March 14, 2003

Retired farm workers to get more than $41,000 in pension checks; UFW appeals to workers who may not know they qualify

    Two San Joaquin Valley farm workers who didn’t realize they qualified for a United Farm Workers pension received checks totaling more than $41,000 during a ceremony Wednesday in Delano.

    One of UFW founder Cesar Chavez’s achievements was creation in the 1970s of America’s first—and only—functioning pension plan for field laborers. UFW President Arturo Rodriguez and pension plan Administrator Douglas L. Blaylock handed the checks to retired mushroom worker Guadalupe Gutierrez and Cesaria Garcia, the widow of former grape picker Juan Garcia at the event.

    Gutierrez, 71, and Garcia, 82, didn’t know they were eligible for pension benefits from the union’s Juan de la Cruz Farm Workers Pension Fund. In addition to the lump sum retroactive payments ($23,864 to Gutierrez before taxes and $17,467 to Garcia before taxes), Gutierrez will receive $279.25 each month and Garica will get $82.80 per month for the rest of their lives from the joint union-management pension plan. Gutierrez lives in Delano and Garcia lives in Reedley.

The UFW and the pension fund also hope to spread the word to other retired farm workers who, like Gutierrez and Garcia, aren’t aware they—or their spouse—qualified for pensions when they worked under union contracts. Gutierrez labored with a UFW agreement under which Monterey Mushrooms in Watsonville contributed to the pension plan between 1979 and 1988. Garcia worked with a union contract under which William Smeds & Sons paid into the pension fund from 1975 to 1982.

Since 1989, the pension plan—financed by contributions from growers for every hour worked by a union member under UFW contract—has provided cost-of-living increases and other adjustments and bonuses. The pension plan was named for Juan de la Cruz, a 60-year old grape striker shot to death on a Kern County picketline in 1973. Chavez died on April 23, 1993.

Retired farm workers who believe they may qualify for the Juan De La Cruz Pension Plan can inquire online at: http://www.ufw.org/jdlc.htm or call: (800) 321-6607 or (888) 735-5352.

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