“I’m too sexy for a suit!”

April 5th, 2010 · 11 Comments

Once upon a time, the United Farm Workers was more of an idealist union, especially under the leadership of Cesar Chavez. In the last 17 years, the UFW (United Farm Workers) has digressed and struggled to find focus as it now advocates for immigration reform and works to represent undocumented farm workers, whereas Cesar Chavez focused on legalized workers and their status as human beings. It has been noted that Cesar Chavez was not a proponent of illegal immigration, and this has been documented. As times have changed, the UFW has seemingly embraced immigrants and immigration reform, which is fine as it shows that the union has evolved. The basic rationale that Cesar Chavez and the UFW leadership had at the time was that the undocumented workers undermined the efforts of the legalized workers, and this was why he and his union opposed illegal immigration.

Cesar Chavez was an American iconic figure, who could mingle with Hollywood celebrities, the Kennedys, and the working class people he represented. He could get away with wearing whatever he wanted, but the current leadership of the UFW doesn’t have his gravitas.

I was a bit surprised last week when the White House sent out this photo of the current UFW leadership along with Dolores Huerta and members of Cesar Chavez’s family for a signing of a proclamation on what would have been Chavez’s 83rd birthday. Most notably I was taken aback by what current UFW President Arturo Rodriguez decided to wear to the Oval Office for this meeting with President Obama. If you notice, he is wearing a tan colored guayabera. Is this an attempt to alter men’s formal fashions and remind Pat Buchanan that the Reconquista is at hand? Or is this fashion choice Rodriguez’s way of saying “Yo soy muy macho! I’m too sexy for a suit!”? Or is he saying, “Quien es mas macho? Ricardo Montalban o Arturo Rodriguez?”

If Rodriguez is thinking that he’s going to hold court at the Governor’s mansion (especially if Meg Whitman ends up living there) with that getup, he better rethink his fashion choices. We don’t see President Obama wearing dashikis, and I certainly don’t see the leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus or the NAACP wearing traditional African garb to the Oval Office, so what’s with the guayabera?

Finally, the other leaders of the big unions such as Andy Stern and Richard Trumka wear more formal men’s attire. Even Dolores Huerta was wearing a suit in the White House photo showing some style and understanding of public perception. Rodriguez is a public union official seeking political status amongst the elite in the nation’s capitol — he should dress the part.

Tags: community organizing and activism · Immigration · Kennedys · Labor Relations · Latino History

11 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Wendy Carrillo // Apr 5, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    totally in agreement. there is a time and a place for everything. some say, clothes dont make the man, but you’re in the freaking white house. come on!
    Remember when JayZ wore a plain white shirt to Obama’s inauguration? just bad form.

  • 2 Meliguap // Apr 5, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Seems that the ufw is too preocuppied with the branding of Cesar’s image to worry about their own.

  • 3 Anna // Apr 5, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    I agree that he should have dressed formally, and that nobody will take him seriously in that shirt, but you make it seem like he was wearing an ethnic costume. (lol) I don’t think it was a political statement, just a poor fashion choice.

    Regarding Cesar Chavez, illegal immigration was not a big issue in the 60s, and Chavez had nothing personally against immigrants from Mexico, he just knew that the government was letting them in to bust up the farmworkers union.

    I don’t think the UFW today is in favor of illegal immigration, but millions of them are here and the government refuses to close the border. So what are they going to do? They have no choice but to organize them.

  • 4 webmaster // Apr 6, 2010 at 7:22 am

    “I agree that he should have dressed formally, and that nobody will take him seriously in that shirt, but you make it seem like he was wearing an ethnic costume. (lol) I don’t think it was a political statement, just a poor fashion choice.”

    If you do an image search of Arturo Rodriguez, you will find that he is almost always wearing a guayabera. I tried to find a picture of him in a suit, but I couldn’t, so maybe he is repeatedly making this poor fashion choice.

    I can understand him wearing a shirt like this in the Central Valley or for more casual events, but seriously, this man is the public face of a union that has to negotiate with business, big business. Why not look like you mean business?

    As for your last paragraph with illegal immigration, I tend to agree. The new face of labor is that of the immigrant, so they have an incentive to organize and try to bring them in to advocate for some worker parity.

  • 5 Reyfeo // Apr 6, 2010 at 10:15 am

    He’s (AR) no Cesar Chavez, Period!

  • 6 BettyM // Apr 6, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    People form perceptions of others from their appearance and Mr. Rodriguez looked very very casual for his visit to the Oval Office. I would be willing to bet money that one (or more)of the professionally dressed women in that photo told him he was not dressed appropriately.

  • 7 El Cholo // Apr 6, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    His IQ is stamped all over that shirt. Which tells everyone in the United States, the United Farm Workers Union has sold out its ideals and is only going through the motions.

  • 8 Anna // Apr 7, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Re: “His IQ is stamped all over that shirt.”


  • 9 Cockroach People // Apr 20, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    While I agree that Rodriguez is no Cesar Chavez, I think that the leader of the Farmworkers has a certain tradition to follow. Cesar was often casual in the most formal of circumstances. In fact, from what I understand, Cesar purposely got rid of the “dress-up” mentality that was popular in the CSO thanks to the influence of Saul Alinsky.

    Care to make a guess as to what Gandhi wore to the event declaring the freedom of India? It doesn’t matter (though I’d be shocked if it were a suit). What matters is Power. One can dress as spiffy as one likes but at the end of the day it’s AR in the photo with Barack, guayabera and all and not some of the commenters on this thread.

    Would I have worn a suit? Yep, but I’m not the leader of the farmworkers. I personally could care less what he is wearing–AR’s fashion choices do not embarass me (at least not as much as Cesar’s own choices embarassed people like Richard Rodriguez). In any case, I am no fashionista.

    Here’s a nice pic for the nostalgia’s sake:

  • 10 Michaelr // Apr 20, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    When you set the world on fire, and successfully shame corporate farming to recognize agricultural workers as human beings, you can dress however you like. Arturo Rodriguez cannot hold Cesar Chavez’s shoes, let alone try and emulate him. In the Oval Office, when addressing this President, you should wear a suit.

  • 11 Cockroach People // Apr 20, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    “In the Oval Office, when addressing this President, you should wear a suit.”

    That’s the conclusion to be proved, restating it does not make it an argument itself.

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