What, if anything, has Cesar Chavez's 36-day fast achieved?
Reviews are mixed on the fast, which is due to end Sunday at a large outdoor Mass. Chavez began the fast to protest use of five pesticides on table grapes and to advance his 4-year-old boycott of the grapes.The United Farm Workers union claims that grocers have removed table grapes from shelves in several small California towns and cooperative markets in New York City, Detroit, Boston and Albany, N.Y., since the fast began. But the union has not released a list of specific stores for fear that growers will seek retribution against those grocers, said UFW board member Arturo Rodriguez.
He was asked if the union's reluctance to release such a list signaled an admission of the fast's failure.
"Its just quite the opposite. I'm afraid the boycott is working very well and a lot of momentum has been generated," Rodriguez replied. He has provided nightly updates on picket activity at the union's community meetings which have attracted hundreds of people each night in this central California farm town where Chavez has been fasting since July 17.
Chavez, 61, has kept up the water-only fast, his longest, despite doctors' advice that he is endangering his health. He conducted a 25-day fast in 1968 and a 24-day fast in 1972. He is scheduled to end the fast by breaking bread Sunday with a number of celebrities, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and actors Martin Sheen and Edward James Olmos.
Grape growers and grocers scoff at the union's claims of success, maintaining the boycott and the fast haven't had any impact on grape sales.