United Farm Workers Founder Richard Chavez Dead at 81

Richard Chavez, one of the founders of the United Farm Workers (UFW), died Wednesday at the age of 81 due to complications from surgery at Bakersfield Hospital.

Chavez was born in November 1929 at his family’s farm near Yuma, Ariz. And became a migrant farm worker during the Great Depression. In the early 1960s, he left farm work to help his brother Cesar Chavez organize a union for farm workers.

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He was the first director of the National Farm Workers Service Center in 1966, which provides social services to farm workers. He organized the California grape boycott and other boycotts in New York and Detroit in the late 1960s. In 1962, Chavez designed the black eagle emblem that represents in the union and even put up his own house as collateral for a loan to help establish the UFW credit union.   Though he retired from the union in 1983, he remained active and his legacy lives on.

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President Barack Obama said in a statement, “Richard understood that the struggle for a more perfect union and a better life for all America's workers didn't end with any particular victory or defeat, but instead required a commitment to getting up every single day to keep at it.” 

Chavez is survived by his longtime partner, Dolores Huerta. Also surviving him are his 10 children from his first marriage and his partnership with Huerta, more than a dozen grand children and great-grand children, his brother Librado, his sisters Rita Chavez Medina and Vicki Chavez Lastra. His brother Cesar passed away in 1993.