Sept. 3, 2000
Labor Day convention delegates vote in FresnoUFW chooses new No. 2 officer; four others
added to union's expanded executive board
Delegates to the United Farm Workers' 15th Constitutional Convention in Fresno on Sunday elected UFW President Arturo Rodriguez to another four-year term and selected a new secretary-treasurer, the number two position in the union's leadership, to replace Dolores Huerta, who did not run to pursue other interests, including the Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign and providing leadership development to other groups.
The new secretary-treasurer is Tanis Ybarra, a former farm worker and longtime UFW activist from the Central Valley. Convention delegates also filled four positions on the union's nine-member National Executive Board by electing Juanita Valdez-Cox, a veteran activist with the union in Texas; Lupe Gamboa, the UFW's Washington state director; Rosalinda Guillen, the union's legislative and political director; and Gustavo Aguirre, also a former farm worker and director of the UFW's field operations in Southern California.
A sign of recent UFW growth was the expansion of its executive board from seven to nine members. Convention delegates acted to elect the following new officers.
• Tanis Ybarra, the UFW's new secretary-treasurer, is a native of Texas who began work as a migrant farm worker at age five picking raisin grapes in Fresno County. A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, he served in Vietnam. In 1973, he earned a B.A. degree in education and a teaching credential from California State University, Sacramento. He completed graduate work in public administration through the University of San Francisco.
Ybarra began as a volunteer UFW organizer in 1970. He went to work full time with the organization after graduating from college. Since then, he has organized farm workers, helped them negotiate and administer their union contracts and coordinated numerous UFW strikes in Fresno County. He is a veteran of dozens of UFW political campaigns both in rural areas and in cities such as Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco.
He helped coordinate the UFW's 1994 343-mile march from Delano to Sacramento that kicked off its present organizing drive. Ybarra currently manages the union's collective bargaining operations, which include organizing, negotiations, contract administration and partnership programs. He played a key role in developing the model partnership between the UFW and Kern County's Bear Creek Production Co., the nation's largest rose producer.
• Juanita Valdez-Cox, a new UFW vice president, labored from age 11 as a migrant farm worker, traveling with her family from south Florida to northern Idaho. She earned an associate of applied science degree in early childhood development from Pan American University in 1978.
In the 1970s, she worked as a Head Start teacher and center director in impoverished Hidalgo County, Texas, and as a community organizer in Austin. Returning to Texas' Rio Grande Valley in 1989, Valdez-Cox joined the farm workers' movement full time as a social service worker helping farm worker families.
By electing many sympathetic lawmakers through an extensive grass-roots organization, the UFW in Texas has won coverage for farm workers under unemployment insurance, workers compensation and pesticide protections as well as a ban on the short-handled hoe. Valdez-Cox has helped thousands of farm workers become citizens and organized backing for a new national amnesty law.
She helped create a self-help, non-profit housing group under the UFW. It has built some 300 three-bedroom homes for poor farm worker families that sell for less than $25,000 and boast no-interest mortgages.
In 1995, Valdez-Cox became the UFW's statewide director in Texas, the position she still holds out of the union's regional office in San Juan. She continues overseeing a variety of social service efforts for Texas farm workers. To help protect farm workers from daily contact with dangerous pesticides used in the fields, she helped develop an organic farming cooperative on land provided by the UFW.
• Lupe Gamboa, who also joined the executive board as a UFW vice president, was born in Texas and migrated to Washington state as a young child with his parents. He worked the migrant trails across the western states from age six. Gamboa earned a B.A. degree in sociology as well as a
law degree from the University of Washington in Seattle.
He spent two years, 1970-1972, working with farm workers striking hop growers in the Yakima Valley. From 1972 to 1975, he served with the UFW's grape boycott on the East Coast and in Canada. Then he organized farm workers in California for two years.
Returning to Seattle, he finished law school and practiced law for six years, until 1986. Then for 10 years he headed up the statewide legal services program for farm workers out of the Yakima Valley. He helped enact legislation including farm workers in state laws that had previously excluded them such as minimum wage, child labor and pesticide protections.
In 1995, Gamboa served on the five-member independent commission headed by former House Speaker Tom Foley that oversaw a union representation election at Washington state's Chateau Ste. Michelle winery, where workers voted two-to-one for the UFW.
Gamboa went to work with the UFW in 1996. He became the union's state director in 1997. Recently, he re-negotiated the contract with Chateau Ste. Michelle, developing a good working relationship with the company. He is slowly building a base of farm worker activists in agricultural areas across the central part of the state.
Gamboa organized two big UFW rallies with a total of more than 10,000 farm workers in central Washington state in June and August. In the second year of a campaign in the apples, he has since Au. 16 helped striking farm workers hammer out settlements over pay rates with nine apple producers and one peach grower so pickers could return to their jobs. He is coordinating ongoing work stoppages by pickers at another large apple ranch.
• Rosalinda Guillen, a new union vice president, was born in Texas, spent her first decade in Mexico and migrated to Washington state in 1960, where she picked strawberries and other crops from the age of 10. She dropped out of school in the 10th grade to marry and raise two sons,
following the migrant path for eight years in the Pacific Northwest.
Then she worked in banking for 16 years, becoming operations officer in charge of data processing for a 10-branch community bank in Skagit County, Washington state. Guillen was recruited as a community organizer by the Rainbow Coalition and worked on Rev. Jesse Jackson's 1988 presidential campaign. She helped Jackson win 58% of the vote in that year's Washington
state Democratic primary.
Support for farm workers organizing at Chateau Ste. Michelle in the Columbia River Gorge, Washington state's largest winery, led to her full-time service as lead organizer of a successful drive that in 1995 resulted in the first-ever union contract for farm workers in that state. In 1997, she helped coordinate the UFW's strawberry organizing drive on California's Central Coast.
Guillen became the UFW's legislative and political director out of Sacramento in January 1999. She has helped the union champion reform of farm labor transportation safety, include the unique education and public service provisions in the new Cesar Chavez holiday law, and push for relief from
abuses in California's scandalous farm labor contractor system.
• Gustavo Aguirre, another new UFW vice president, was born the son of a farm worker in
Guanajuato, Mexico and immigrated to California at age 19, where he worked under a union contract as a lemon picker for Coachella Growers Inc. He served as a union representative and leader of the UFW worker committee at his ranch.
Aguirre volunteered for many union boycott and political campaigns. He helped organize support for the last federal immigration reform law that provided amnesty to undocumented residents in 1986. And he helped mobilized farm workers to work in Los Angeles during the 1992 and 1996 campaigns that elected Bill Clinton president, and the 1998 drive that elected Gray Davis governor of California as well as numerous pro-union legislators.
He started working full time with the UFW in 1996 as an organizer in the union's strawberry organizing effort. Since then, Aguirre has been in charge of UFW field operations in Southern California, including a number of successful negotiations with growers. In 1999, he re-negotiated the union agreement with his old lemon company in Blythe.