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Dolores Huerta: 1930—: Labor Union Leader

United Farm Workers Union Founder

In 1962 Huerta joined forces with one of the most charismatic labor leaders in California, Cesar Chavez, who was working as the national director of CSO. With Chavez, Huerta founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) to organize agricultural laborers into labor unions and enter into collective bargaining agreements with commercial growers. From the start, the NFWA's success depended upon the strength of Chavez as an inspired and dynamic leader and Huerta as a tireless organizer and tough negotiator. As Huerta recalled in a February 2000 interview with National Public Radio's Morning Edition, "I think we really built on each other's strengths a lot. I think I had more experience in dealing with Anglos than he did because Cesar was always very uncomfortable because he always felt that politicians would sell you out." Indeed, Huerta used her lobbying skills to make additional gains for agricultural workers while working for the NFWA. In 1963 the California State Legislature allowed farm workers to participate in the state's disability insurance program and to claim benefits under the Aid for Dependent Families program.

A milestone in Huerta and Chavez's efforts to organize farm workers came in 1965 with a strike in Delano, California by the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC). When the leaders of the AWOC asked NFWA members to join the strike against area grape growers, it grew to include over 5,000 farm workers. It also led to the formation of a new union, the United Farm Workers (UFW) union, out of the AWOC and NFWA.

The new union had its first success in 1966, when Huerta secured a collective bargaining agreement recognizing the union as the agent of workers at the Schenley Wine Company. The fight to organize grape growers struggled on for five years, however, before the UFW declared success and ended its national boycott of California grapes.

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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