Richard Chavez

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Richard Chavez with U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

Richard Estrada Chavez (November 12, 1929 – July 27, 2011) was an American labor leader, organizer and activist. Chavez was the younger brother of labor leader, César Chávez, who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, now known as the United Farm Workers (UFW). Richard Chavez is credited with building the United Farm Workers into a major California agricultural and political organization.[1][2]

Chavez was born to a migrant family on November 12, 1929, near Yuma, Arizona, on a family farm.[1][2] He worked as a child migrant worker during the Great Depression.[1] He transitioned from farm work to carpentry and moved to San Jose, California.[1] In the early 1960s, Chavez would leave his job as a carpenter in order to assist Cesar Chavez in his effort to organize California farm workers.[1] Richard Chavez was a co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association, which would later become known as the United Farm Workers (UFW).[2]

Richard Chavez spearheaded the construction of the United Farm Workers' union hall, which became its headquarters, in Delano, California.[1] Paul Chavez, the president of the Cesar Chavez Foundation and son of Cesar Chavez, told the Los Angeles Times that "was there before there was a union."[1] In 1962, Richard Chavez designed the now iconic logo of the United Farm Workers, which features a black Aztec eagle.[1][2] (Cesar Chavez chose the red and black colors of the union.[2]) Decades later, U.S. President Barack Obama called the eagle "a symbol of hope that has helped carry the struggle for the rights of farm workers forward for almost five decades."[3]

In 1966, Chavez became the founding director of the National Farm Workers Service Center, which opened up social services to farm workers.[2] Chavez also put his own home up for collateral to establish the UFW's credit union.[1] Chavez organized the Delano grape strike and boycott, which spanned five years during the late 1960s.[1] He later helped organize other strikes in Detroit and New York.

Richard Chavez served as the third Vice President of the United Farm Workers from 1972 until his retirement in 1984.[2] Chavez retired from the United Farm Workers union in 1983, but continued to serve on the board of directors of the Cesar Chavez Foundation and the Dolores Huerta Foundation.[1] Chavez worked as a Los Angeles-based custom home builder during the 1990s after he received a California contractor's license.[1]

Chavez had a long-term romantic relationship with labor leader, Dolores Huerta.[1] Chavez and Huerta never married, but had four children during their relationship.[1]

Richard Chavez died from complications of surgery at a hospital in Bakersfield, California, on July 27, 2011, at the age of 81.[1][2] He was survived by ten children, six from his first marriage and four from his relationship with Dolores Huerta.[1] Chavez was also survived by two sisters, Rita Chavez Medina and Vicki Chavez Lastra, and one surviving brother, Librado Chavez.[1]

President Barack Obama issued a statement calling Chavez a "symbol of hope."[4] Chavez had visited Obama at the White House in 2010 to mark Cesar Chavez Day.[4]

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