Lane Mandle? said.

None of the city's employee unions returned the Star's calls for a comment on the possibility of their members losing a floating holiday.

However, Romero said she's reaching out to labor.

"I hope we can get the labor groups on board to honor a labor leader," she said.

If successful, the holiday would be another step toward statewide recognition of the former labor leader, said Cam Juarez, chair of the Arizona Cesar E. Chavez Holiday Coalition and a Tucson Unified School District board member. Juarez said his group has spent the past 12 or 13 years educating the public on life and accomplishments of Chavez, to lay the foundation for Chavez holidays to gain traction.

"Our focus has been on education. Because before people are going to support a holiday, you really, truly need to understand what you're supporting," Juarez said. "If this holiday with the city is successful, I think at that point it reignites those efforts to get something passed at the state level."

Although Juarez would like to see the Legislature implement a statewide holiday sooner rather than later, he's not going to hold his breath waiting.

"In the state of Arizona, I'm sure there will be some resistance to that because of the controversial nature of Latino leaders and all that," he said. "We'll be looking for support statewide, but we're not ignorant of the climate in Arizona. There's a lot of work to be done before we get to that point."

If Romero is successful, Tucson would join Phoenix and Tempe as other cities that recognize Chavez's birthday as a paid holiday.

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