Farm Workers Credit Union

Farm Workers Credit Union

Julio and Fina Hernández talking with others at the credit union office, Delano, 1966. Photo by Emmon Clarke

Established in 1963, the Farm Workers Credit Union (FWCU), was an entirely new program that rose out of the Farm Workers Association (FWA). César Chávez was confident that all cooperatives and credit unions could empower people. The idea for a credit union was born out of his and his wife Helen’s experiences with the Community Service Organization. César’s brother Richard Chávez had learned to build houses, building himself one. César used Richard’s home as collateral, securing $3,500 to help start the credit union; there were already 7 members and $35 in savings.

The FWCU provided farmworkers with services that they may not have otherwise had access to a safe place to store their money and for a one-time payment of 25 cents, an account where they were not charged membership or late fees, and access to small, low-interest personal loans for medical bills, auto repairs, household appliances, weddings, funerals, etc. Furthermore, farmworkers had access to life insurance, to loan protections in the event of a premature death or loss of employment, and compensation to beneficiaries.

Ultimately, the FWCU proved successful, due to the efforts of people like Helen Chávez, who was its manager, and of Julio Hernández, who served as its president. By 1969, six years after its founding and three years into the Delano Grape Strike, the FWCU boasted that it had loaned $183,000 to 874 members.

Helen Chávez being interviewed by Sam Kushner, Delano, 1967

Helen Chávez opens an accounting book during an interview. She was the manager of the Farm Workers Credit Union. Delano, California, 1967. Photo by Emmon Clarke

Richard Chávez, Delano, California, 1968

Richard Chávez, Delano, California, 1968. Photo by John Kouns


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