As president of the United Farm Workers of America, Arturo S. Rodriguez is continuing to build the union Cesar Chavez founded into a powerful voice for farm workers by increasing its membership and pushing historic legislation on immigration reform and worker rights. Rodriguez led negotiations with the nation’s major grower associations to fashion the agricultural provisions of the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the U.S. Senate in 2013. He and the UFW worked closely with the White House, meeting with President Obama, over the President’s executive order on immigration issued in November 2014.
Rodriguez is leading the UFW in bringing about meaningful change for farm workers by making it easier for them to organize and negotiate union contracts. He seeks to fundamentally transform agriculture by creating jobs offering workers decent pay, comprehensive health coverage, retirement security, protections against toxic pesticides, job security and guarantees against discrimination and sexual harassment. Under Rodriguez, the UFW is working to offer innovative alternative representation through benefits and services, and to extend meaningful protections to farm workers in the U.S. and abroad outside the collective bargaining process by co-founding the Equitable Food Initiative and working with environmentalists, leading food safety organizations and retailers. His goal is also preserving the U.S. food supply through a strong and viable agricultural industry.
Since the Texas native took over the helm of the UFW upon the passing of its legendary founder in 1993, Rodriguez has increased union membership with aggressive organizing and negotiating campaigns. Among recent UFW victories are agreements with one of the nation’s largest vegetable growers, the biggest strawberry employer in the United States, 80 percent of California’s fresh mushroom industry, the country’s largest winery, the biggest dairy in the western U.S. as well as winery workers in Washington state.
Recent historic UFW legislative achievements include a 2011 law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown helping farm worker organize when growers deny them the right to have a union; a 2002 California law signed by then-Gov. Gray Davis letting farm workers call in neutral arbitrators to hammer out union contracts when growers refuse to negotiate agreements; and a 2005 regulation the UFW convinced then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to issue, the first state standards in the nation to help prevent farm and other outdoor workers from dying or becoming ill because of extreme heat.
The veteran farm labor organizer was first introduced to Cesar Chavez through his parish priest in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas in 1966. He became active with the UFW grape boycott as a student at St. Mary’s University in 1969. At the University of Michigan in 1971, where he earned an M.A. degree in social work, Rodriguez organized support for farm worker boycotts. He began serving full time with the UFW in 1973, when he first met Chavez, who became his mentor for 20 years. Rodriguez has more than 40 years experience organizing farm workers, negotiating UFW contracts and leading numerous farm worker boycott and political drives across North America.
Rodriguez and his wife Sonia live near the UFW headquarters at Keene, in California’s Tehachapi Mountains.