Eladio Bobadilla was 11 when he moved from Mexico to Delano, where his parents worked in the grape vineyards. Undocumented and frustrated by his lack of options, Mr. Bobadilla nearly dropped from high school; finally he became a historian of immigrants’ rights.

In some ways, he noticed last week in a talk about Mr. Chavez, conditions in the fields are worse than they were decades ago. In actual dollars, many farmworkers earn less than they did in the 1970s. Before Mr. Bobadilla’s parents retired, they had to bring home the dirty trays they used to pick grapes during the week and wash them on their day off. They did not know nor did their son, that was against the law; they knew only that they would lose their jobs if they did not comply.

The battle continues, Mr. Bobadilla said. Its a deeply exploitative sort of work. It doesn’t must be undignified work. It doesn’t have to be cruel work. It’s always been difficult. But it doesn’t have to be cruel. ”

On the day President Biden took office, the White House released a photo showing a bust of Cesar Chavez prominently displayed in the Oval Office. The first lady is expected to attend an event on Wednesday, Mr. Chavez’s birthday, a California state holiday, at the old U.F.W. headquarters at Delano, now a historic monument.

Symbols are important. But they are inadequate. Just as the heritage of Mr. Chavez should be more than the name of the Delano high school that Mayor Osorio attended, the commitments to “equity” and “a new normal” have to mean more than tributes to the bravery of essential workers.

Perhaps the administration should look not to the past but to new models, such as the worker-driven programs established by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Fair Food Program, which have made real strides for employees in Florida.

It’ll be up to another generation, the one Mr. Chavez presciently foresaw, to make change, not just in the cities but also in the fields. Not to recreate failed guest worker programs, but to figure out ways to bring dignity and a living wage to the millions of American farmworkers.