By Duane E. Campbell
Dolores Huerta will celebrate her 80th. birthday with activism.
Dolores, along with Cesar Chavez, Philip Vera Cruz and others created the United Farm Workers union, the first successful union of farm workers in U.S. history.
Each of the prior attempts to organize farm worker unions were destroyed by racism and corporate power. Huerta and Chavez chose to build a union that incorporated the strategies of social movements and community organizing and allied itself with the churches, students, and organized labor.
Dolores was long the Vice President of the UFW and the chief negotiator of contracts as well as the primary advocate for farm worker rights in the legislature. The successful creation of the UFW changed the nature of labor organizing in the Southwest and contributed significantly to the growth of Latino politics in the U.S. Dolores was recruited into DSOC ( predecessor of DSA) by Michael Harrington.
Today Mexican, Mexican American and Puerto Rican union leadership is common in our major cities and in several industries. Hundreds of activists in labor, community organizing and politics owe their skills to UFW training and experience. Training this cadre of organizers remains a major legacy of the UFW.
Dolores Huerta continues her important education and organizing work today. She is the President of the Dolores Huerta foundation a 501(c)(3) “non-profit organization whose mission is to build active communities working for fair and equal access to health care, housing, education, jobs, civic participation and economic resources for disadvantaged communities with an emphasis on women and youth.” The foundation was started with funds received after she was assaulted and severely injured by police during an anti war demonstration in San Francisco.
Dolores has long been known for her political activism. She serves on the board of People for the American Way and the Feminist Majority Foundation as well as active within the Democratic Party. She speaks frequently at colleges, universities, and high schools providing inspirational speaker from a Latina activist, feminist perspective to all, particularly to young women in school and community groups. She is a recognized leader in civil rights and immigration issues. Shown here during a speaking engagement at Cal. State U. Sacramento. Dolores openly acknowledges her socialism in her speeches.
Being a socialist has some down sides. In March of this year the Texas Board of Education held hearings and adopted over protest new History /Social Studies guidelines moving the textbook selection process of Texas significantly to the right. According to testimony by board members, Dolores Huerta was a target of exclusion in the Texas version of history because she is a known socialist- a member of Democratic Socialists of America.
Duane Campbell is a Professor of Bilingual/Multicultural Education at Calif. State University-Sacramento (emeritus) and the author of Choosing Democracy; a practical guide to multicultural education. 4th. edition. (Allyn and Bacon, 2010.)