Keep Me in the Loop!

Honoring longtime farm worker champion Pat Henning

Patrick Henning’s career fighting for California workers—including farm workers—spanned five decades, from union organizer to the highest posts in state government. Pat Henning said the essence of his labors was “common-sense justice, dignity and the inherent rights of workers as laid out so well in Catholic social teachings.” Pat was ordained as a Catholic deacon in 1992.

Pat Henning, 75, passed away peacefully on Dec. 10 after a brief struggle with cancer. Among those mourning his loss is the United Farm Workers.

He spent much of the 1970s organizing and representing workers under three international unions. After meeting with Cesar Chavez in 1975 during the UFW’s battles with the Teamsters union, a 6’8” 300-pound Teamster organizer “picked me up off the ground, slammed me against the wall and asked, ‘What are you dealing with those communists for?” Pat said.

While serving as Gov. Jerry Brown’s State Labor Commissioner, Pat was named by the governor to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board in 1982. There, he fought to preserve enforcement of the state farm labor law while Republicans were shutting down its implementation. Pat worked closely with the UFW over 17 years as consultant to the Assembly and Senate labor committees. He served in high-level state positions under multiple governors, including director of the Employment Development Department.

“Pat lived out his convictions every day of his life,” said UFW President Teresa Romero. He picked up the mantle from his late father, Jack Henning, who was under secretary of labor under President Kennedy, ambassador to New Zealand under President Johnson and for decades headed the California AFL-CIO, where he was also a stalwart farm worker advocate.

Pat Henning is survived by Gina Henning, his loving wife of more than 50 years, four children—Patrick, Robert (deceased), Erin and Michael—four grandchildren and other family members.

A rosary and vigil are set for 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 19, at St. Mel Catholic Church, 4745 Pennsylvania Ave., Fair Oaks, Calif. 95628. The funeral mass will be held at 10 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 20, also at St. Mel.