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Arturo S. Rodríguez, President

As president of the United Farm Workers of America, Arturo S. Rodriguez is continuing to build the union Cesar Chavez founded into a powerful voice for immigrant workers by increasing its membership and pushing historic legislation on immigration reform and worker rights.

Rodriguez is leading the UFW in bringing about meaningful change for farm workers by making it easier for them to organize and negotiate union contracts. He seeks to fundamentally transform American agriculture by creating jobs offering workers decent pay, comprehensive health coverage, retirement security, protections against toxic poisons, job security and guarantees against discrimination and sexual harassment. Under Rodriguez, the UFW is working to offer innovative alternative representation through benefits and services, and to extend innovative representation to workers temporarily brought to work in U.S. agriculture. His goal is also preserving America’s food supply through a strong and viable agricultural industry.

Since the Texas native took over the helm of the UFW upon the passing of its legendary founder in 1993, Rodriguez has increased union membership with aggressive organizing and negotiating campaigns. Among recent UFW victories are agreements with one of the nation’s top five largest vegetable growers, the biggest strawberry employer in the United States, the top U.S. rose producer, the country’s largest winery, the biggest dairy in the U.S. as well as winery workers in Washington state.

Recent historic UFW legislative achievements include a 2011 law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown helping farm worker organize when growers deny them the right to have a union; a 2002 California law signed by then-Gov. Gray Davis letting farm workers call in neutral arbitrators to hammer out union contracts when growers refuse to negotiate agreements; and a 2005 regulation the UFW convinced then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to issue, the first state regulation in the nation to help prevent farm and other outdoor workers from dying or becoming ill because of extreme heat. Rodriguez negotiated with growers to fashion the agricultural provisions in the bipartisan immigration reform bill passed by the U.S. Senate in June 2013; they would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented farm workers in this country.

The veteran farm labor organizer was first introduced to Cesar Chavez through his parish priest in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas in 1966. He became active with the UFW's grape boycott as a student at St. Mary’s University in 1969. At the University of Michigan in 1971, where he earned an M.A. degree in social work, Rodriguez organized support for farm worker boycotts. He began serving full time with the UFW in 1973, when he first met Chavez, who became his mentor for 20 years. Rodriguez has more than 40 years experience organizing farm workers, negotiating UFW contracts and leading numerous farm worker boycott and political drives across North America.

Rodriguez and his wife Sonia live near the UFW’s headquarters at Keene, in California’s Tehachapi Mountains.

For event information contact Teresa Romero at (661) 823-6105, execoffice@ufw.org.


Sergio Guzman, Secretary Treasurer

Sergio Guzman was born in Oaxaca, Mexico. At the age of five his mother and eight siblings moved to Mexico City, from where he immigrated to the United States in 1986. In 1988, Sergio began working under United Farm Workers contract with Campbell’s Soup Co. in Pescadero, Calif. During his first year on the job Sergio was elected as a member of the negotiating committee and reelected for eight consecutive years. It was during the time of negotiations with his company that Sergio met Cesar Chavez and was inspired by his work and dedication to La Causa. Sergio participated in the 1994 “Peregrinacion” from Delano to Sacramento led by UFW President Arturo Rodriguez.

In 1996, Sergio was recruited by the UFW to work on its strawberry organizing campaign as an organizing coordinator. In 1999, Sergio was regional director for the union’s North Coast region, which covers the wine grape industry. During this time he renegotiated the contracts with a number of major area companies.

In 2003, Sergio was assigned to work in the Central Coast with the mushroom and wine grape industries. He was in charge of renegotiating the Monterey Mushroom agreement in Watsonville, and Monterey Mushroom’s Morgan Hill contract, the biggest mushroom pacts in the area. He was also in charge of negotiating two new contracts, with San Martin Mushroom and Mushroom Farm Inc. He also renegotiated a contract with Schied Vineyards, GVS and J&L. In 2008, he was assigned as the internal organizing director for the UFW and oversees the contracts covering the union’s California, Florida, Washington, and Oregon regions.

Sergio is married to Claudia Herrera-Guzman. They have two sons, Ricardo and Andres. Sergio also has two older children, Sergio Jr. and Jessica.


 
Irv Hershenbaum, 1st Vice-President

Irv Hershenbaum has worked with the UFW since 1972 beginning as a college student in New York. Hershenbaum organized support committees to work on the boycott of grapes, lettuce, and Gallo wines. He received a B.A. in History from the State University of New York and a Masters Degree from Cornell University in Industrial and Labor Relations. He is the son of immigrant parents who came to the United States as refugees from the Second World War. Hershenbaum was appointed by Cesar Chavez in 1991 to the UFW's National Executive Board and was elected in 1992 as the UFW's Second Vice President. In 1996, Irv Hershenbaum was elected First Vice President of the UFW.

Hershenbaum joined the UFW full time in 1975 and coordinated grape boycott campaigns in New York, Boston, Denver, Toronto, North Carolina, Chicago, Philadelphia, Hong Kong and every major city in California. Hershenbaum organized picket lines, vigils, marches, fasts, demonstrations, and press conferences to gain public support for the UFW.

Irv Hershenbaum since 1994 has coordinated contract campaigns with mushroom workers at Quincy, Ariel & Sunrise, and Pictsweet Mushroom company. He assisted the rose workers at Jackson & Perkins and C.P. Meilland. Irv worked on campaigns assisting the workers at Scheid, Chateau St. Michelle, and Gallo of Sonoma.

During the strawberry campaign, Hershenbaum led the corporate campaign at Monsanto that led the neutrality agreement with Coastal Berry.In addition, Irv worked on the major political campaigns with the UFW including the historic victory for the mandatory mediation law in California.

Irv Hershenbaum currently heads the Contract Campaigns Department developing strategies to involve supermarket owners and buyers to support the UFW.


 
Efren Barajas, 2nd Vice President

Efren Barajas was born in Jalisco, Mexico. He came to the United States in 1973 at the age of 15. He started to work at a very early age to help his parents support his 11 bothers and sisters. In 1977 he participated in organizing Montpelier Orchards, the company where he worked. He worked there for 10 years under a UFW union contract where he learned to use the contract and the value that a union contract represents to workers. During those 10 years he also served as a steward and as a member of the workers ranch committee.

In 1985 he started working full time for the UFW, as a Regional Director for the San Joaquin Valley.There he ran a tomato strike which resulted in winning elections with the three biggest tomato companies with 1500 workers in Stockton, California; and in the Fresno area, the Gerawan election, the largest stone fruit grower with 3000 workers. He negotiated the first contract with S & J Dole Company in the Fresno area with 700 workers. During the Grape Boycott campaign, he was responsible for negotiating and administering all UFW contracts.

In 1994, he was elected to the UFW Executive Board and was assigned to the Central Coast which is known as the Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Benito counties. Under his direction this is where the first contract with Scheid Vineyards was negotiated with 250 workers; Monterey Mushroom in Watsonville with 500 workers & Coastal Berry with 1000 workers.

Today, he is still responsible for the Central Coast area where the union has the biggest membership base.


 
Giev Kashkooli, 3rd Vice President

Giev Kashkooli is the strategic campaigns director for the United Farm Workers of America, overseeing the union political, legislative, research, and communications work that helps build farm worker power. He has worked with the UFW for 14 years throughout California, New York, Washington, D.C., Florida, and across California.

He graduated in 1989 from Brown University in Rhode Island, where he first became active supporting the United Farm Workers’ cause.

Upon joining the union, Kashkooli worked coordinating campaigns that won UFW contracts for farm workers at the giant Quincy Mushroom Farm in Quincy, Florida and the large Chateau St. Michelle winery in Washington state. He played a key role in the UFW’s national campaign to organize Central Coast strawberry workers at Coastal Berry Co. (now Dole Berry) that produced union contracts with the largest direct employer of strawberry workers in America.

Kashkooli served in Washington D.C., representing the UFW among labor, political and religious organizations and that saw formation of the National Commission for Strawberry Workers. It sent a blue ribbon delegation to the California fields to help expose abuses and promote strawberry worker organizing rights.

Among highlights from Kashkooli’s years as union political director is leading the campaign and managing the political work that produced victory with passage in 2002 by the California Legislature and approval by then-Gov. Gray Davis of the historic mediation law for farm workers. It allows farm workers to bring in neutral mediators when growers refuse to negotiate union contracts. Kashkooli organized and oversaw massive farm worker lobbying activities and coordinated with a 150-mile pilgrimage from Merced to Sacramento that helped produce that law. He is presently coordinating the major UFW campaign to pass union-sponsored legislation making it easier for California farm workers to organize.

Kashkooli has managed dozens of political races for the UFW, including the election of county, state and national candidates. He continues to play a key role in the UFW's immigration reform efforts and is leading the endeavor to enact the landmark AgJobs immigration reform bill at the national capital.

Together with his wife Catherine Lhamon, Kashkooli is the parent of two wonderful girls, Danielle and Clay.


 
Armando Elenes, National Vice President

Armando Elenes was born in Sinaloa, Mexico and immigrated to the United States in 1980 at the age of eight with his family. Beginning at the age of 15, he worked in nurseries, dairies and picked peaches and apricots to help provide for his family during the summer months. He attended Hilmar High School in [CITY] and graduated in 1990. He then served his country in the military, spending four years in the U.S. Air Force. After leaving the service, he studied for two years at Modesto Junior College and earned his Associates of Arts Degree. While at community college he became involved with the United Farm Workers’ major strawberry organizing campaign on the Central Coast and organized dozens of union supporters to leaflet stores and participate in other actions in the Modesto area. After graduating in 1997, he applied to attend the University of Southern California. Instead, he was asked to serve an internship at theUFW office in Los Angeles as a community organizer. After less than two years with the union, he transferred to the UFW Organizing Department in Delano and continues to work there, focusing on organizing workers in the Central Valley.

During his service with the UFW Elenes has coordinated field operations for political campaigns, run union representation election campaigns and also organized numerous other organizing efforts. He now serves as the organizing director for the External Organizing Department in the San Joaquin Valley.

Armando is married with three children..


 

Erik Nicholson, National Vice President

Erik Nicholson is international director of the Guest Worker Membership Program for the United Farm Workers of America. He also served for four years as the Pacific Northwest regional director for the union and is based in Tacoma, Washington state.

Nicholson led the two-and-a-half year organizing campaign at the national guest worker labor-contracting firm Global Horizons, resulting in the first national guest worker union contract in the history of the United States. He currently is working to develop an international infrastructure to better advocate on behalf of guest workers.

In his role as Pacific Northwest regional director, Nicholson coordinated the union’s organizing, political and contract administration duties covering Oregon and Washington. He directed the successful four-and-a-half year organizing campaign at Threemile Canyon Farms, home to the largest dairy in the world with some 55,000 cows. This effort resulted in the first major union agreement for Oregon farm workers. He went on to win a second agreement at another large area dairy. These victories are significant because there is no labor law that requiring agricultural employers to recognize a union in Oregon.

Prior to joining the UFW, Nicholson worked for 12 years with PCUN, a farm worker union based in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. There he negotiated the union contracts covering farm workers in the history of Oregon agriculture. He led the successful three-year boycott of Gardenburger and coordinated the organization’s national boycott of NORPAC Foods.

Nicholson has worked extensively on pesticide issues affecting farm workers and their families as well as child labor, housing, consumer outreach, education and legislative issues. He currently serves as one of two national farm worker representatives to the Environmental Protection Agency’s national pesticide advisory committee, the Pesticide Program Dialog Committee. He has served on as a member of the board of the Washington state ADRS Agricultural Employment Mediation Program, Washington state Farmworker Housing Trust and Washington state Department of Labor and Industries Stakeholder Advisory Committee on the Cholinesterase Monitoring Rule. He was a gubernatorial appointed member of the Governor's Industrial Safety & Health Conference.

In the late 1980s, Nicholson worked for two years in Central America documenting human rights abuses. He has a B.A. degree from Duke University.


 
Diana Tellefson, National Vice President

“Si Se Puede” (yes, it can be done) was an attitude Diana Tellefson learned from childhood. She grew up in National City, California, a town only 15 minutes from the Mexican border. Her mother migrated from Chihuahua, Mexico at the age of 20 knowing very little English. Her mother would say, “Never let someone tell you that you can’t do something or make you feel as if they are a better person than you are. Always stand up for yourself!”

After graduating from Stanford University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology, Tellefson taught at taught for four years at an elementary school. During her last year of teaching, Diana helped establish a successful political action committee that worked to bring about positive changes in her school district. She participated in a post-graduate fellowship and was accepted to the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, through which she developed leadership skills in public policy. Her passion for the advocacy of farm workers’ rights stemmed from a weeklong visit to the Central Valley during her fellowship. She told the other Coro fellows, “I think that this is what I’m doing with my life. I’m working for the United Farm Workers.”

Prior to serving with the UFW, Tellefson worked as San Mateo County and Latino outreach coordinator for Joe Simitian’s state Senate campaign. She managed field organization in five cities as well as outreach events and communication efforts in two counties. She also worked on the 2004 presidential campaign as the deputy director for Voices for Working Families. Diana recruited, trained, and managed 20 precinct walkers in a Latino voter registration and get-out-the-vote project in three Arizona counties.

After Arizona, Tellefson began with the United Farm Workers’ Political Department. As the union’s immigration reform field director, she worked to help mobilize farm workers around the historic AgJobs bill. In addition, she was able to participate in the union’s big organizing campaign at the giant Giumarra table grape ranch, focusing on packinghouse workers. This experience made her understand the deep fear workers feel due to grower intimidation.

Tellefson is now executive director of the UFW Foundation, which focuses on civic participation, policy, and research. While leading the UFW Foundation, Tellefson continues to champion immigrants’ rights. Last year, she mobilized hundreds of farm workers who traveled to Washington D.C. and spoke to members of Congress about the need for immigration reform. She has organized with other immigrant and farm worker advocacy groups around the nation to advocate for fair and just reform.


 
Erika Oropeza, National Vice President

Erika Oropeza has worked full time with the UFW for over 6 years. Erika is currently a Lead Organizer in the San Joaquin Valley. She has coordinated teams of organizers in multiple campaigns, helped coordinate historic turnout during immigration mobilizations, and oversaw a successful political operation in the Coachella Valley in 2010. Erika has deep and broad relationships in the farm worker community in the U.S. and Mexico. In addition to embodying the UFW’s Si Se Puede values, Erika helps lead a tech savvy, new generation of organizers. Her greatest hope is to help grow the UFW over the long-term.

Erika graduated from Turner High School in Kansas City, Kansas in 2003. She then moved to Delano where she worked picking table grapes while also attending

Bakersfield City College. Prior to becoming a full-time UFW employee, Erika volunteered at the union’s Delano office helping organize farm workers and in political campaigns. Erika was born in Anaheim, California and raised in both, Kansas City, Kansas and Tangancicuaro, Michoacán, Mexico.