United Farm Workers founder Cesar Chavez created the Juan de la
Cruz Farm Workers Pension Fund in 1979 as the first?and only?functioning
pension plan for farm workers in the United States. The plan is
a joint union-management trust fund regulated by the Employee Retirement
Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and qualifies as a tax-exempt
trust under the Internal Revenue Code.
A joint board of trustees consisting of three employer trustees
and three union trustees manages the pension fund. The pension plan
is financed through contributions from growers for every hour worked
by a union member covered by the pension plan under UFW contract.
Day-to-day operations of the fund are managed by a salaried administrator
with a professional support staff equivalent to four permanent,
full-time employees at the farm workers' headquarters in Keene,
Funds for the pension plan are kept fully invested at all times
by using the services of five professional investment managers who
invest under varying disciplines, resulting in a balanced and well
diversified portfolio. Investment results are reviewed on a routine
basis by the pension plan administrator and an investment consultant,
and on a quarterly basis by plan trustees. Professionals are also
retained to provide audit, legal, benefit consulting and actuarial
The plan currently has more than 10,000 participants and provides
pension benefits under the rules of a defined benefit plan. Over
the past several years the level of benefits has been significantly
improved. The actuarial liability is 100% funded, and there has
never been any withdrawal liability for an employer who may pull
out of the plan. All pension benefits are self-administered. Pension
applications are processed within a few days after receipt and checks
are issued monthly.
A vesting credit is earned with at least 500 hours being worked
in a calendar year. One hundred per cent vesting is earned with
five years of vesting credits. The normal retirement age is 65.
The earliest age at which a participant can retire is 55. Both pre-
and post-retirement surviving spouse benefits are provided. The
plan also includes pre- and post-retirement death benefits.
The amount of monthly pension benefits is primarily determined
by the number of years of vesting credits, the number of hours worked
in each year and the amount contributed per hour by the employer.
The amount of employer contributions is negotiated as a part of
the collective bargaining agreement with the UFW.
The staff is supported by a state-of-the-art computer system with
specialized software designed specifically for trust fund operations.
With this system, the staff can maintain complete records of the
hours reported for each participant and the monthly employer contributions
owed and paid, determine individual eligibility of participants
and surviving spouses for benefits, calculate the benefit amounts
and issue monthly checks. The system also includes extensive reporting
In late 2000, the plan was amended to give active participants
the opportunity to save some of their own money for their retirement
by investing in this trust fund. The pension plan's professional
investment managers invest their savings, but a separate account
is maintained for each participant and they are guaranteed a minimum
of 6.5% interest income on their retirement savings.
The pension plan was named for Juan de la Cruz, a 60-year old grape
striker shot to death on a Kern County, Calif. picketline in 1973.
Cesar Chavez died on April 23, 2003.
The Juan de la Cruz Farm Workers Pension Plan is dedicated to providing
top-quality, cost-effective benefits and services to its farm worker
participants. Most of the staff is bilingual and participants are
encouraged to call the plan's toll-free telephone numbers for assistance.
From the US they can call: 800-321-6607 or 888-735-5352 or from
Mexico they can call at: 01 800 288 2872, then ask for 800-321-6607.
They can also inquire on-line at: Click here