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Olvera, Robert, Sr. (1933-2002) | Special Collections & Archives

Name: Olvera, Robert, Sr. (1933-2002)
Variant Name: Bobby

Historical Note:

Robert (Bobby) Joseph Olvera Sr. was a longshoreman for 38 years and Coast Committeeman of the Coast Labor Relations Committee from 1983 through 1989. The youngest of six surviving children, Bobby Olvera, Sr. was born January 3, 1933 in Bella Vista (West Pittsburg), California to Jose and Tomasa Olvera. After the death of his mother in 1937 and father in 1942, Bobby, his brother Gilbert, and his sister Stella were raised by their uncle Manuel Olvera and his wife Faye in Antioch. As a young boy, favorite past-times included Sea Scouts and raising homing pigeons. Following graduation from Antioch High School, Bobby Olvera Sr. served in the U.S. Navy from 1951 to 1954 on the USS Baltimore and USS Iowa during the Korean conflict. When he returned home, he began work as a longshoreman at the Port of Long Beach. In1968, Bobby Sr. married Georgia Crawford. Georgia’s father, Jack C. Crawford, following in his father John (Jack) Crawford’s footsteps as a longshoreman, encouraged Bobby’s involvement with the union.

Bobby Sr.’s work with the union began through the mentorship of Curt Johnston and election to the position of Night Business Agent in 1972, and again in 1973. A broken back from an accident on the job resulted in unemployment for four ½ years. After Olvera’s return, he ran for Day Business Agent in 1980, and as runner-up, served as Relief Business Agent. He was elected Day Business Agent in 1981 and again in 1982. Known as “The Bull Dog,” he won 13 straight arbitrations, some of which are still standing today. In 1983, Olvera moved his family from Cypress to Concord in northern California, when he was elected Coast Committeeman. Bobby Olvera Sr. suffered a stroke after by-pass surgery in 1989 and retired to the Stonebrook Heath Care Center in Concord where he died on July 13, 2002 at the age of 69.

Bobby Olvera Sr.’s marriage to Georgia lasted 34 years during which time his family grew to include two daughters; Stephanie Marie (Mrs. James Eiler), and Lori Denise Olvera; and two sons, Michael Dana Olvera and Robert Olvera, Jr. Robert (Bobby) Olvera Jr. was born on January 5, 1970 in Anaheim and began learning about the union at an early age through visits to the ILWU offices with his father after the family moved to northern California. A particularly memorable moment was his introduction to the legendary Harry Bridges. When his father was struck by illness, President Jimmy Herman took Bobby Jr. under his wing. After enlisting in the Marines in 1991 and later serving in the Reserves, Bobby Jr. returned to the waterfront where he was elected Night Business Agent, Relief Business Agent, and later, Trustee.

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