¡Sí Se Puede! Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight on César Chávez & the UFW
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Arturo Rodríguez

Arturo Rodríguez currently serves as the president of the United Farm Workers (UFW). In his decades of experience as a farm labor organizer, he has coordinated numerous farm worker boycotts and political campaigns across the country, as well as negotiated contracts with growers for the UFW.

Arturo S. Rodríguez was born in Texas on June 23, 1949. He received a Catholic school education at San Antonio's La Salle High School, and later at St. Mary's University, where he earned a BA degree in sociology. Rodríguez first became active in the UFW grape boycott in 1969 as a student at the University of Michigan, where he received a master's degree in social work. He first met César Chávez in 1973 and his daughter Linda a year later. Rodríguez married Linda in 1974 at La Paz, the UFW's headquarters. The two worked together on the boycott in Detroit in 1975.

Actively involved in many organizing activities, Rodríguez was elected to the UFW National Executive Board in 1981. Notably, in 1992, he coordinated UFW efforts on behalf of striking grape workers in the Coachella and San Joaquin valleys, which represented the largest vineyard protests since 1973; the walkouts resulted in the first industry-wide pay raise in eight years. After the death of Chávez in April 1993, Rodríguez became UFW president. On the first anniversary of the Chávez's passing in April 1994, Rodríguez led a 343-mile Delano-to-Sacramento march or pilgrimage retracing the steps of an historic trek by Chávez in 1966. Some 20,000 supporters greeted the marchers at the steps of the state Capitol in Sacramento.

Under Rodríguez's direction, the UFW began an effort to reinvigorate its organizing efforts. The union did succeed in reaching agreements with the nation's five largest vegetable growers and with prominent wineries and dairies. The union achieved a major victory in reaching agreement with vegetable grower D'Arrigo Brothers, one of the most intransigent companies toward the union for more than 30 years. Farm workers under UFW contracts have a host of benefits not available to the majority of farm workers in California and the rest of the country.

The UFW under Rodríguez's leadership was influential in persuading California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to issue the first state regulation to help prevent farm and other outdoor workers from dying or becoming ill because of extreme heat. Rodríguez and the union remained active in numerous political arenas and in working with various social help organizations on behalf of farm workers and others. He has also made increased use of Radio Campesina, a chain of stations based in California geared toward news and music of interest to Mexican Americans.

Roger Bruns


Further Reading
Pawel, Miriam. The Union of Their Dreams: Power, Hope, and Struggle in Cesar Chavez’s Farm Worker Movement. New York: Bloomsbury, 2009.
 

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