Dolores Huerta
Photo:Jay Godwin

8 Ways Dolores Huerta Has Made a Difference as a Civil Rights Activist

Dolores Huerta is a civil rights activist and labor leader who has dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of migrant communities in the United States. As a co-founder of the United Farm Workers (UFW) union, Huerta played a pivotal role in improving the working conditions and wages of farmworkers, many of whom were immigrants. However, her impact extended far beyond the labor movement, and she has worked tirelessly to address a wide range of issues affecting immigrant communities. From advocating for women’s rights to standing up for policies that increase access to healthcare and education, Huerta’s leadership and activism have had a major impact on the lives of countless individuals and families. Here are eight ways that Dolores Huerta helped migrant communities and continues to be a champion for social justice and equality.

She coined the phrase “Sí, Se Puede” as a rallying cry

Video: Instagram/@pbs

Dolores coined the phrase “Sí, se puede” (“Yes, we can”) as the slogan of the UFW’s campaign for social justice and labor rights. The phrase became a rallying cry for immigrants and supporters of workers’ rights, and it inspired many to join the movement. Huerta’s leadership and use of this phrase helped to empower and rally the Latinx community, demonstrating that their voices could be heard and that change was possible.

She co-founded the Stockton Chapter of the Community Service Organization and the National Farm Workers Association

Image: Instagram/@doloreshuerta

Dolores, who grew up in Stockton, California, co-founded the Stockton Chapter of the Community Service Organization (CSO) in 1955, which aimed to improve economic conditions of Latinxs in California and encourage voter registration. Huerta and Cesar Chávez founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), now known as United Farm Workers’ Union (UFW) in 1962 and served as vice president until 1999.

She helped organize the Delano Grape Strike

Image: Instagram/@greenworkhandmade

Dolores Huerta played a pivotal role in the the Delano Grape Strike,  a critical moment in the labor movement that took place in 1966. It marked the first major collaboration between Filipino and Mexican workers through their respective unions, Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) and National Farm Workers Association, who merged to form the United Farm Workers (UFW).By 1970, Huerta’s organizing skills and dedication to the cause helped increase support for the strike and ultimately led to improved conditions for workers in the agricultural industry.

She successfully negotiated a contract between farm workers and an agricultural enterprise. 

Image: Instagram/@tamarindopodcast

Dolores Huerta negotiated a contract between the UFWOC and Schenley Wine Company in 1966 marking the first time that farm workers were able to effectively bargain with an agricultural enterprise.  As a co-founder of the UFW, Huerta played a critical role in organizing the union’s efforts to improve wages and working conditions for farmworkers. In negotiating the contract with Schenley Wine Company, Huerta was able to secure significant benefits for workers, including wage increases, health benefits, and improved working conditions.

She served on the United States Commission on Agricultural Workers

Image: Instagram/@makiashe

As the U.S. Commission on Agricultural Workers from 1988 through 1993, Huerta’s deep understanding of the challenges faced by farmworkers made her a valuable member. Her work helped to raise awareness of the issues facing immigrant workers and the need for policy changes.

She serves as a board member of the Feminist Majority Foundation

Image: Instagram/@doloreshuerta

As a fierce advocate for women’s rights, Huerta brought her expertise and experience to the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF), an organization dedicated to promoting equality and social justice for women. Her work as a board member included advocating for policies that would benefit immigrant women, such as improved access to healthcare and education, and fighting against the separation of families at the border.

She led a boycott in 1975 that resulted in the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act

Image: doloreshuerta.org

Dolores Huerta’s leadership in the labor movement for immigrant workers continued in her efforts to lead a boycott in 1975 that resulted in the creation of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act,  a first-in-the-nation law that extended collective bargaining rights to farmworkers. Huerta recognized that the struggle for the rights of farmworkers required legislative action. The boycott called on consumers to stop buying table grapes until growers agreed to recognize the United Farm Workers (UFW) union and to negotiate a contract with workers. The boycott was successful and ultimately led to the passage of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act, which granted farmworkers in California the right to collectively organize, bargain for better wages and working conditions, and engage in strikes and boycotts without fear of retaliation.

She founded the Dolores Huerta Foundation

Image: Instagram/@jpulidoleon

Through the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF), Huerta has addressed a wide range of issues affecting immigrant communities including access to healthcare, education, and affordable housing. The foundation has 12 Vecinos Unidos, a neighborhood organization meant to encourage civic engagement. “Our social justice grassroots organizing work is focused on Civic Engagement, Education Equity, Health and Safety, and LGBTQIA+ Equality,” it states on their website.