Rosalinda Guillen was born in Texas, grew up in Mexico, and moved to Washington State with her family at age 10 in 1960, working as part of the migrant farm labor community in the northwest for much of the next decade. She then worked at Skagit State Bank for 16 years, but quit only four years before she was eligible to retire in order to organize farm labor for the United Farm Workers (UFW).
Guillen’s training as a community organizer came from being recruited by the Rainbow Coalition to mobilize support in Washington State for Rev. Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential campaign. It was through that work that she learned about farm workers who were organizing at Chateau Ste. Michelle, Washington’s largest winery, and got so involved that she became one of the campaign’s lead organizers. From from Fall of 1993 to December 5, 1995, she ran the grassroots worker organizing campaign, which resulted in the first union contract for farm workers in Washington state.
Following that victory, Guillen went on to serve in a number of high-level UFW organizing jobs, including the coordinator of a strawberry-picker organizing drive in California’s Salinas Valley, and the national organization’s Northwest Regional Director, Policy Director, Executive Board Member, and finally National Vice-President. Following her work for the UFW, she served as the Executive Director of La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), a non-profit organization founded by Ceasar Chavez.
Currently, Guillen serves as the Affirmative Action Chair of the Whatcom County Democrats, and is the co-founder of and Executive Director for Community to Community Development (C2C), a “a place-based, grassroots organization committed to creating alliances in order to strengthen local and global movements towards social, economic and environmental justice” in Bellingham, Washington.
Rosalinda Guillen agreed to share her memories of the Chateau Ste. Michelle organizing drive in a videotaped interview conducted by Sharon Walker and Sarah Laslett on March 12, 2004. A transcript of the interview is available at the United Farm Workers of Washington State History Project, sponsored by the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies. Video editing by Michael Schulze-Oechtering. Work on this interview was made possible by a grant from 4Culture/King County Lodging Tax.