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A Story of Cesar’s Brother: Richard Chavez' and His Connection to the UDW

By: Ken Seaton-Msemaji

Dear Sister & Brother Chavistas:

Cesar's goal was to organize the working poor and teach them how to empower themselves so they, their families, neighbors & friends could improve their entire quality of life, from cradle to grave. His twin dream was to unionize the poorest & most exploited workers in the Fields and in the Cities. Thus the United Farmer Workers of America and later, the United Domestic Workers of America!

The Domestic Workers Organizing Committee was founded on August 14, 1977 in Cesar's back yard. Helen Chavez and many of the La Paz residents made a huge barbecue to celebrate. Then-Governor Jerry Brown showed-up, unexpected, to talk with Cesar.

Ken Seaton-Msemaji,  Marc Grossman, Cesar Chavez & Greg Akili

Ken Seaton-Msemaji talks to Cesar in the early days of the UDW, with Marc Grossman and Greg Akili

Not long after that,Cesar sent Fred Ross Sr. to San Diego (UDW headquarters) to teach the UDW founders the House Meeting method of organizing. Cesar then asked several UFW people to assist with training Fahari Jeffers, Greg Akili, Raquel Beltran & I, all of the things we would need to build a Domestic Workers Union. Some of the UFW Sisters & Brothers who trained and advised us were Helen Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Manual Chavez, Gilbert & Esther Padilla, Mac Lyons, Sister Florence, Rev. Chris Hartmire, Jessica Govea, Richard & Mini Ybarra, Linda & Carlos LeGerrette and Richard Chavez.

Cesar sent me with Richard primarily to learn the art & science of negotiations but I also learned a PhD worth of everything necessary to building a Union, and some personal advice, including that FAMILY is most important !

The negotiations I remember the most were with a grower in Escondido near San Diego. Watching and listening to Richard was like experiencing magic. He was soft spoken but very powerful. At times low keyed, but wise, and most of all successful! It was obvious that he was trusted beyond a doubt by Cesar.

Over time I must have spent years worth of hours as Richard's student, friend and part of his extended family. He was a Master Teacher!

Several of my kids grew-up with his younger kids, some of them are still in touch with each other to this day.

On several occasions he stayed with Fahari & me at our house in San Diego. Those times were like Xmas in any month. When he would leave we were fired-up for the rest of the year.

Richard Chavez has transitioned to the next stage but he can be here forever if we try to live one of his lessons or examples every day from now on, as long as the sun shines and the water flows!!

Ken Seaton-Msemaji was co-founder of United Domestic Workers of America and served as it's President for 28 years

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