Chris Schneider is ALRB’s new Regional Director in Visalia under the state agency’s Office of General Counsel.
Schneider never finished college. And he doesn’t have a law degree. But that doesn’t matter because he’s a UFW-certified legal activist.
Schneider’s relationship with the UFW goes back before most farmworkers were born.
Committed to “UFW struggle” since he was 12
Schneider told the Fresno Bee that he first learned of the “UFW struggle” when he was 12 years old.
Five years later, at age 17, he went to California to join the UFW. That was in 1973.
Schneider recalled having no higher purpose than organizing UFW
Schneider recalled a summer day in 1973, during his college years, when UFW organizer LeRoy Chatfield spoke to union volunteers. “He said he knew a lot of us would be leaving soon, heading back to college,” Schneider said.
“Ask yourselves this question,” Schneider quoted Chatfield as saying, “Can you think of anything more important to do with your lives right now than to help farmworkers build their union?”
Schneider thought about it: “I did and I couldn’t.”
From there, he would spend much of his professional life organizing for the UFW. Now he’s at the ALRB, the state agency responsible for unbiased treatment on behalf of farmworkers.
Schneider: Members of rival unions are “goons”
Schneider fought the Teamsters union, picketed for the UFW, organized boycotts of farmers, and worked through the Midwest to encourage people not to buy produce from farms the UFW hadn’t organized.
He worked for the UFW for 16 years, from 1973 to 1989. He served as At the urging of Cesar Chavez, he vowed to become a lawyer to promote the UFW’s cause. He was Chavez’s administrative assistant at the UFW’s headquarters in Kern County.
In the late 1970s Schneider was a UFW representative in Imperial Valley during the massive and violent vegetable strike.
Schneider has a word for union members who oppose the UFW. According to the Fresno Bee, he calls them “goons.”
Learned at the feet of UFW strike organizer Fred Ross, Sr.
The ALRB Visalia regional director-to-be told the Fresno Bee that learned at the feet of Fred Ross, Sr., a community organizer and colleague of Rules for Radicals author Saul Alinsky. Earlier, Ross had trained and mentored Cesar Chavez and the woman who claims to have co-founded the UFW, Dolores Huerta.
Ross’ son, Richie Ross, is now an influential lobbyist in Sacramento. His clients include the UFW, which calls him its “best ally.” Ross has close financial and personal relations to controversial ALRB board member Genevieve Shiroma.
Schneider got married at UFW headquarters, with Chavez as his best man
Chris Schneider fully integrated his life into the UFW.
When the time came to get married, he had the wedding at UFW headquarters.
Cesar Chavez was Schneider’s best man.
During the wedding ceremony, Cesar and Helen Chavez flanked Schneider and his wife.
Schneider is an attorney, but he didn’t go to law school.
Instead, he received his legal training from the UFW. The UFW has a legal activist education and training program to help its community organizers learn the law and get a degree. Schneider, like other legal activist-students, was what the UFW called an “apprentice.”
As a legal apprentice, Schneider represented the UFW before the ALRB, according to the Fresno Bee.
Schneider’s LinkedIn page shows he was part of the AFL-CIO Legal Department Legal Apprenticeship Program.
Deep devotion to UFW endures
Schneider’s deep devotion to the UFW didn’t fade over the years. In a 2011 eulogy of sorts for a deceased friend named Richard, Schneider recalled,
During our years at La Paz we had the opportunity to get to know him well. We have many fond memories of him but one that stands out is from Magdalena’s and my wedding dinner in La Paz. As we were preparing for the toast I picked up a bottle of champagne and popped the cork. Champagne came spurting out and I turned to avoid spraying people sitting at the table in front of me. In doing so I managed to drench Cesar, who was standing next to me to make the toast, with the champagne. He didn’t appear too pleased. Richard came running up, took the microphone and told Cesar, and all in attendance that in Mexico it is believed that spilling champagne on someone at a wedding reception was good luck and a sign of a long marriage. I didn’t know if he was making that up on the spot or it really was folklore. Either way, Cesar laughed and then went ahead and made the toast.
Que viva Richard! Que viva la causa!
From UFW organizer to a six-figure salary
After leaving the UFW in 1989, Schneider worked for California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) as its executive director for four years. He was president of Legal Aid Association of California for five years.
He became president of Central California Legal Services (CCLS) headquarters in Fresno. He remained at the nonprofit for until his recent retirement, earning a $122,000 annual salary.
Schneider’s Facebook friends include Fred Ross, Jr., the UFW lobbyist and son of the community organizer; UFW Vice-President-for-life Irv Hershenbaum, on the payroll since 1975; UFW General Counsel Marc Grossman, and more.
ALRB, in tatters, calls Schneider to the rescue
The ALRB by that time had become a basket case. It was a demoralized, bloated, dysfunctional agency, accused of conflicts of interests and ethics violations. Afraid of public scrutiny, ALRB had become more secretive than ever.
Though ALRB is mandated by law to be an impartial advocate of farmworkers without regard to union membership, the ALRB seemed devoted to only one thing: Grinding down farmworkers who opposed the UFW.
Schneider’s retirement was perfect.
In September, ALRB quietly re-hired its former Visalia Regional Director, Silas Shawver, as its new Deputy General Counsel.
ALRB then called Schneider out of retirement to serve as its Regional Director in Visalia – the same office that has worked for years to smash Gerawan workers’ resistance to a forced UFW contract.
Schneider’s name appeared on ALRB’s public personnel directory on October 27, the morning his appointment was announced.
However, ALRB is still keeping Deputy General Counsel Silas Shawver’s name off the public list.