Navy Ship Gets Labor Leader's Name

By Erik Anderson
May 18, 2011

60 percent of NASSCO's San Diego work force is latino and the shipyard is nestled on the fringe of Barrio Logan. Cesar's son Paul Chavez was on hand for the announcement and he got rock star treatment. Pictures, autographs and lots of handshakes.

"They've come to this country with hopes that a new land brings," said Chavez. "They've patriotically served their country and they've worked hard to build it and so yeah when you sit out there and look I see my father's face out there in the crowd today."

Chavez said says the honor is a testament to his father's persistence, and is fitting for a man who coined the rallying cry "Si Se Puede."

Photo by Erik Anderson
Paul Chavez stands in front of a picture of his father, Cesar. The newest cargo ship being built at NAASCO will be named the USNS Cesar Chavez after the late civil rights leader.

It was also an important day for workers making a better life for their families. Juan Mandujano is a supervisor at NASSCO. He says many people on his crew were born in Mexico.

"Half of my crew comes from Mexicali. Some of those workers before they became shipbuilders and welders and fitters, they actually worked in the fields down in Calexico," said Mandujano.

The naming got an unusual burst of attention this week, because Congressman Duncan Hunter said other latino war heroes might be more deserving. Hunter singled out Marine Corps Sergeant Rafael Peralta, who was nominated for the Medal of Honor for action in Iraq. He called the Chavez naming a political decision. Other lawmakers, such as Democrats Susan Davis and Barbara Boxer, have come out in support of the naming.