Richard Chavez, who helped his older brother, legendary labor organizer Cesar Chavez, build the United Farm Workers into a force in state politics and agriculture, died Wednesday. He was 81.
Chavez died from complications following surgery in a Bakersfield hospital, the UFW announced.
"He was one of those little-known giants within the movement. He was extremely effective," Arturo Rodriguez, the union's president, said Wednesday in an interview with The Times.
Born on his family's farm near Yuma, Ariz., in November 1929, 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.
"[He] was there before there was a union," said Paul Chavez, Cesar Chavez's son and president of the Cesar Chavez Foundation in Keene, Calif., which Richard Chavez served as a board member. "The dream of all farm workers was to get out of the fields. He gave up the promise of a more comfortable life to work side by side with my dad and be of service."