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Dolores Huerta: 1930—: Labor Union Leader

Founded Community Service Organization

Huerta's career as an elementary school teacher in Stockton was a brief one. Upset that many of her pupils came to school without decent clothing or enough food, she decided after just a few months in the classroom to work against poverty in a more direct manner. In 1955 she thus helped to found the Stockton chapter of the Community Services Organization (CSO). Like the civil rights organizations led by African-American activists in the South, the Stockton CSO began to organize Mexican-Americans on the grass-roots level to implement social, economic, and political changes. Under Huerta's leadership, the CSO immediately began a voter registration program and put pressure on politicians to provide equal services to poorer, predominantly ethnic neighborhoods in Stockton. It also served to publicize cases of discrimination and police brutality against Mexican-Americans.

Located in California's San Joaquin Valley, one of the most productive agricultural regions in the United States, Stockton had a significant number of migrant farm workers among its residents during various times of the year. Many of the migrant workers had come to the region from Mexico; lacking American citizenship and in many cases permanent resident status, the migrants were often subjected to brutal and exploitative working conditions along with low wages and no job security. To address these problems, Huerta formed the Agricultural Workers Association (AWA) in 1960. Through the AWA, Huerta lobbied the California State Legislature to end the state's citizenship requirement to qualify for public assistance or enter state pension programs. Continuing the political aims of the CSO, Huerta was also instrumental in passing legislation that allowed citizens to vote with Spanish-language ballots and take driver's license tests in Spanish.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: James Heneghan (1930-) Biography - Personal to Rick Jacobson Biography - PersonalDolores Huerta: 1930—: Labor Union Leader Biography - Initial Career As Teacher, Founded Community Service Organization, United Farm Workers Union Founder, Political And Social Activism