Richard Chavez, Helped Charter CU For Migrant Farm Workers, Dies

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LOS ANGELES – Richard Chavez, who helped his older brother – legendary labor organizer Cesar Chavez – found United Farm Workers and its credit union, El Futuro FCU, died here last week at 81.

Born on his family’s farm near Yuma, Ariz., in November 1929, Richard Chavez was a migrant worker as a child growing up in the Great Depression. He left the fields to become a union carpenter in San Jose, then left his trade to help his brother organize farm workers in the early 1960s.

The Porterville, Calif., credit union was chartered in 1966 to serve farm workers but never grew beyond $8 million. In 2009 it was merged into Self-Help FCU, one of six credit unions acquired by the fledgling community development credit union sister of North Carolina’s Self-Help CU.

Richard Chavez oversaw construction of the union hall at UFW headquarters in Delano, Calif., and was first director of the National Farm Workers Service Center in 1966, when he put his own home up for collateral to capitalize the new credit union. He worked for years in the union, organizing the California grape boycott in the late 1960s, and later boycotts in New York and Detroit.

Chavez retired from the union in 1983, but remained active. He obtained a state contractor’s license and built custom homes in Los Angeles in the 1990s.

He was a board member of the Dolores Huerta Foundation and was the longtime romantic partner of Huerta, herself a legend in farm worker organizing. The couple, who were never married, had four children.


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