Cynthia A. Rodrigues
Cushing-Gavin Award Recipient
Labor Award, 2017
Cynthia Rodrigues is currently the President of the Greater Southeastern Massachusetts Labor Council representing UNITE HERE.
Ms. Rodrigues’ lifelong commitment to the union movement began in her youth, when at 16 years old she began working in Fall River’s garment industry as a Machine Operator for San-toro Manufacturing Company, and later as a Chief Steward at the Domani Manufacturing Company. Although both of these clothing mills were unionized when Ms. Rodrigues began her career, she became active as a Volunteer Organizer for her union, the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union, because she could see that unions were helping people. Her skills and empathy with her co-workers—largely immigrant women— and a fair, reasonable, but tough persona with management resolved many shop floor issues for both the union and management. Her integrity, competence and demeanor were soon recognized, and Cindy rose through the ranks of ACTWU (now UNITE-HERE) from steward to business agent.
In 1981, she worked as a Staff Member for the Grant Program, UNITE-HERE, AFL-CIO New England States, where she established ESOL classes in union shops throughout New England. She was hired as an International Representative for UNITE-HERE in 1982, where she was responsible for servicing and enforcing collective bargaining agreements for over
1500 members across New England. During those 22 years she served as the Business Agent for her union—one of the first women business agents on the New England Region Joint Board. She continued to work as a union organizer, political action activist, and legislative lobbyist until she accepted early “retirement” from
UNITE HERE in 2005; however, she has never retired from the work of a union organizer and labor activist.
From 1990 to present, she has served as Chairperson, Steering Committee and an Advisory Board Member with the University of Massachusetts/Dartmouth Labor Education Center; Secretary-Treasurer of New Bedford/Cape Cod Labor Council; President, Greater Southeastern Massachusetts Labor Council; Vice President, Massachusetts AFL-CIO-Boston, representing Southeastern Massachusetts.
Ms. Rodrigues lives by the motto, “Never forget where you come from. Always remember where you gotta go.”
It is in her blood to go with her Union.