Femme History: Dolores Huerta
Dolores Huerta is an American labor leader and civil rights activist. In 1962 she co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, now known as the United Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee. Huerta started her career as a grammar school teacher but left teaching to focus her efforts on correcting economic justice. “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.”
In 1965 she directed the United Farm Worker’s (UFW) national boycott during the Delano grape strike, by taking the plight of the farmers to the consumers, she made it not only a workers issue but also a consumer rights issue. Resulting in the entire California table grape industry signing a collective bargaining agreement with the UFW in 1970.
Huerta successfully lobbied for several state and federal laws to expand inclusion and economic support. Including a 1960 California bill allowing people to take California’s driver’s examination in Spanish. 1963 legislation to extend aid to families with dependent children to California farmworkers, and the 1975 California Agricultural Labor Relations Act.
In September of 1988, during a peaceful and lawful protest of the policies/platform of then-candidate for president George H. W. Bush, Huerta was severely beaten by San Francisco Police Officers. The beating was caught on videotape and was broadcast, resulting in a large judgement against the SFPD and the city, the proceeds of which she used to benefit farm workers. Furthermore the assault is credited with starting a movement to change SFPD crowd control policies as well as the manner in which officer discipline is handled.
Following her recovery, she took a leave of absence from the union to focus on women’s rights. She travelled 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.
She was an inaugural recipient of the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights from President Clinton in 1998. In May of 2012 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama.