Fifty-two years after Dolores Huerta negotiated the United Farm Workers union’s first successful collective bargaining agreement, Teresa Romero will become the first woman to serve as its president.
Romero, 60, will take over the job when the current president, Arturo Rodríguez, steps down in December. She becomes only the third person to hold the job. Before Rodríguez, the late civil rights leader César Chávez served as the UFW president.
“Sometimes I still pinch myself,” Romero said Tuesday in a phone call with NBC News. “This is what César (Chávez) used to call ‘la causa.’ It’s not 8-5 work. You give your heart and life to it.”
Originally from Mexico, Romero came to the U.S. on a temporary visa and stayed. The 1986 immigration bill signed by President Ronald Reagan allowed her to become a legal resident and eventually a U.S. citizen.
Romero said she takes over the UFW with the union in a position of strength, even though membership in unions has been on the decline.
The union won protections from heat illness for all farmworkers in California. They now have the right to clean and cold water, to take breaks and to take them in shade. It also has been able to secure overtime for farmworkers in the state. It is working to secure those rights for farmworkers nationally.
The union has been able to win pesticide protections for farmworkers nationally, she said.
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