Farmworker leader Lucas Benitez to receive Wallenberg Medal

October 2, 2023


DATE: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10

EVENT: The University of Michigan will award the Wallenberg Medal to Lucas Benitez, a co-founder of the Florida-based labor and human rights organization the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and a key organizational leader and member of the CIW’s Fair Food Program worker education team.

In his Wallenberg Medal lecture, Benitez will discuss “The Fight for Fair Food and the Future of Worker-driven Social Responsibility.”

Benitez played a critical role in the investigation of several trafficking and slave labor cases, helping to free more than 700 farmworkers in one case alone. On behalf of the Fair Food Program, he traveled to the White House to accept the 2015 Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons.

He has won numerous national and international awards, including the Rolling Stone Magazine Brick Award for “America’s Best Young Community Leader,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award, and, along with two co-workers, the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.

The Wallenberg Medal and Lecture honors the legacy of Raoul Wallenberg who graduated from U-M’s College of Architecture in 1935 and saved the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews near the end of World War II. In 1944, at the request of Jewish organizations and the American War Refugee Board, the Swedish Foreign Ministry sent Wallenberg on a rescue mission to Budapest.

Over the course of six months, Wallenberg issued thousands of protective passports and placed many thousands of Jews in safe houses throughout the besieged city. He confronted Hungarian and German forces to secure the release of Jews, whom he claimed were under Swedish protection, and saved more than 80,000 lives.

Administered by the university’s Donia Human Rights Center, U-M awards the Wallenberg Medal to those who, through their actions and personal commitment, perpetuate Wallenberg’s extraordinary accomplishments and human values, and demonstrate the capacity of the human spirit to stand up for the helpless, to defend the integrity of the powerless, and to speak out on behalf of the voiceless.

PLACE: Rackham Auditorium, 915 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor

INFORMATION: The Wallenberg Medal and Lecture ceremony is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required. Send inquiries about the event and requests for event accessibility accommodations to or call 734-936-3973.

SPONSOR: The Wallenberg Medal and Lecture is supported by the Wallenberg Endowment, which was established in 1985.