Cesar Chavez, leader of the United Farm Workers Union in the United States, said today that he was impressed by what he has seen of martial law in the Philippines.
Chavez, who was given an award yesterday by President Ferdinand Marcos for improving the lot of Filipino migrant workers in California, said that he had talked with about 60 union leaders here "and every single one of them said that it's a hell of a lot better now (under martial law) than it was before."
Asked in an interview if he had been told about the approximately 150 strikes that had taken place despite the martial law ban on them or about the arrests of thousands of strikers, Chavez said, "I didn't know about that."
Chavez has been given a gala welcome by the government and its union supporters - official dinners, police-escorted motorcades and 24-hour a day security guards.
His visit has been criticized by antigovernment union leaders and community organizers. One of them who knows Chavez told me he would not bother looking up the American labor leader. "He knows where we are if he wants to see us," he said. Of the Phillippines' 14 million workers about 1 million are union members.
Chavez, when asked how he would operate if strikes were banned in the United States, said : "If I couldn't strike, I don't know what the hell I should do. I mean I would fight. Something would have be done. I have no idea what you do under martial law."
He said he had ongratulated President Marcos on the country's land reform program under which 30,000 of 1 million tenant farmers have begun buying land from their landlords.