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Dolores Huerta (born Dolores Clara Fernández Huerta on April 10, 1930) is an American labor leader and civil rights activist who, with Cesar Chavez, is a co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers (UFW). Huerta helped organize the Delano grape strike in 1965 in California and was the lead negotiator in the workers’ contract that was created after the strike. This HD video may be viewed in 140 different languages with closed captioning (CC).

Huerta is the originator of the phrase, “Sí, se puede”. In 1955, Huerta along with Fred Ross co-founded and organized the Stockton Chapter of the Community Service Organization (CSO), which fought for economic improvements for Latinx/Mexican/Chicano migrant Farm workers. Due to her dedication and willingness to serve, Ross often delegated huge responsibilities to her. He knew she was capable of delivering the organization’s message in Spanish and English and promoted the agenda from door to door field organizing.

In 1960, Huerta co-founded the Agricultural Workers Association, which set up voter registration drives and pressed local governments for barrio improvements. In 1962, she co-founded, with César Chávez, the National Farm Workers Association, which would later become the United Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee. Huerta was the only woman to ever sit on the board of the UFW, until 2018. In 1966, she negotiated a contract between the UFWOC and Schenley Wine Company, marking the first time that farm workers were able to effectively bargain with an agricultural enterprise.

Through her work with the CSO, Huerta met Chávez, its executive director. Chavez and Huerta quickly realized that they shared a common goal of helping improve the lives and wages of farmworkers, so they co-founded the National Farm Workers Association. In 1962, after the CSO turned down Chávez’s request, as their president, to organize farmworkers, Chávez and Huerta resigned from the CSO. She went to work for the National Farm Workers Association, which would later merge with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee to become the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee.

The foundation was later changed to an affiliated agricultural workers organization. She explained the farmworkers were being paid little to nothing, they had no rights, they slept on the floors, their furniture was wooden boxes, did not have clean water, access to bathrooms, would work from sunrise to sundown, and were not given any breaks. Many of these workers would migrate and traveled to where the crops were in season, meaning their children did not have a proper education and would often work in the fields along with their parents. She explained that many women were often sexually assaulted by the landowners but were in fear to speak up because their family needed a job. After Dolores saw the conditions these people were living in, she joined the organization. She explained, laws must be passed in order for these people to get treated fairly which is why she worked hard and put constant pressure to get laws passed. With the help of the organization, she helped champion for the rights of workers in agricultural fields to ensure they were well paid and worked in better conditions.

On June 5, 1968, Huerta stood beside Robert F. Kennedy on the speaker’s platform at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles as he delivered a victory statement to his political supporters shortly after winning the California Democratic presidential primary election. Only moments after the candidate finished his speech, Kennedy and five other people were wounded by gunfire inside the hotel’s kitchen pantry. Kennedy died from his gunshot wounds on June 6.

In September 1988, in front of the St. Francis Hotel in Union Square, Huerta was severely beaten by San Francisco Police officer Frank Achim during a peaceful and lawful protest of the policies/platform of then-candidate for president George H.W. Bush. The baton-beating caused significant internal injuries to her torso, resulting in several broken ribs and requiring the removal of her spleen in emergency surgery. The beating was caught on videotape and broadcast widely on local television news. As a result of this assault and the suit, the SFPD was pressured to change its crowd control policies and its process of officer discipline.

Following a lengthy recovery, Huerta took a leave of absence from the union to focus on women’s rights.

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