Remembering Legendary Organizer, Jessica Govea Thorbourne

Ten years ago Cornell and the Labor Movement lost a legendary organizer and teacher when Jessica Govea Thorbourne died.
Jessica Govea Thorbourne
Thursday, January 29, 2015

Jessica Govea Thorbourne was once a child farmworker and went on to be a legendary organizerThis year, we mark the 10th anniversary of the death of legendary organizer and Cornell extension faculty member Jessica Govea Thorbourne. Jessica worked in the fields at age 4, and went on to organize farmworkers with the United Farm Workers (UFW), working closely with Cesar Chavez. At the UFW, she directed crucial table grape boycotts in Canada that helped the union win one of its first contracts which ultimately lead to historic settlement with the industry.

Her work was also instrumental to exposing the dangers of pesticide exposure, which became a central part of the UFW's boycott strategy. In her final decades, Jessica worked as a labor educator at Cornell's extension offices in New York City, co-directing the 1199SEIU New York Leadership Development Campaign with The Worker Institute's Ken Margolies. Jessica died on January 23, 2005 at the age of 58 after a long, heroic battle with breast cancer. 

To learn more visit LA Times to read her obituary. We invite you to share your memories of her on Remembering Jessica Govea Thorbourne Facebook page.