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Farmworker union leader Richard Chavez dies

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (AP) — Richard Chavez, a leader in California’s farmworker movement, has died at the age of 81.

Chavez, who helped his brother Cesar Chavez build the United Farmworkers of America, passed away at a Bakersfield hospital Wednesday of complications from surgery, union spokeswoman Maria Machuca said.

Born on the family homestead near Yuma, Ariz., the two brothers left farm work in 1949, spending a year working together in lumber mills in Northern California, according to Machuca.

Eventually dedicating himself to union work, Richard Chavez organized the farmworkers’ boycotts of California table grapes and other products in New York and Detroit during the 1960s and ‘70s. He was in charge of administrating union contracts in 1970, and later negotiated UFW agreements and oversaw union bargaining, Machuca said.

Chavez also designed the black Aztec eagle, the union’s flag, and oversaw construction and helped build most of the major structures on the farmworkers’ “Forty Acres” complex outside Delano, Calif., which became the union’s headquarters and where Chavez joined his brother in the Delano Grape Strike.

Chavez is survived by his long-time partner Dolores Huerta — also a labor activist and farmworkers organizer — and his estranged wife, Sally. He also leaves behind nine adult children and more than a dozen grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“He knew how to deal with all kinds of people,” said son Federico Chavez. “I don’t think there was ever a person he didn’t like.”

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