Dolores Huerta : biography
Dolores Clara Fernandez Huerta (born April 10, 1930) is a labor leader and civil rights activist who, along with César Chávez, co-founded the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers (UFW). Huerta has received numerous awards for her community service and advocacy for workers', immigrants', and womens' 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. As a role model to many in the Latin community, Huerta is the subject of many corridos (ballads) and murals.
Dolores' married in college to Ralph Head, during their marriage they had two daughters, Celeste and Lori. After divorcing Head, Huerta married Ventura Huerta with whom she had five children. But their marriage ended over disagreements over many issues including her community involvements. Later Huerta had a long term romantic relationship with Richard Chavez, the brother of Cesar Chavez. Huerta and Chavez never married, but the couple had four children during their relationship. Richard Chavez died on July 27, 2011. Huerta has been married and divorced twice, and has eleven children.
Career as an activist
In 1955, Huerta co-founded the Stockton chapter of the Community Service Organization, (CSO) and in 1960 co-founded the Agricultural Workers Association which set up voter registration drives and pressed local governments for barrio improvements. In 1962, she co-founded the National Farm Workers Association with César Chávez, which would later become the Unit's Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee. In 1966, she negotiated a contract between the UFWOC and Schenley Wine Company, marking the first time that farm workers were able to effectively bargain with an agricultural enterprise. Through her work with the CSO Dolores met Cesar Chavez the Executive Director of the CSO. The two soon both realize the need to organize farm workers. In 1962, after the CSO turned down Cesar's request, as their president, to organize farm workers, Cesar and Dolores resigned from the CSO. With Cesar Chavez she co-founded the National Farm Workers Association which would later merge with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee to become the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee. Dolores' organizing skills were essential to the growth of this budding organization.
In 1965, Huerta directed the UFW's national boycott during the Delano grape strike, taking the plight of the farm workers to the consumers. The boycott resulted in the entire California table grape industry signing a three-year collective bargaining agreement with the United Farm Workers in 1970.
In addition to organizing she has been highly politically active, lobbying in favor of (and against) numerous California and federal laws. The laws that she supported included the following:
- 1960 bill to permit people to take the California driver's examination in Spanish
- 1962 legislation repealing the Bracero Program
- 1963 legislation to extend Aid to Families with Dependent Children to California farmworkers
- The 1975 California Agricultural Labor Relations Act
As an advocate for farmworkers' rights, Huerta has been arrested twenty-two times for participating in non-violent civil disobedience activities and strikes. She remains active in progressive causes, and serves on the boards of People for the American Way, Consumer Federation of California, and Feminist Majority Foundation.
On June 5, 1968, Huerta stood beside Robert F. Kennedy on a speaker's platform at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles as he delivered a victory statement to his political supporters shortly after winning the California Democratic presidential primary election. Only moments after the candidate finished his speech, Huerta was a safe distance behind Kennedy as he and five other people were wounded by gunfire inside the hotel's kitchen pantry. Only 15 min before the shooting, Huerta had walked through that pantry alongside the US Senator from New York while Kennedy was on his way to deliver his victory speech. Kennedy died from his gunshot wounds on June 6.
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