At 90, Dolores Huerta Is Not Done Inspiring Labor Activists
She always believed she could do more for farmworkers by organizing a union to fix income inequality
Dolores Huerta turns 90 today and has been engaging in all kinds of activism since 1962. Born in Dawson, a mining town in New Mexico, Huerta was the second child of Juán Fernandez, a farmworker, miner, and first-generation immigrant, and Alicia Chávez, who owned a small hotel. After her parents divorced, Huerta grew up in Stockton, California, where she watched her mother generously give to the community by providing free or affordable housing to low-wage workers and engaging in community affairs. After training to be a teacher, Huerta was drawn to labor activism because she witnessed economic inequality in her elementary school classroom. Huerta believed she could do more for farmworkers by organizing a union to fix income inequality than teaching the farmworkers’ children.
When she co-founded the United Farm Workers Union with César Chávez, Huerta was a pioneer in the field of labor activism in the U.S., being the second woman in a high position in labor unions at the time after Penny Singleton of the American Guild of Variety Artists. Her work with Chávez to bring attention to the inhumane working conditions of farmworkers in California resulted in one of the most successful product boycotts in the history of the United States in 1965. She became the lead negotiator between workers and growers — the first woman to do so in the U.S., and she has been honored for her work on immigration rights, farmworkers’ rights, and women’s rights — always tying together the issues of racial discrimination, labor rights, and immigration.
In 2020, Huerta’s activism exists in arguably one of the most relevant intersections of social justice issues: immigration, workers’ rights, and feminism. Her work with the Dolores Huerta Foundation, a nonprofit she co-founded with her daughter Alicia, provides training in civic engagement for low-income populations, advocacy work for LGBTQ youth, and training and resources for rural populations among many other actions that encourage the weaving of different movements into a “much larger tapestry of justice and universal human rights.” In an interview with ZORA, she spoke of developing…