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Dolores Huerta: Si se puede (Yes, it can be done)

The UFW has often garnered the support of other unions, including the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, to advance its cause.

Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers (U.F.W.) with Cesar Chavez, was born April 10, 1930, in northern New Mexico. She has spent a lifetime in community activism. Her work with farm laborers, however, came out of teaching grammar school: “I couldn’t stand 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.”

Mexican migrant woman harvesting tomatoes.

In 1955, Huerta helped to found the Stockton, Cal., chapter of the Community Service Organization and, five years later, founded the Agricultural Workers Association before organizing the UFW with Chavez in 1962. Some of her early victories included lobbying for voting rights for Mexican Americans as well as for the right of every American to take the written driver’s test in a native language.
A champion of labor rights, women’s rights, racial equality and other civil rights causes, Huerta remains an unrelenting figure in the farm workers’ movement. She has led strikes of grape pickers, confronted the issue of a negligible female leadership in the UFW, and tackled sexual harassment among strawberry pickers.

Dolores Huerta rallies farm workers with a bullhorn on March 2, 1969.

Drawing the connection between labor rights and human rights, Huerta has not been content to focus solely on issues of labor. She has been a leading figure in the Chicano civil rights movement, traveling extensively to encourage Latina participation in government at the local grassroots level and in elective politics. She has also lent her voice and heart to many progressive causes over the last 50 years, ranging from environmental and economic justice organizing to anti-war mobilization. Huerta is a leader by example, and her attitude reflects the U.F.W. motto, “Si se puede.” Yes, it can be done.

 

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