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‘A Champion for Farmworkers Across the Fields’: UFW President Teresa Romero Receives Presidential Medal of Freedom

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United Farm Workers (UFW) President Teresa Romero was among 19 Americans who were honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Biden at the White House on Friday. The award is the nation’s highest civilian honor and is presented “to individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors,” the White House said.

“To me, the Presidential Medal of Freedom means the people that I serve are being seen at the highest level,” said President Romero. “Their work, their skill, their sacrifice and their courage is not being overlooked today. It is my honor to be here representing farm workers.” Her guests at the event were UFW members and farmworkers Rosa Maria Silva De Rodriguez, Maria Garcia, and Asuncion Ponce, who, in 2022, marched 335 miles so that farmworkers in California could improve their ability to vote in union elections.

“Teresa Romero embodies the essential truth about America: We’re a nation of immigrants where everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect,” President Biden said at the ceremony. “The first Latina to become president of a national union … in the United States, she made a life better for thousands of farmworkers who put food on our tables — all of them. And protecting them from extreme heat, securing overtime pay, she shows us what it means to be a champion for dignity to work.”

Dr. Clarence B. Jones, a civil rights icon, attorney, and former speechwriter to Dr. Martin Luther King, was also honored that day. “Before today’s ceremony, Teresa Romero’s guest, farm worker Asunción Ponce, was introduced to other Presidential Medal of Freedom honorees,” UFW wrote in a tweet. “Civil rights legend Clarence Jones kissed Don Asunción’s hand after learning he had marched 335 miles for farm worker labor rights.” Asunción was among the farmworkers who launched the march from Delano to Sacramento to successfully urge Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign the Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act after a previous veto.

“UFW Pres. Teresa Romero is meeting with fellow Presidential Medal of Freedom honorees, including the remarkable Opal Lee,” the organization wrote in another post. In 1939, when Ms. Lee was 12, a mob of white supremacists burned down her family’s home. 85 years later, the civil rights leader won the land back. Ms. Lee was also instrumental in the movement to federally recognize Juneteenth. “An educator and activist, Opal Lee was key to making Juneteenth a widely celebrated holiday. Many UFW members negotiate the day off to join civic events.”

The White House further hailed Romero as “a champion for farmworkers across the fields, orchards, and vineyards of America who feed and fuel our nation. Born in Mexico, she has built an American life in service to others, standing up for one of our most vulnerable yet essential groups of workers and giving them the voice, hope, and inspiration to push for change.”

“With grace under fire, her fight for safe working conditions, fair pay, and a path to citizenship is bringing us closer to realizing the full promise of America as a nation of immigrants,” the White House continued. Congratulations to President Romero – ¡Si, se puede!


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