By Mary Kay Henry
The SEIU family has lost a true warrior for workers. Roberto De La Cruz helped transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of working people during his fifty years in the labor movement, including twenty with SEIU.
I hope you will help honor his legacy by sharing your memories and reflections in the comments below.
Bobby was a driving force in organizing farmworkers, playing a key role in the national grape boycott and serving on the executive board of the United Farm Workers. At SEIU, he worked in the Western Region helping janitors, home care workers, public service workers, and many others unite and win. He was a passionate advocate for immigrant workers, playing key roles for SEIU in the Fast for Families on the national mall in 2013 and the 20th Anniversary March from Selma to Montgomery in 2015 that brought together the civil rights and immigrant rights movements.
I loved Bobby De La Cruz. I worked alongside him for many years in our California work for SEIU. Eliseo Medina recruited him to work in the post-Pete Wilson days to advance the rights and protections for immigrants and their families. I got to work with him on the Southern California Hospital organizing campaign. SEIU remembers Roberto’s gifted organizing and all the ways he transformed our union by backing the fearlessness and courage of workers who wanted to join together in Unions.
I could always count on Bobby getting the job done—he never let any obstacle deter him from his goal. When we were organizing CHW hospitals in Bakersfield, Bobby came to help GOTV for the Union election. His go-to, get-it-done spirit was infectious for the beleaguered Organizing crew. The housecalling had been hard for the Black, Brown, and white organizers who had been run off front steps of houses because of race and/or because of our Union shirts. He helped organizers understand what was happening in Bakersfield and what was different from the LA organizing they had been doing. He told his stories from UFW organizing and shared an analysis of the power structure. He conveyed a deep love for the people of the Central Valley and insisted the Union movement had to dig in and build power for the long haul. These lessons would occur over lots of food at the end of 12-15 hour days. Bobby was a serious organizer who knew that we fueled one another to keep going against the odds stacked against workers.
Roberto never gave up when the path was not clear—he made a way out of no way. This was my first thought when I heard of Roberto’s death. In all our work, he was constantly finding someone who knew someone who could get done what we needed. He would find the shortcut that you didn’t know existed to get to the event on time. He would magically (through a lot of blood and sweat) organize a Fast for Immigration or a Worker March for Justice to City Hall — whatever it took, he found a way.
I’m a better organizer because I was blessed to work with Roberto De La Cruz. He was very proud when his son, Arnulfo, joined the Hospital Organizing team and was doubly proud when he became a grandpa. My heart goes out to the whole De La Cruz family.
The 2 million members of SEIU and millions more fighting for Unions send our love and solidarity to the De La Cruz family.
Roberto De La Cruz – Presente!