Wyman honoring farm labor leader Tomas Villanueva Jan. 28

News Release
Issued: January 24, 2014

OLYMPIA...Tomas Villanueva, the longtime champion of human rights and social justice for Washington farm workers and their families going back nearly a half-century, is being honored Jan. 28 in Seattle by Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Legacy Washington.

The event honoring Villanueva starts at 2:30 p.m. in the Dining Room of the Sea Mar, Community Health Centers' Administrative Office, 1040 S. Henderson St. in Seattle.

Villanueva is featured in an exhibit in the Office of Secretary of State's front lobby in the Legislative Building in Olympia."Grand Coulee to Grunge: Eight stories that changed the world," is a free, privately funded exhibit recounting Washington feats in business, science, technology and music with influence around the globe. Created by the office's Legacy Washington team, the exhibit is on display in the Capitol until September and then will be shown around the state. The exhibit is available online at: http://www.sos.wa.gov/heritage/coulee-to-grunge/.

When the exhibit was launched last September in Olympia, Villanueva was unable to attend the event. Wyman said the Jan. 28 event is a way to recognize and honor the farm labor leader in person.

"Tomas Villanueva has had an enormous impact on the lives of farm workers throughout our state," Wyman said."He was a true leader for social justice and human rights, and he helped make Washington's agricultural industry more humane. We look forward to honoring him in Seattle since he couldn't be part of the exhibit launch."

Wyman will present Villanueva with a certificate of appreciation for his efforts on behalf of Washington's farm workers.

Villanueva was14 when his family immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico. After following the crops for three years, his family settled in Toppenish in 1958.

Hearing about Cesar Chavez's United Farm Workers movement, Villanueva and fellow Yakima Valley College student Lupe Gamboa traveled to California in 1967 to learn about organizing farm workers. Villanueva and Gamboa later founded the United Farm Worker Cooperative, which may have been the first activist Chicano organization in Washington.

From 1967 to 1974, Villanueva devoted himself to organize farm workers and Chicano movement activism. His efforts led to the creation of the Yakima Valley Farmworkers Clinic and the United Farm Workers Service Center. In 1986, Villanueva became the first president of the newly formed United Farm Workers of Washington State. In 2006, he unsuccessfully ran as a Democrat for the State Senate's 15th District seat.