Meet Our Champion for Equity Award Honoree
We are proud to honor Dolores Huerta in recognition of her nearly 70 years of stalwart advocacy in the labor and civil rights movements.
Huerta is one of the most influential labor activists of the 20th century and a leader of the Chicano civil rights movement. She received an associate teaching degree from the University of the Pacific’s Delta College and briefly taught school in the 1950s, but seeing so many hungry farm children coming to school, she thought she could do more to help them by organizing farmers and farm workers.
She began her career as an activist when she co-founded the Stockton chapter of the Community Service Organization (CSO), which led voter registration drives and fought for economic improvements for Hispanics. She also founded the Agricultural Workers Association. Through a CSO associate, Huerta met activist César Chávez, with whom she shared an interest in organizing farm workers. In 1962, Huerta and Chávez founded the United Farm Workers’ Union (UFW); Huerta served as UFW vice president until 1999.
Huerta helped organize the 1965 Delano strike of 5,000 grape workers and was the lead negotiator in the workers’ contract that followed. Throughout her work with the UFW, Huerta organized workers, negotiated contracts, and advocated for safer working conditions including the elimination of harmful pesticides. She also fought for unemployment and healthcare benefits for agricultural workers. Huerta was the driving force behind the nationwide table grape boycotts in the late 1960s that led to a successful union contract by 1970.
In 1973, Huerta led another consumer boycott of grapes that resulted in the ground-breaking California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, which allowed farm workers to form unions and bargain for better wages and conditions. Throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, Huerta worked as a lobbyist to improve workers’ legislative representation. During the 1990s and 2000s, she worked to elect more Latinos and women to political office and has championed women’s issues.
The recipient of many honors, Huerta received the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award from President Clinton in 1998 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2012. She is a U.S. Department of Labor Hall of Honor inductee and was the first Latina inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She is a former UC Regent and has earned honorary doctorates from universities throughout the United States.
Today, Huerta is a board member of the Feminist Majority Foundation, the Secretary-Treasurer Emeritus of the United Farm Workers of America, and Founder and President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation.