The co-founder and first Vice President Emeritus of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), Dolores C. Huerta has long worked to radicalize migrant farmworkers. She is a Board member of the Democratic Socialists of America
(DSA), Feminist Majority
, Latinas for Choice, the Center for Voting and Democracy, and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
Huerta was born April 10, 1930 in Dawson, New Mexico, where her father worked as a miner, field worker, union activist, and State Assemblyman. Her parents divorced when she was three years old, and she was raised thereafter by her mother, Alicia Chavez, along with her two brothers and two sisters, in Stockton, California. Huerta’s mother was a successful businesswoman who owned a restaurant and a large hotel
As a young adult, Huerta taught school (though she had never earned an education degree) until 1955, when, as a single mother of seven children (she now has eleven), she launched her career as a political activist. She co-founded the Stockton, California chapter of the Community Service Organization (CSO), a “voters’ rights” organization. While there, she met labor radical Cesar Chavez and founded the Agricultural Workers Association. In 1962 Chavez and Huerta split from CSO when it would not make the unionization of farmworkers a high priority, and they created the National Farm Workers Association, predecessor to UFW.
While the fledging CSO was working to organize laborers and lobby for welfare payments to migrants, the Filipino grape-pickers of the San Joaquin Valley went on strike. Huerta and Chavez joined with what eventually became known as the five-year Delano Grape Strike. As Huerta negotiated with the wine-growers, she picked up the nickname “Dragon Lady."
Huerta has acknowledged that when she was a young woman, her busy activist career caused her to be an absentee mother who ignored her parental responsibilities while she pursued Marxist causes.
Driven by a belief that true democracy can only be achieved through a redistribution of wealth, Huerta has been imprisoned more than twenty times as a result of her participation in various protests.
In a 2002 interview, she stated, “I think organized labor is a necessary part of democracy. Organized labor is the only way to have fair distribution of wealth; it helps create a middle class. Without a middle class, there would be no democracy.”
Huerta enjoined her labor organizing to gender equity after meeting Gloria Steinem
in the 1970s. In a 1973 interview with The Nation
on sexism in the labor movement, Huerta stated: “I really believe what the feminists stand for. . . . Excluding women, protecting them, keeping women at home, that’s the middle class way.”
Huerta has actively opposed America's post-9/11 War on Terrorism, which she believes is really a war on immigrants. Accusing President Bush of possessing a “cowboy mentality,” she told WarTimes.org in 2003 that the U.S. had trained both the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, whom it was now fighting to depose. “It’s always been a part of U.S. foreign policy to first put a dictator in power and then to get rid of him,” said Huerta.
In September 2003, less than a month before losing his job as California Governor in a recall election, Gray Davis appointed Huerta to fill the remainder of a term on the University of California Board of Regents, the governing body for the UC system. The appointment came just days after Davis had signed legislation to give drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens. Earlier in the year, he had also signed an extensive farmworkers’ bill for which Huerta had agitated.
When fellow UC Regent Ward Connerly proposed that the University of California should end its practice of offering preferential admission to minority students, Huerta -- joined by Jesse Jackson -- led a raucous protest in opposition to Connerly.
Although most of Huerta's biographies indicate that she received a college degree from Delta Community College, the San Francisco Chronicle
has revealed that she actually “fell a few units short of her degree.” She never returned to campus except to collect honorary degrees, conduct radical activism workshops, and give commencement speeches.
In April 2006, Huerta was invited to speak at Tucson High Magnet School in Arizona, ostensibly "to inspire students" who were preparing for crucial examinations. During her speech, she exhorted the youngsters to march in protest of federal lawmakers' efforts to put an end to illegal immigration, and twice stated that "Republicans hate Latinos."
At the same event, Huerta said
Does that sound like the bio of somebody who warrants the highest US civilian award? At least they didn't name a ship after her...
Responding to critics of illegal immigration, Huerta says
: "We didn't cross the [U.S.-Mexico] border; the border crossed us."
Huerta has told
illegal-alien farmoworkers, "You deserve to get paid every dollar you earn and have safe housing and transportation." Moreover, she has advised
illegals who feel they have been underpaid, to call the U.S. Department of Labor. "The call is free and confidential," she assured
On May 18, 2007, Huerta announced her endorsment of Hillary Clinton
for U.S. President.
Huerta is an honorary chair of the Democratic Socialists of America. In 2006 she praised
the socialist dictator Hugo Chavez for his policies in Venezuela and then asked, “Why can’t we do that here in the United States?”
Also in 2006, Huerta said
: "Our tema, our theme will be: Republicans hate Latinos, OK? Republicans hate Latinos."
In March 2012, Huerta was publicly lauded
by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis for her actions alongside the late communist activist Cesar Chavez. Solis called Huerta "one of the living legends of the farm worker movement."
In May 2012, Huerta was awarded
the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a civilian can receive, by President Barack Obama.