Labor leader, civil rights activist, co-founder of the United Farm Workers
"Dolores Huerta is an American labor leader and civil rights activist who was the co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers (UFW). Huerta helped organize the Delano grape strike in 1965 in California and was the lead negotiator in the workers’ contract that was created after the strike.
Huerta has received numerous awards for her community service and advocacy for workers', immigrants', and women's rights, including the Eugene V. Debs Foundation Outstanding American Award, the United States Presidential Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was inducted in the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1993, the first Latina inductee.
Huerta is the originator of the phrase, "Sí se puede". As a role model to many in the Latino community, Huerta is the subject of many corridos (ballads) and murals.
In 1955, Huerta helped Fred Ross start the Stockton Chapter of the Community Service Organization (CSO), which fought for economic improvements for Latinos. “As she assumed responsibilities and stance that were traditionally held by white males, Huerta encountered criticism based on both gender and ethnic stereotypes”.
In 1960, Huerta co-founded the Agricultural Workers Association, which set up voter registration drives and pressed local governments for barrio improvements. In 1962, she co-founded the National Farm Workers Association with César Chávez, which would later become the United Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee. In 1966, she negotiated a contract between the UFWOC and Schenley Wine Company, marking the first time that farm workers were able to effectively bargain with an agricultural enterprise.
The foundation was later changed to an affiliated agricultural workers organization. Through the organization, she helped champion for the rights of workers in agricultural fields to ensure they were well paid and worked in better conditions.
In 1965, Huerta directed the UFW's national boycott during the Delano grape strike, taking the plight of the farm workers to the consumers. She led the organization of boycotts advocating for consumer rights. The boycott resulted in the entire California table grape industry signing a three-year collective bargaining agreement with the United Farm Workers in 1970.
In addition to organizing, Huerta has been active in lobbying for laws to improve the lives of farm workers. The laws that she supported included the following:
1960 bill to permit Spanish-speaking people to take the California driver's examination in Spanish
1962 legislation repealing the Bracero Program
1963 legislation to extend the federal program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), to California farmworkers
The 1975 California Agricultural Labor Relations Act
As an advocate for farmworkers' rights, Huerta has been arrested twenty-two times for participating in non-violent civil disobedience activities and strikes. She remains active in progressive causes, and serves on the boards of People for the American Way, Consumer Federation of California, and Feminist Majority Foundation…
In September 1988, in front of the St. Francis Hotel in Union Square, Huerta was severely beaten by San Francisco Police officers during a peaceful and lawful protest of the policies/platform of then-candidate for president George H.W. Bush. The baton-beating caused significant internal injuries to her torso, resulting in several broken ribs and requiring the removal of her spleen in emergency surgery. The beating was caught on videotape and broadcast widely on local television news. Later, Huerta won a large judgment against the SFPD and the City of San Francisco for the attack, the proceeds of which she used for the benefit of farm workers. As a result of this assault and the suit, the SFPD was pressured to change its crowd control policies and its process of officer discipline.
Following a lengthy recovery, Huerta took a leave of absence from the union to focus on women’s rights. She traversed the country for two years on behalf of the Feminist Majority’s Feminization of Power: 50/50 by the year 2000 Campaign encouraging Latinas to run for office. The campaign resulted in a significant increase in the number of women representatives elected at the local, state and federal levels. She also served as National Chair of the 21st Century Party, founded in 1992 on the principles that women make up 52% of the party’s candidates and that officers must reflect the ethnic diversity of the nation.
Huerta was named one of the three most important women of the year in 1997 by Ms. magazine. She was an inaugural recipient of the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights from President Bill Clinton in 1998. That same year, Ladies' Home Journal recognized her as one of the '100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century', along with such women leaders as Mother Teresa, Margaret Thatcher, Rosa Parks, and Indira Gandhi.
She was awarded the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship in 2002… She received an honorary degree from Princeton University in recognition of her numerous achievements May 2006. She was lauded in the ceremony: "Through her insatiable hunger of justice —La Causa— and her tireless advocacy, she has devoted her life to creative, compassionate, and committed citizenship."
On May 18, 2007, she announced her endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president, and at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Huerta formally placed Clinton's name into nomination.
She was recognized in 2008 by United Neighborhood Centers of America with its highest individual honor, the Jane Addams Distinguished Leadership Award at its National Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. She was awarded the UCLA Medal, UCLA's highest honor, during the UCLA College of Letters and Science commencement ceremony on June 12, 2009.
In October 2010, Huerta was awarded an honorary degree by Mills College, who lauded her as "a lifetime champion of social justice whose courageous leadership garnered unprecedented national support from farmworkers, women, and underserved communities in a landmark quest for human and civil rights". The same month, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by University of the Pacific, which unveiled an official portrait of her for the Architects of Peace Project by artist Michael Collopy.
Huerta received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama on May 29, 2012. She is an Honorary Chair of Democratic Socialists of America and currently serves on the Board of Directors of Equality California.
Huerta was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters on May 20, 2017 by Mount Holyoke College, where she delivered the commencement address.
Four elementary schools in California; one school in Fort Worth, Texas; and a high school in Pueblo, Colorado, are named after Huerta. Pitzer College, in Claremont, California has a mural in front of Holden Hall dedicated to her. A middle school in the major agricultural city of Salinas, California, which has a dense population of farm workers, was named in 2014 after her. She was a speaker at the first and tenth Cesar Chavez Convocation. In 2013, Huerta received the annual Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, given by Jefferson Awards.
Huerta was an honorary co-chair of the Women's March on Washington on January 21, 2017, the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump as President." (1)