A woman who has given everything she had to safeguard working and civil rights. PMP brings you the story of Dolores Huerta.
Last week, you saw 36-year old Vittorio Arrigoni, the Italian journalist who died in Palestine after stepping up for people’s rights as a human shield. This week, we bring you yet another influential and interesting activist: Dolores Huerta.
Why is she taking a place in PMP’s activism hall? Well, it is for a fact that her work is outstandingly unique. Originally known as Dolores Clara Fernandez, Dolores Huerta, aged 85, is a civil activist and labour leader, born in Dawson, New Mexico. She is famous for working with César Chavez in establishing and running United Farm Workers, which acted as a trade union for labour, guaranteeing workers’ civil rights in the United States.
Prior to this, she had been involved in the leadership of the Stockton Community Service Organization soon after her graduation from University of the Pacific’s Stockton College (known as San Joaquin Delta Community College today), where she earned a provisional teaching credential. Simultaneously, she pursued to fight against economic injustice, when she founded the Agricultural Workers Association, after leaving her job as a teacher. The Association served to further her work as an activist through lobbying politicians on many issues, including allowing non-US citizens in employment to receive public assistance and pensions, as well as creating revolutionary schemes in Spanish language-supported voting ballots and driver’s tests.
More than a leader
Indeed, being involved in numerous and incredible projects as such at such a young age shows true qualities of a leader. Being just a leader, however, was something that Ms Huerta could not settle for. It has reportedly been stated that her mother, Alicia, has been the main contributing factor drawing her closer to feminism, which in turn encouraged her to fight for human rights in the field of labour and civil rights exploitation.
Moreover, Dolores Huerta has been active throughout the decades, even in her later life and today. The foundation “Dolores Huerta Foundation” (DHF) exists in her name. The organisation was established in 2002, after Huerta received $100,000 (£ 64,000) in an award through Puffin/Nation Creative Citizenship. DHF exists to fight for grassroots community standards and has been active in the following six rural communities in California: Lamont, Arvin, Weedpatch, Woodlake, Cutler-Orosi, Tulare.
Huerta as a political activist
Huerta is responsible for helping a number of bills pass in California and federal levels. She has been highly politically active, lobbying in favour of laws such as the 1960 bill to permit people to take the California driver’s examination in Spanish (as previously mentioned), the1963 legislation on providing “Aid to Families with Dependent Children” to California farmworkers and the 1975 California “Agricultural Labour Relations Act”. Overall, she has helped to a large extend her community, but nevertheless, she has been arrested and beaten by the authorities several times, yet she won against the San Francisco Police Department and the City a large judgement after she got beaten up by the SFPD in 1988. All proceeds were used to fuel the war against civil and labour injustices.
Ms Huerta has been honoured in other occasions too. President Bill Clinton of the United States awarded her with the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights award in 1998, whereas she has received great distinctions and an honorary degree from Princeton University in 2006. Later on, President Barack Obama gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.
Obviously, these fancy titles have not been achieved out of nothing. Ms Dolores Huerta has worked hard and has defended civil and working rights to the end. Despite the fact that she reached privileged leading positions and has safeguarded her own standard of living, she never stopped the war and is still waging it for the interests of those who have been exploited.