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Dolores Huerta – Legendary civil rights leader who inspired farmworkers to believe ‘Si se puede’

Connie Wolfman

Tue Mar 07 2023 20:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Dolores Huerta – Legendary civil rights leader who inspired farmworkers to believe ‘Si se puede’

Dolores Huerta was the first Latina to be inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993. Her achievements in fighting for the rights of workers, immigrants, and womens span seven decades, and she is not finished yet! At 93 years of age, she continues her work through the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF), which she founded in 2003.

Huerta was raised by her mother, Alicia Chavez, in Stockton, California, following her parents’ divorce. Mrs. Chavez worked hard to become the successful owner of a restaurant and a 70-room hotel that catered to low-wage workers.

After graduating from college, Dolores briefly tried teaching; however, after observing many undernourished and barefoot students, she decided to take a different path. She found her calling as an organizer while serving in the leadership of the Stockton Community Service Organization (CSO). During that time, Dolores established the Agricultural Workers Association, and it was there that she met César Chávez. The two shared the common vision of organizing farm workers, so they resigned from the CSO and launched the National Farm Workers Association in 1962, which eventually became the United Farm Workers (UFW).

Proof of Dolores’s formidable lobbying and negotiating talents was first demonstrated in 1963 when she secured Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and disability insurance for farm workers in California. In 1965, Huerta took the plight of farm workers to consumers by directing the UFW’s Delano grape strike. An estimated 17 million people stopped buying grapes during that boycott, which resulted in the entire California table grape industry signing a three-year collective bargaining agreement with the UFW in 1970.

Huerta was also instrumental in the enactment of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975. This groundbreaking law granted farm workers in California the right to collectively organize and bargain for better wages and working conditions.

Huerta has been arrested twenty-two times for participating in nonviolent civil disobedience activities, and she once suffered a severe beating. In spite of hese hardships, Huerta’s commitment to civil rights has never wavered, and she has received countless awards for her dedication.
In 1998, Ladies' Home Journal recognized Huerta as one of the 100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century, along with Margaret Thatcher and Rosa Parks. In 2015, the Mexican government presented Huerta with its prestigious Ohtli Award to recognize her fight for fair employment practices for the Mexican community in the United States.

In 2012, Huerta was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. When President Obama placed the medallion around her neck, he told the audience that the memorable chant from his 2008 presidential campaign, “Yes We Can,” was borrowed from the farm workers’ famous motto, “Si se puede.”

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