Dolores Huerta at the University of Chicago, 2009.
|Born||April 10, 1930
Dawson, New Mexico
Her parents divorced when she was three years old. Her mother, Alicia Chavez, raised Dolores, along with her two brothers, and two sisters, in the central San Joaquin Valley farmworker community of Stockton, California. Her mother was a business woman who owned a restaurant and a 70-room hotel that often took in farm worker families for free.
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In 1955, Huerta co-founded the Stockton chapter of the Community Service Organization, and in 1960 co-founded the Agricultural Workers Association. In 1962, she co-founded the National Farm Workers Association with Csar Ch¡vez, 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 farmworkers were able to successfully collectively bargain with an agricultural enterprise.
In 1965 Huerta directed the UFW–s national grape boycott, 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.
She has been highly politically active, lobbying in favor of (and against) numerous California and federal laws. The laws that she supported included:
As an advocate for farmworkers' rights, Huerta has been arrested twenty-two times for participating in non-violent civil disobedience activities and strikes. Huerta's organizing and lobbying efforts are often overshadowed by those of Cesar Ch¡vez, who is revered by many (especially Chicanos)[who?] as the primary figure of the Chicano civil rights movement. She remains active in progressive causes, and serves on the boards of For the American Way 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 minutes before the shooting, Huerta had walked through that pantry alongside the U.S. Senator from New York while Kennedy was on his way to deliver his victory speech. Kennedy died from his gunshot wounds on June 6.
In September 1988 in front of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, Huerta was severely beaten by San Francisco Police officers during a peaceful and lawful protest of the policies/platform of then-candidate for president George H.W. Bush. The baton-beating caused significant internal injuries to her torso, resulting in several broken ribs and necessitating the removal of her spleen in emergency surgery. The beating was caught on videotape and broadcast widely on local television news, including the clear ramming of the butt end of a baton into Huerta's torso by one of the helmeted officers. Later, Huerta won a large judgment against the SFPD and the City of San Francisco, the proceeds of which were used in benefit of farm workers. The assault is credited with starting yet another movement to change SFPD crowd-control policies, as well as the manner in which officer discipline is handled.
In recognition of her achievements, she received an honorary degree from Princeton University in May 2006. She was lauded in the ceremony: "Through her insatiable hunger of justice –La Causa– and her tireless advocacy, she has devoted her life to creative, compassionate, and committed citizenship".
She is the President of the Dolores Huerta foundation. The Dolores Huerta Foundation is 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."
Dolores Huerta is an honorary sister of Kappa Delta Chi Sorority Inc. Ms. Huerta was inducted as an Honorary Member of KDChi by the Alpha Alpha Chapter at Wichita State University on September 30, 2005. KDChi is a nation wide Latina Sorority dedicated to community service for the local and national community and is the most powerful network of Latina leaders.
She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Equality California . On June 12, 2009, Huerta was awarded the UCLA Medal, UCLA's highest honor, during the UCLA College of Letters and Science commencement ceremony.
Pitzer College, in Claremont, California, named one of its student centers the Huerta Learning Circle Room in honor of the organizer.
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