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Dolores Huerta: 1930—: Labor Union Leader

Political And Social Activism

The UFW continued to organize workers and fend off challenges from competing unions such as the Team-sters throughout the 1970s. It also broadened its agenda to fight for better working conditions for all agricultural workers; the UFW was instrumental in publicizing the use of lethal crop chemicals that included DDT, parathion, and methyl bromide. As the UFW's vice-president, Huerta was also an important feminist symbol of the inroads made by the women's movement. Although she faced sexism in the UFW during its early years, Huerta never passed up the opportunity to educate her male colleagues about the impact of gender issues on the union's work.

In a 2000 National Public Radio interview, Huerta reflected on the balance she had to make between her role as a union leader and as a mother: "I guess the political and the work has always come first with me and then I just tried to catch up on the other because I often felt that for every unmade bed and for every unwashed dish some farm worker got one dollar more in wages somewhere. You know, some family out there was made better. And it's sort of the decision that I made and thank God my children, you know, understood that decision." Huerta also paid a physical price for her work; she was arrested over 20 times during her career while on the picket line and in 1988 suffered two broken ribs and a ruptured spleen, when San Francisco police arrested her during a protest against the Bush Administration.

After Cesar Chavez's death in 1993, Huerta continued to foster the UFW's work in the political arena and at the collective bargaining table. In 1999 she stepped down from her post and assumed the title of vice-president emeritus of the UFW in order to devote her time to the presidential candidacy of Al Gore. In October of 2000 Huerta suffered from a bleeding ulcer that led to an extended stay in the hospital for treatment of an intestinal infection; she resumed her work after a lengthy recovery period. Among the many awards that Huerta has collected during her career include honorary doctorates from the New College of San Francisco, San Francisco State University, and the State University of New York at New Paltz; the Outstanding Labor Leader Award from the California State Senate, 1984; an induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame; the American Civil Liberties Union's Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty Award; the Eugene V. Debs Foundation's Outstanding American Award; the Ellis Island Medal of Freedom Award; and the Eleanor Roosevelt Award, which was presented to her by President Bill Clinton in 1999.



Rodriguez, Consuelo, Cesar Chavez, Chelsea House Publishers, 1991.


Appleseeds, February 2002, p. 20.

Hispanic, August 1996, p. 41; January/February 2000, p. 20.

Los Angeles Times, December 5, 2000.

San Diego Business Journal, April 7, 1997, p. 31.


Dolores Huerta Bio, United Farm Workers Web Site, 2002, http://www.ufw.org/dh.htm

The Rise of the UFW, United Farm Workers Web Site, 2002, http://www.ufw.org/ufw.htm

Viva La Causa, La Voz de Aztlan Web Site, 2002, http://aztlan.net/default7.htm


Profile: Dolores Huerta's Struggles on Behalf of Immigrant Farm Workers, National Public Radio Morning Edition, February 22, 2000.

—Timothy Borden

Additional topics

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