2019 Environmental Heroes

Rosalinda Guillén 
Farmworker justice leader and food system activist 

Rosalinda Guillén is a widely recognized farmworker justice leader working to promote food sovereignty, immigration reform, and farmworker rights in Northwest Washington. As the founding executive director of Community to Community Development (C2C), a grassroots organization led by women of color, she and her team work to strengthen local and global movements toward social and environmental justice, amplifying the voices of farmworkers on immigration issues, labor rights, and trade agreements. She also works to strengthen cross-border alliances for immigration reform and fair agricultural policies.

The oldest of eight children, Rosalinda was born in Texas and grew up in Coahuila, Mexico. When her family immigrated to Washington State in 1960, she began working in the fields of Skagit County at the age of ten. 
In 1995, Rosalinda won the first-ever farmworkers’ collective bargaining agreement in the state of Washington with Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery without the support of a union — a sweeping and historic feat. Shortly thereafter, she joined the staff of Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers of America (UFW), in 1999 she was elected as a National Vice President leading the union’s political and legislative agenda.

Rosalinda also co-founded the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, a coalition of food justice, anti-hunger, labor, environmental, faith-based, and food producer groups working to end poverty, rebuild local food economies, and assert democratic control over the food system.

Rosalinda’s ultimate goal is for people to eat food that is healthy for the people who grow, harvest, and eat it, as well as for their communities and for the planet as a whole.

Rachel Vasak
Salmon steward and community builder

Rachel Vasak has devoted the last 23 years of her life to restoring salmon runs and supporting thriving salmon populations across Whatcom County. Her family’s involvement in the budding organic farming movement, from their small cabin near Walla Walla, planted a seed of devotion for the natural world. She began her work as a volunteer restoring salmon habitat in Schell Creek in Ferndale, while attending Western Washington University. 

Two decades later, she is the executive director of Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA), a volunteer-powered organization dedicated to restoring sustainable wild salmon runs in Whatcom County. NSEA is one of Washington State’s Regional Fisheries Enhancement Groups, a network of 14 nonprofits created by the state Legislature to promote salmon recovery. Since 1991, the association has completed over 400 restoration projects. 

As the executive director, Rachel works directly with community leaders, salmon recovery partners, and community members to find collaborative solutions for healthy creeks that support salmon runs. 

NSEA has opened more than 59 miles of habitat to salmon. Their education programs have deep roots in area schools, and have reached close to 17,000 students over the years. Through their community work parties, over 20,000 volunteers have planted close to 150,000 native trees and shrubs along local creeks. 

Rachel believes that everyone who lives near the Salish Sea should be able to see salmon in our local creeks, and that salmon are both symbolic of what we love, and a barometer of the health of Whatcom County.

Steve Garey
Labor rights advocate and clean energy champion

Steve Garey is a bridge builder between labor and environmental interests in Washington’s transition to clean energy. The son of a logger, he spent his youth in mill towns across western Washington. His jobs in logging and milling paid his way through college at the University of Washington. After becoming a journeyman machinist, he worked for Shell and Tesoro for 24 years. During that time, he became the President of United Steelworkers union of Mount Vernon, where he represented the refinery, chemical, and maintenance workers of Shell, Tesoro, ChemTrade, Par Pacific, and PM Northwest.

Since retiring in 2015, Steve now advocates for prohibiting the export of crude oil from Northwest refineries to support production jobs and protect the environment. He serves on the executive committee of the Washington BlueGreen Alliance, an organization that unites labor unions and environmental organizations to solve environmental challenges in ways that support quality jobs. As a steering committee member of the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy — the largest coalition in Washington history working for economic strength, community health, and fighting climate change — Steve was instrumental in producing and advocating for the Protect Washington Act (Initiative 1631). Locally, Steve plays a key role in advocating for a triple bottom line for Bellingham’s waterfront redevelopment. He has continually advocated for Whatcom County code amendments that protect the cultural and ecological value of Cherry Point, and support existing refinery jobs.

Steve and his family are determined to do what they can to protect a world that is safe, healthy, and prosperous for all.