Dolores Huerta

American labor leader

Dolores Clara Fernández Huerta (born April 10, 1930) is an American labor leader and civil rights activist who, with Cesar Chavez, is a co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers (UFW).

Dolores Huerta
Dolores Huerta
Dolores Huerta
See also...

Biography at Wikipedia

Media at Wikicommons

Quotes edit

  • We had violence directed at us by the growers themselves, trying to run us down by cars, pointing rifles at us, spraying the people when they were on the picket line with sulfur. And then we had violence by the Teamsters union with the goons that they hired at that time — and by the way, I have to say that the Teamsters union are OK today...They came at us with two by fours. We had a lot of violence, definitely. And then I was beaten up by the police San Francisco [in 1988], which also is shown in the film.
  • We were in Arizona. We were organizing people in the community to come to support us. They had passed a law in Arizona that if you said, "boycott," you could go to prison for six months. And if you said "strike," you could go to prison. So we were trying to organize against that law. And I was speaking to a group of professionals in Arizona, to see if they could support us. And they said, "Oh, here in Arizona you can't do any of that. In Arizona no se puede — no you can't." And I said, "No, in Arizona sí se puede!" And when I went back to our meeting that we had every night there ... I gave that report to everybody and when I said, "Sí se puede," everybody started shouting, "Sí se puede! Sí se puede!" And so that became the slogan of our campaign in Arizona and now is the slogan for the immigrant rights movement, you know, on posters. We can do it. I can do it. Sí se puede.
  • When I went to Mexico, they always talked about gays. These were people that had to be protected, not abused. And in the early farm worker movement we had a young group of gay men who worked in the packing shed. They were really, really strong activists. So growing up it never occurred to me that you should discriminate against people who are gay and lesbian. I personally always felt that any kind of discrimination is wrong. I've always supported gay rights and went to all the gay rights marches that they had.
  • I never felt overlooked because I didn’t expect any kind of recognition. I think that’s very typical of women. I had been acculturated to be supportive, to be accommodating, to support men in the work they do. We never think of getting credit or recognition or even taking the power. We didn’t think it those terms. Of course I think that’s changing now and there’s a surge of women who are not only running for office, but getting elected. That could make an incredible amount of difference in our world. We will never have peace in the world until feminists take power.
  • La Cucaracha speaks for the disenfranchised with humor and a cutting voice

Testimony on Farm Workers (June 15, 1960) edit

Fact Finding Committee in Labor and Welfare, California State Legislature, Senate, Sacramento CA

  • The complete lack of protection and vulnerability of farm workers should not be minimized
  • The CSO nationally has taken the position of being against the further importation of labor from other countries.
  • The question arises, do those governors who wish to be part of a Government subsidized program have a right to expect imported labor when they do not recruit and actually discourage local workers either by extremely low wages and adverse working conditions?
  • Would our govt by any stretch of the imagination furnish imported labor to any other occupation if the working conditions were anywhere near the condition of farm workers?
  • The present economic state of a large amount of our population is a disgrace to the American standard of living and our ideals. If we openly detest oppression as a nation, let us not condone it for just one group — the agricultural workers
  • Certainly, some responsibility should be placed back on the growers. It’s not fair that they should declare a labor shortage when they make it impossible for people to continue working for them.

1966 speech edit

in Voices of Multicultural America: Notable Speeches Delivered by African, Asian, Hispanic and Native Americans, 1790-1995 by Deborah Gillan Straub

  • We have met with the governor and his secretaries before in a closed-door session. We are n o longer interested in listening to the excuses the governor has to give in defense of the growers, to his apologies for them not paying us decent wages or why the growers can not dignify the workers as individuals with the right to place the price on their own labor through collective bargaining. The governor maintains that the growers are in a competitive situation. Well, the farm workers are also. We must also compete with the standard of living to give our families their daily bread.
  • The difference between 1959 and 1966 is highlighted by the peregrination, it is revolution-the farm workers have been organized.
  • To the governor and the legislature of California we say: You cannot close your eyes and ears to our needs any longer, you cannot pretend that we do not exist, you cannot plead ignorance to our problem because we are here and we embody our needs for you. And we are not alone. We are accompanied by many friends. The religious leaders of the state, spearheaded by the California Migrant Ministry, the student groups and civil rights groups that make up the movement that has been successful in securing civil rights for Negroes in this country, right-thinking citizens, and our staunchest ally, organized labor, are all in the revolution of farm labor.
  • The workers are on the rise. There will be strikes all over the state and throughout the country because Delano has shown what can be done, and the workers know now they are no longer alone.
  • The social and economic revolution of the farm workers is well under way and will not be stopped until they receive equality.

"Proclamation of the Delano Grape Workers" for International Boycott Day (May 10, 1969) edit

  • We are conscious today of the significance of our present quest. If this road we chart leads to the rights and reforms we demand, if it leads to just wages, humane working conditions, protection from the misuse of pesticides, and to the fundamental right of collective bargaining, if it changes the social order that relegates us to the bottom reaches of society, then in our wake will follow thousands of American farm workers. Our example will make them free. But if our road does not bring us to victory and social change, it will not be because our direction is mistaken or our resolve too weak, but only because our bodies are mortal and our journey hard. For we are in the midst of a great social movement, and we will not stop struggling 'til we die, or win!
  • We mean to have our peace, and to win it without violence, for it is violence we would overcome - the subtle spiritual and mental violence of oppression, the violence subhuman toil does to the human body.
  • Grapes must remain an unenjoyed luxury for all as long as the barest human needs and basic human rights are still luxuries for farm workers. The grapes grow sweet and heavy on the vines, but they will have to wait while we reach out first for our freedom. The time is ripe for our liberation.

"The Boycott is Our Major Weapon" (July 15, 1969) edit

  • We have had tremendous difficulties in trying to organize farmworkers. I don’t think, first of all, that we have to belabor the reason why farmworkers need a union. The horrible state in which farmworkers find themselves, faced with such extreme poverty and discrimination, has taught us that the only way we can change our situation is by organization of a union. I don’t believe that it can be done any other way. Certainly, we can’t depend on Government to do it, nor can we expect them to take the responsibility.
  • UFWOC has undertaken an international boycott of all California-Arizona table grapes in order to gain union recognition for striking farmworkers. We did not take up the burden of the boycott willingly. It is expensive. It is a hardship on the farmworkers’ families who have left the small valley towns to travel across the country to boycott grapes. But, because of the table grapes growers’ refusal to bargain with their workers, the boycott is our major weapon and I might say a nonviolent weapon, and our last line of defense against the growers who use foreign labor to break our strikes. It is only through the pressure of the boycott that UFWOC has won contracts with major California wine grape growers.
  • In spite of this type of antiunion activity, our boycott of California-Arizona table grapes has been successful. It is being successful for the simple reason that millions of Americans are supporting the grape workers strike by not buying table grapes.
  • the U.S. Department of Defense table grape purchases have been very detrimental to our effort.
  • the grapes of wrath are being converted into the grapes of war by the world’s richest government in order to stop farmworkers from waging a successful boycott and organizing campaign against grape growers.
  • DOD table grape purchases are a national outrage. The history of our struggle against agribusiness is punctuated by the continued violations of health and safety codes by growers, including many table grape growers.
  • If the Federal Government and the DOD is not concerned about the welfare of farmworkers, they must be concerned with protecting our servicemen from contamination and disease carried by grapes picked in fields without toilets or washstands.
  • Focusing on other forms of crime in the fields, we would finally ask if the DOD buys table grapes from the numerous growers who daily violate State and Federal minimum wage and child labor laws, who employ illegal foreign labor, and who do not deduct social security payments from farmworkers’ wages?
  • The health care of farmworkers is almost nonexistent, and the rate of tuberculosis is 200 percent above the national average.
  • The Department of Defense increasing purchases of table grapes is nothing short of a national outrage. It is an outrage to the millions of American taxpayers who are supporting the farmworkers’ struggle for justice by boycotting table grapes. How can any American believe that the U.S. Government is sincere in its efforts to eradicate poverty when the military uses its immense purchasing power to subvert the farmworkers’ nonviolent struggle for a decent, living wage and a better future?
  • Many farmworkers are members of minority groups. They are Filipino and Mexican and black Americans. These same minority people are on the frontlines of battle in Vietnam. It is a cruel and ironic slap in the face to these men who have left the fields to fulfill their military obligation to find increasing amounts of boycotted grapes in their mess kits.
  • how can the Department of Defense explain or justify the intervention into the grape boycott, while we are supposedly fighting for freedom in Vietnam, and yet we are trying to destroy the farmworkers’ struggle for economic freedom m our own country.
  • Our only weapon is the boycott. Just when our boycott is successful the U.S. military doubles its purchases of table grapes, creating a major obstacle to farmworker organizing and union recognition. The Department of Defense is obviously acting as a buyer of last resort for scab grapes and is, in effect, providing another form of Federal subsidy for antiunion growers who would destroy the efforts of the poor to build a union.
  • the reason why we have to use the boycott is that our other weapons have been rendered ineffective.
  • The police harassment against the strikers is unbelievable. We have to say that the police departments and sheriffs departments are in most cases direct agents of the employers.
  • Cesar, a priest, a minister, and nine farmworkers were arrested for going into a camp in Borrego Springs, just to get the workers’ clothes after the workers were fired for union activity. They were arrested, stripped naked, and chained by the officers.
  • We had this picket line; across the street from our picket line was a counterpicket line, which was being conducted by the reactionary groups in Delano. They were shouting things like “Go home, Spic,” and saying a lot of four-letter words to the women on the picket line. In fact, the officers went over and shook hands with them, and were conversing with them. The counterpickets opened up a tank of ammonia, and the strikers were getting gagged from ammonia.
  • The police really work against the strikers. When a melon truck came to the picket line, the driver said that he didn’t want to go through the picket line, and the police ordered him through the picket line anyway. This is a common practice with the police.
  • we go to the courts, and we try to get some relief from the courts, but there, again, we find that we have none. The courts, on the other hand, issue injunctions against the strikers.
  • When we try to go to the Government for any kind of help, even for the enforcement of the sanitation laws. the Government turns its head.
  • The growers are willing to spend tremendous amounts of money to try to represent the fact that farmworkers don’t want a union, by hiring people like Jose Mendoza, who took a picture with Senator Dirksen to try to prove that the farmworkers don’t want a union. They could very easily have paid the workers decent wages with the money they are spending. They have hired public relations firms to try to prove that we are a violent union, which I think everyone knows we are not.
  • Mr. Allen Grant, one of Reagan’s top men in agriculture in California, is talking about violence. They are trying to create a climate of fear and violence...We think that this is a deliberate effort to bring violence into the farm labor scene which we know has not been there.
  • There have been incidents of violence against the union, many of them, and it has taken all that Cesar can do and the rest of the people can do to keep workers nonviolent.
  • the growers don’t have any heart at all. They have all the economic power, the power in hiring and firing. There have been entire crews of workers fired because one person in the crew said something favorable about the union. There are entire crews of workers who were fired because they had Kennedy stickers on the bumpers of their cars.
  • The people in the union have to take a tremendous amount of harassment, such as the materials of State Senator Hugh Burns’ Committee on Un-American Activities in California. The man who made up that committee report was sitting in his home in Three Rivers. He never once went to Delano. Yet, he wrote a report which has been used all over the country in which he tried to redbait the members of the union. Among other mistruths, he says 3 years of Cesar Chavez’ life are missing, and suggests he was getting some kind of subversive training. Those are the 3 years he spent in the U.S. Navy. That should be put in the record.

1974 speech edit

in Voices of Multicultural America: Notable Speeches Delivered by African, Asian, Hispanic and Native Americans, 1790-1995 by Deborah Gillan Straub

  • It is no accident that farm workers have an average life span of forty-nine years of age.
  • Now when we first tried to get this plan passed, many of the growers were very upset about it. They said you have to go through an insurance company. We are very lucky that César Chávez is a grammar-school dropout and he hasn't been educated to think that insurance is a way of life. He said he wasn't going to give any of his money to an insurance company, any of the workers' money.
  • once we got the medical plan, we found that that really didn't stop the abuses, because the doctors were still not giving the workers good health care. So the next step was then to build a clinic. So the workers started to build their clinics.
  • I think our clinics are unique in that we call them people's clinics. The people built them, we raised the money for them. There is no government money at all in our clinics. And the kind of work that the clinic does is primarily, first of all, educational. And we don't have Mickey-Mouse clinics. Our clinics are really beautiful. I mean there is good medicine in our clinics. The workers are taught about nutrition, to combat diabetes, which is very common among farm workers. They are given prenatal instruction to have healthier babies and healthier mothers. They are taught about inoculations. You know, it's really a funny experience to go into the waiting room of our clinic, and you will see a group of farm workers sitting around talking. And one worker will say to the other one, "Well, I came in to get a shot." And the other worker will say, "Why, you shouldn't get a shot if you just have a cold, because you know you can build up an immunity to penicillin." And these are farm workers teaching each other about health.
  • Now, some of you might wonder how come I have ten children, right? One of the main reasons is because I want to have my own picket line.
  • Now another great thing about our clinics is that we train farm workers as lab assistants, lab technicians, nurse's aides, we train farm workers to do the administration of the clinic.
  • what we're doing is we're not only just giving good health care-fantastic health care-but we are training our own people to be able to do the health work and to administer the program.
  • you can't help poor people and be comfortable. You know, the two things are just not compatible. If you want to really give good health care to poor people you've got to be prepared to be a little uncomfortable and to put a little bit of sacrifice behind it
  • I'm going to talk a little bit about the pesticides, because... we raised the issue many years ago and a lot of people have been concerned about [it], but it was sort of a no-no. Nobody could talk about it openly.
  • Do you know that we were amazed to find out you can get all kinds of information about what's harmful to a pet, but you can't get any information about what's harmful to a farm worker?
  • when we were negotiating contracts-I was in charge of the contract negotiations for the union-we called up a friend of ours who worked with the Los Angeles County Health (Department), and he gave us some information on one of the organic phosphates that we wanted to know. Well, one of the growers who was in on the negotiations tried to get him fired for giving us that information. And this man worked for the Los Angeles County Health Department. But this shows you and I'm going to talk about that a little bit more about the kind of repression that I know a lot of you are faced [with] when you do try to make real changes or when you try to get into those controversial areas where you have conflicts of power.
  • In our contracts, we banned DDT, Aldrin, Endrin, 2,4-D, 2,4-T, Tep and many of the other-Monitor 4-many of these other pesticides. We banned these pesticides in our contracts starting from 1970. It is interesting that just recently, the government has come out against Aldrin and Endrin. And the Farm Workers Union banned these pesticides many years ago. We find that the only way that you can be sure that the so-called laws are administered, that the so-called laws are carried out, is when you have somebody right there on the ranch, a steward, a ranch committee, somebody that can't get fired from the job, somebody that has the protection of a union contract to make sure that these things are carried out.
  • It is sad for us to report this, but the clock has been turned back and California agriculture, with the exception of a handful of contracts that we still hold, we now have the labor contractor, the crew leader system back again, we now have child labor back again.
  • We now have a return to pesticides-forty thousand acres of lettuce were poisoned with Monitor 4. This lettuce was shipped to the market. In California, it was sold as shredded lettuce in Safeway stores. That's nice to have Monitor 4 with your shredded salad, huh? And we have a return back to the archaic system that we had, [a] primitive system that existed before and still exists, where we don't have United Farm Workers contracts. People working out there in those fields without a toilet, people working out there in those fields without any hand-washing facilities, without any cold drinking water, without any kind of first-aid or safety precautions. All of this has come back again.
  • The California Rural Legal Assistance just did a spot survey of about twenty ranches in the Salinas and the Delano area just a couple of months ago. And [in] every single instance they found either no toilet or a dirty toilet, and you can imagine. And this is something consumers don't understand that that lettuce, those grapes are being picked right there in that field. If there's a dirty toilet, it's right next to the produce, and that produce is picked and packed in that field and shipped directly to your store.
  • The Teamsters have brought back illegal aliens. And now when I say this, I want to tell what's happening to these people. Today, President Ford is meeting with Echeverría in Mexico. And they're going to talk about a bracero program, which is a slave program for workers, for Mexican workers.
  • They want to bring in one million Mexicans from Mexico. We've already got close to a million people here illegally. And how are they being treated? They are paying three hundred dollars each to come over the border. They are being put in housing where you have thirty or forty people in a room without any kind of a sanitary facility.
  • I think that the one thing that we've learned in our union is that you don't wait. You just get out and you start doing things.
  • We don't have to talk about a charitable outlook. You know, people come in with a lot of money and they give people charity. We've got to talk about ways to make people self-sufficient in terms of their medical health. Because when they go in there with charity and then they pull out, then they leave the people worse off than they ever were before. We've got to use government money to help people. And I don't think that this is so radical. Lord knows that the growers are getting billions of dollars not to grow cotton, all kinds of supports and subsidies. Well, if any money is given for medical health, it should stay in that community.
  • We've got to take the side of the people that are being oppressed. And if we can't do that, then we're not doing our job, because the people in that minority community or in that community are not going to have any faith in the medical program that is in there if you can't take their side.
  • Health, like food, has got to be to cure people, to make people well. It can't be for profit. Food should be sacred to feed people, not for profit. Health has got to be a right for every person and not a privilege. You would be sad to know that many farm workers-before we had our clinics-had never been to a doctor.
  • Within the next year they are spending millions of dollars to destroy the United Farm Workers. They are spending millions of dollars to tell what a bad administrator César Chávez is. Have you seen these articles in the New York Times and Time magazine? They say César Chávez is a bad administrator. What they really mean is he is the wrong color. And if he were a good administrator.... Can you imagine five clinics, a medical plan, a credit union, a retirement center for farm workers, fantastic increases in wages, the removal of the labor contract system-all of this César did in a few short years. What would he do if he was a good administrator?
  • And you will really see-when we talk about the principle of nonviolence, you will see it in action. Because you will see farm workers getting beaten and killed, and you will see that the farm workers do not fight back with violence. We are using a nonviolent action of the boycott, so we really need your help in that.
  • We're going to say first "Viva la Causa," which is the cause of labor, peace, and health, "Viva la justicia," which is justice, and then we will say "Viva Chávez," for César, may God give him long life. And then we'll say "down with fear," abajo, and "down with let-tuce and grapes," abajo, and "down with Gallo wine." Because Gallo is on the boycott too
  • We did that at the impeachment rally in Washington, D.C., and we said, "Down with Nixon! Abajo!" and it worked.
  • Can we live in a world of brotherhood and peace without disease and fear and oppression? Si se puede

"Reflections on Revolutionary Women" (2020) edit

In Revolutionary Women of Texas and Mexico by Kathy Sosa (2020)

  • Historically, stories of revolutionary women have been minimized or even left untold.
  • I drew strength from Rebecca Flores, who led farmworkers in organizing for better pay and working conditions in Texas in the 1960s. Women like Rebecca are rocks. She and others were so strong, and willing to go to jail, and take their children with them to the picket line-and still do everything that was expected of them at home. They are all remarkable women.
  • Organizing is about trying to get people to lose their fear so they know that they have power, and letting them know they don't have to go it alone-they can form a group and then a movement. And then they can bring about change. When I speak to young women I try to remind them that we will never have peace in the world until women take power.
  • Women have to become strong internally and psychologically; learning how to organize is like exercising. If your muscles get sore, you are exercising and getting stronger. If you feel butterflies in your stomach, those feelings shouldn't tell you to stop, because it's okay to be nervous. You keep on going, because the more we engage, the more we can offer and the stronger we become.
  • Once you get involved with helping others, you start to work on issues that are larger than you are. All of your personal issues diminish because you don't have the time or energy to focus on them, and many of those personal problems will solve themselves. When you are working with others on conflicts that are bigger than you, you can see that you, along with other people, do have the power to make changes. When you are part of the change, you open yourself to a whole different world. Women don't always want to take credit for the work they do because they don't want to seem conceited. I tell young women, "Channel your inner Oprah Winfrey." I tell them to stand up and say, "This was my idea, my project, my creation." And be proud of it.
  • When I was a child in New Mexico, people were still talking about the revolution. And it had an influence on me because I learned that poor people could change the government. Coretta Scott King said that women have to get involved, take power, and create peace in the world. But it may not happen all at once. Remember the song lyrics, "No hay que llegar primero, pero hay que saber llegar." Be a revolutionary woman-you don't have to get there first, just get there.

Quotes about Dolores Huerta edit

  • Some of the women who led the movement in its early days were Dolores Huerta of the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee, Alicia Escalante with the Welfare Rights Organization, and Gracia Molina de Pick and Anna Nieto-Gómez with feminist activities. Women politicians like Virginia Muzquiz of Crystal City, Texas, Mariana Hernández, and Grace Davies put Chicanas in the political forum. Like these women, there have been hundreds of others who, in the late 1960s and 1970s, have proved that Chicanas have come of age politically in this country.
    • Martha P. Cotera, "Feminism: The Chicano and Anglo Versions-A Historical Analysis" (1980)
  • "The social and economic revolution of the farmworkers is well underway and it will not be stopped until we receive equality," key NFWA organizer Dolores Huerta told a crowd in 1966. "The farmworkers are moving. Nothing is going to stop them!" She was right. The Delano strike ended in 1970 with significant wins for the farmworkers: a substantial pay increase, higher safety standards, and union rights. It also ushered in a new era of farm-worker organizing when the AWOC merged with the National Farm Workers Association to create a new organization, the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC), which would ultimately become today's United Farm Workers.
  • Our demands were met, but it was hard bargaining. At one point, one of the Christian Brothers' lawyers said, "Well, sister, it sounds to me like you're asking for the moon for these people." Dolores Huerta came back, "Brother, I'm not asking for the moon for the farmworkers. All we want is just a little ray of sunshine for them!" Oh, that sounded beautiful!
  • The life of Dolores Huerta reveals a woman who is not only a fearless and committed organizer for farmworker rights but also takes a stand for justice wherever needed.
    • Elizabeth Martinez, 500 Years of Chicana Women's History/500 Años de la Mujer Chicana (2008)
  • I have yet to encounter any formal acknowledgment from the Obama campaign that Dolores Huerta first conceived the phrase in Spanish as a rallying cry for the United Farm Workers.
    • Cherríe Moraga, about "Yes We Can", A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness (2011)
  • A legendary activist, Dolores Huerta has a long history of fighting for social change, workers' rights, and civil justice. Unlike many other awardees, she was rightfully awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, among many other recognitions.
  • Dolores Huerta is a fearless fighter for social justice. In 1962, she taught school in Stockton, California while being a political activist with the CSO and a mother of six with a seventh on the way. "When I left my teaching job to go start organizing farm workers, a lot of people thought I had just gone completely bananas"...A tough, savvy negotiator, Huerta skillfully manipulated her positionality as a mother at the bargaining table.
    • Vicki L. Ruiz, From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America
  • Activists like Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta were also fighting in the 1960s and '70s for Latinx families to have safer environments. Their activism shouldn't have been considered separate from the Earth Day movement, but it was. Not only did their work contribute to the overall movement, but their efforts helped lead to the ban on the use of harmful pesticides that impacted farmworker safety and increased awareness of environmental justice within the Latinx community. However, because of racism, xenophobia (fear of immigrants), and classism, these activists were excluded.
    • Leah Thomas The Intersectional Environmentalist: How to Dismantle Systems of Oppression to Protect People + Planet (2022)

External links edit