Dolores Huerta said “no” to the unfair treatment of workers. Then, she said “yes, we can” to making a difference! Let’s look at the life of this activist.
Huerta was born in 1930 in Dawson, New Mexico. She moved to Stockton, California, with her mother and two brothers. Huerta learned a lot from her mom, including how to show kindness to others. Her mother helped people of all backgrounds. They included workers from Mexico, the Philippines, and Japan.
Huerta became a teacher. She taught the children of farm workers. Seeing their struggles inspired Huerta to make a change. “I couldn’t seeing kids coming to class hungry and needing shoes,” she said. “I thought I could do more by organizing farm workers.”
So, Huerta’s activism took off in the 1950s. She left teaching and joined the Community Service Organization (CSO). She met another labor activist — César Chávez. In 1962, Huerta and Chávez created the group that would become the United Farm Workers of America (UFW). UFW is still in action today!
Huerta fought to get better conditions for farm workers. She made deals for higher pay and benefits like health care. She pushed for safer practices, such as not using harmful chemicals that could make workers sick. In 1965, Huerta led 5,000 grape workers in a . She helped them get better deals.
Huerta helped men, women, and children. She took the fight to government as well. In the 1970s, her efforts led to a new California law for workers’ rights. Huerta also pushed to get more Latino people and women in government. Her missions continue today through her Dolores Huerta Foundation.
Huerta has gotten many awards. In 1993, she became the first Latina in the National Women’s Hall of Fame. And in 1998, President Bill Clinton gave her the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award. Artists have painted colorful murals of Huerta on walls. And musicians have written songs about her!
Huerta came up with the UFW’s well-known slogan: “Sí, se puede.” That’s Spanish for “yes, we can.” When Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, he used that slogan. And in 2012, Obama gave Huerta a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“Dolores was very when I told her I had stolen her slogan,” Obama joked. “Knowing her, I’m pleased that she let me off easy. Because Dolores does not play.”
Updated March 10, 2023, 5:02 P.M. (ET)
By Ashley Morgan