Teresa Romero Selected as First Woman President of United Farm Workers

By Negin Owliaei

Over the past several decades, United Farm Workers has changed the tenor of labor organizing for one of America’s most vulnerable groups of workers. Last month, the labor union added a new page to that history by selecting Teresa Romero as its new president. A veteran of UFW’s administrative staff, Romero will become the union’s first woman president. UFW also says she’ll be the first immigrant woman to head a national union.

Romero will take over for current president Arturo Rodriguez when he steps down later this year. When she does, she’ll become the third president in UFW history, following Rodriguez and famed UFW co-founder Cesar Chavez.

While she may not have formally led the union as president, civil rights activist Dolores Huerta co-founded the organization and played a key role in its development — in addition to coining their iconic “Sí se puede” slogan. Though Huerta stepped away from the union to start her own foundation, she continues to be one of the public faces associated with the farmworker justice movement.

Huerta was one of the organizers of the Delano grape boycott in the 1960s, building on the strike from Filipino workers on California’s grape farms. The boycott brought widespread attention to the poor pay and conditions of the workers in California’s fields, eventually gaining international momentum and forcing farms to improve their working conditions. Huerta also negotiated the first collective bargaining contract in the U.S. with an agricultural business.

In her time at UFW — and through her organizing work since left the union — Huerta has been vocal about the need for more women in labor leadership positions. “I am absolutely thrilled to see that we have a woman as the new president of the United Farm Workers,” Huerta told NBC News.

“About half of the people that work in the fields, maybe 40 percent, are women, often they are not really recognized…but they are a very, very, very big part not only of the workforce but also of the leadership of United Farm Workers.” Huerta also told NBC that the choice of Romero was a landmark decision “not just because she’s a woman because she’s so qualified…I think they have made a wonderful selection.”

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