MAKERS Profile

Dolores Huerta

Co-Founder, United Farm Workers

In this video

Dolores Huerta on how she led a historic boycott against the grape industry to gain better working conditions for farmworkers.
Dolores Huerta is a union leader and an activist for the rights of farm workers and women. Along with Cesar Chavez, she founded the first successful farm workers union in the country, the United Farm Workers, in 1962. She is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.   Huerta was born in New Mexico in 1930, where her father was a union activist and state legislator. Following her parents divorce, Dolores moved with her mother to California’s farm-filled San Joaquin Valley. She was inspired to fight for workers rights when, as a young school teacher, she noticed that many of her students were showing up to school ill or malnourished. “I thought I could do more by organizing farm workers than teaching their hungry children,” she says.   To further her cause, she founded the Agricultural Workers Association in 1960 and used the organization to lobby politicians on a variety of issues pertaining to the rights of migrant workers. She left the AWA just two years later, when she and Cesar Chavez founded what would come to be known as the United Farm Workers union.   Over several decades, Huerta would play a critical role in many of the union’s accomplishments, including the strikes against California grape growers in the 1960s and the enactment of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975. Often she risked life and limb in order to ensure the rights of farm workers—in 1988, a San Francisco police officer beat her so badly that she was left with several broken ribs and a ruptured spleen.   Huerta has since stepped down from her position at the UFW, but she continues to lecture on worker’s issues and women’s issues around the country. In addition to the Presidential Medal of Freedom, she has received numerous awards and recognitions—among them the Eleanor Roosevelt Humans Rights Award from President Clinton in l998the Ohtli award from the Mexican Government, and nine honorary doctorates from Universities throughout the United States.

More From Dolores

Playing With the Boys
Huerta remembers a childhood playing her brothers and feeling including in everything they did.

58 Sexist Comments
Huerta describes how she slowly got her fellow union organizers to stop using sexist language.

An Inheritance of Justice
Huerta advises parents on the most important thing they can leave their children.  

A Definition of Peace
Huerta shares a favorite phrase that reframes the idea of granting equal rights.

Taking Credit for Your Work
Huerta encourages women to take credit for their work and their ideas.

Sí Se Puede
Huerta talks about originating the political chant "sí se puede", or "yes we can."

Go to Jail
Huerta talks about how going to jail is an eye-opening experience everyone should have.

Don't Be a "Good Girl"
Huerta criticizes raising young girls to be "ladylike" and encourages women to get in the fray and learn to be strong in every way.

Permission to Lead
Huerta credits the women's movement for making her feel it was okay to be a leader, and to call herself a leader.

Grassroots Communication
Huerta describes the widespread reach of the farm workers plight during the grape boycott thanks to a grassroots network. 

The Origins of United Farm Workers
Huerta recounts meeting Cesar Chavez and how they decided to start a union for farm workers. 

Embracing Leadership
Huerta on how Cesar Chavez compelled her to step up and be a leader.