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.