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Dolores Huerta Honored As Fight For Farm Worker Rights Pushes On

Dolores Huerta Honored As Fight For Farm Worker Rights Pushes On

Dolores Huerta, immigration rights activist and trailblazer marks her 82nd year appropriately enough with two new honors.

The first is the 50th anniversary gathering of the United Farm Workers union in Bakersfield, California. Huerta co-founded the union along with Cesar Chavez. The second award is the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Huerta will receive the honor with 12 other recipients including Bob Dylan and Madeleine Albright at a ceremony later this month.

Huerta has been an activist her entire life and credits her Catholic upbringing with helping solidify her commitment to social justice. Her father was an immigrant farm laborer and her mother ran a hotel where she often housed poor immigrants for free. Huerta spoke about the experience to Sandra McElwaine of The Daily Beast.

The grinding poverty and hunger she saw in her classroom also helped inspire her lifelong crusade. “I thought I could do more by organizing farm workers that teaching their hungry children,” she says. First she established a community service program. When her fellow activist Chavez said, “We’ve got to start a union,” she thought he was teasing. “Then he got very serious,” she recalls. ”We were both passionate about farm workers. Seeing these people working so hard in the fields and seeing their children threadbare was so unjust, so very wrong.”

They started the National Farmworkers Association, which morphed into The United Farmworkers Union, the first in America. Chavez headed the all-volunteer group; Huerta became the political strategist and lobbyist, shuttling between Washington and Sacramento, shepherding through stunning amounts of legislation.

Among Huerta’s proudest accomplishments are legislative victories establishing Spanish-language ballots for voters, public assistance for immigrants, drinking water protection from pesticides, toilets in the fields and the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 which gave legal residency status to more than 1 million farm workers.

In today’s increasingly hostile and xenophobic climate Huerta’s accomplishments seem all the more remarkable, and I can’t help but wonder if she would have the same success today. The reforms ushered in by Huerta’s activism are under direct and deliberate attack and with that the people protected by those reforms–a fact not lost on Huerta either.

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Photo from recubejim via flickr.

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11 comments

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10:50AM PDT on Jun 8, 2012

!Viva la Mujer!

9:45AM PDT on May 21, 2012

So are many Americans! It's the sign of the times. Vote Democratic and get the Tea Partiers out of the Government. I realize that is difficult to sort out who is who, but Immigrants seem to have a handle on the How To's. Lets keep products growing and manufacturing of goods in the US. Thereby getting our economic back to where it belongs, in the US of A so all of us can be productive and get a decent education.

7:32PM PDT on May 20, 2012

Kudos to Delores

5:08PM PDT on May 20, 2012

What do you say to a high school graduate who was brought by their parents here when the were mere infants and now cant even get a job at McDonalds because they don't have papers. While all other graduates can get grants and scholarships to go to college, they cant get anything. What did they do wrong to deserve being rejected in society? They just went where their parents took them. Well this is the reality for many right here where I live in Miami. Fl. I work closely with these families through Caring for Miami providing free english classes for adults and free tutoring for their kids and just simply being there for them in their time of need. I know there is no easy solution to this problem but there really needs to be more compassion for these people. I own an ADT Security Dealership in my area and am trying to get other local businesses to sponsor some of these families.

9:18PM PDT on May 19, 2012

thanks

5:23PM PDT on May 19, 2012

Congratulations to Dolores Huerta for all her hard work!

10:26AM PDT on May 19, 2012

Go Dolores!

9:44AM PDT on May 19, 2012

Wow! Congradulations to her, she is a great human being.

8:38AM PDT on May 19, 2012

Congratulations, Ms. Huerta. You definitely deserve to be honored for your hard work.

7:17AM PDT on May 19, 2012

Go Delores go.Farm workers should have rights.They work hard for the money.

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