History knows Dolores Huerta (b. 1930) as a powerful union organizer, Chicana civil rights leader, and feminist activist. In the 1960s, Dolores Huerta, along with César Chávez, united Mexican, Mexican-American and Filipino farmworkers and founded the United Farmworker Union (UFW) in central California. Huerta led the struggle to organize exploited migrant farmworkers who worked in abysmal conditions in agricultural fields and who had little to no access to running water or restrooms while doing the backbreaking labor of harvesting food for the nation and earning unjust low pay. She helped orchestrate one of the most successful worker’s rights victories in history.
For over fifty years Huerta has possessed an expansive understanding of equality. In her support of Familia es Familia, a community conversation about gay rights, Huerta explains, “I’ve spent my life championing both civil rights and labor causes” and getting to know diverse perspectives; I’ve come to see that the struggles gay people face are intertwined with my own struggles. On a practical level, the gay community was key in my work with the farm workers’ movement, from organizing to striking. The farm workers, in turn, have shown their support by marching in gay pride marches and carrying pride flags to display their support. On a deeper level, this work has shown me that when we talk about workers’ rights, women’s rights, and civil rights, we are having the same conversation about human rights – and the universal struggle to be understood and treated as equals” (Huerta, “Supporting Our Gay Loved Ones”).
Watch: A Crushing Love (2009)
In 2002, Huerta received the Puffin/Nation $100,000 prize for Creative Citizenship and used it to establish the Dolores Huerta Foundation for grassroots community organizing in 2003. Through the foundation Huerta continues to support non-violent civil rights movement in support of undocumented Dreamers, workers, and youth development.
For her long-time commitment to social justice, Huerta has been awarded Eugene V. Debs Foundation Outstanding American Award, the United States Presidential Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights (1998) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom
Photo Credits: T. Murphy “Dolores Huerta Mural by Yreina Cervántez” Wikimedia Commons
Mario Garcia, Delores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers (2008)
Margaret Rose, “Dolores Huerta: The United Farm Workers Union,” Human Tradition in American Labor History (2004)