Dolores Huerta • 2022 Honoree
Co-founder of the United Farm Workers Association, Dolores Clara Fernandez Huerta is one of the most influential labor activists of the 20th century and a leader of the Chicano civil rights movement. Despite ethnic and gender bias, Huerta helped organize the 1965 Delano strike of 5,000 grape workers Later Huerta worked as a lobbyist to improve workers’ legislative representation. During the 1990s and 2000s, she worked to elect more Latinos and women to political office and has championed women’s issues.
BY Natalie Monarrez, comedian, activist, Amazon Labor Union organizer
Dolores Clara Fernandez Huerta is an American labor leader, civil rights activist, and co-founder of the United Farm Workers (UFW). Her community activism began as a student, in numerous school clubs, and as a dedicated member of the Girl Scouts. After teaching elementary school, she left her job in the 1950s, and began her lifelong crusade to correct economic injustice. She said, “I couldn’t tolerate seeing kids come to class hungry and needing shoes. I thought I could do more by organizing farm workers, than by trying to teach their hungry children.”
She helped organize the Delano Grape Strike in 1965, in California, and was the lead negotiator in their workers’ contract. In 1966, she also negotiated a contract between the UFWOC and Schenley Wine Company. As a lobbyist, she supported legislature including: the 1960 bill to permit people to take the California driver’s exam in Spanish, the 1963 extension of Aid to Families with Dependent Children ( AFDC ), and the 1975 California Agricultural Labor Relations Act. In 1972, she coined the popular phrase, “Si se puede” ( Yes we can ). During the 1970s and 80s, she campaigned to reduce and ban hazardous chemicals from grape and lettuce ranches. In the 1990s and 2000s, she supported many women and Latinos that were elected to political office, and formally placed Hillary Clinton’s name into nomination at the DNC, in 2008. She serves on the Boards of People for the American Way, Consumer Federation of California, and Feminist Majority Foundation. She is the President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, which she founded in 2002, focusing on leadership, community service, and civic engagement.
Dolores Huerta has received about 15 honorary doctorates, as well as 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 the first Latina inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, in 1993. In California and Washington, April 10th is “Dolores Huerta Day”.
She defines a feminist as someone “who supports a woman’s reproductive rights, who supports a woman’s right to an abortion, who supports LGBTQ rights, who supports workers and labor unions, somebody who cares about the environment, who cares about civil rights and equality and equity in terms of our economic system.” She also believes that education and celebrating contributions of people of color is key to building a better future. My favorite Dolores Huerta quote is, “Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world.”
Thank you, Señora Dolores Huerta, for helping so many people and inspiring generations to make this world a better place, for everyone. Congratulations for being an honoree of the 2022 Clara Lemlich Awards for Social Justice!