Dolores Huerta: Igniting Change in the Community!


Dolores Huerta has dedicated her life to fighting for social justice.  Growing up in the San Joaquin Valley, her mother, Alicia Chavez, owned a hotel and many times let farm workers stay for free.  Through her mother’s lead to help those in need, Dolores chose to help the community by becoming an elementary school teacher.  During her time in the classroom, she saw firsthand the dire conditions of the farm workers children.  It was at that point that Dolores knew she could do more by organizing the farm workers.

Her desire to help farm workers led her to become one of the founding members of the Stockton Chapter of the Community Service Organization (CSO). It was there that she met Fred Ross and Cesar Chavez.  Fred trained both Cesar and Dolores on community organizing.

To improve conditions for farm workers and their families, in 1962, she co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (later the United Farm Workers Union) with Cesar Chavez. Through non-violent techniques of organizing, lobbying, registering voters, and democratic participation they were able to confront the problems facing the farm workers.

Dolores helped organize farm workers and directed the UFW’s national grape boycott in the late 1960s. The boycott was one of the most successful in U.S. history and resulted in the termination of an abusive system of labor contracting and protection from exposure to the dangerous pesticides.

In the early 1960s, she continued her efforts on Capital Hill lobbying for several bills to improve work and health conditions for farm workers.  Her lobbying efforts were successful with the passage of the U.S. Agricultural Labor Relations Act, giving farm workers the right to organize and bargain for better wages and working conditions.  Other bills that she lobbied for included allowing farm workers to receive public assistance, retirement benefits, and disability and unemployment insurance, regardless of whether they were U.S. citizens.  And lastly her lobbying efforts resulted in the passage of the Immigration Act of 1985 which 1,400,000 farm workers receiving amnesty.

In addition to the many injustices that still face migrant farm workers today, Dolores mentioned several other issues facing our community including the importance of addressing equal access to education.  The educational system is failing its lower income population.

When asked about what Latinas can do to improve and make a difference in the community, Dolores encourages women to get involved by voting and becoming active in political campaigns.  “There are many ways to become active on certain issues, such as writing a letter to your local council person, making a phone call, attending a city council or school board meeting and simply reading the local paper to stay abreast of current issues.”

Moreover, she stressed the importance of marches as democracy in action.  “Marches serve to communicate the issues of the people and are a simple way for many people to get involved.”

Dolores has received many accolades for her service, leadership and advocacy.   She was the first Latina inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and received the United States Presidential Eleanor D. Roosevelt Human Rights Award from President Clinton.  Recently, Girl Scouts Heart of Central California unveiled the first Girl Scout patch in honor of Dolores Huerta. The patch was designed to assist girls in developing leadership skills and to inspire them to engage in community service. To earn the patch, girls first learned about Dolores Huerta’s work and life. They then went through a process of discovery, connection, and action on the issues of farm workers, women, or immigrants.

Dolores has taken her 50 years of experience in social activism to start her lifelong dream, the Dolores Huerta Foundation.  The organization focuses on community organizing and leadership training in low-income, and under-represented communities. For more information on the Dolores Huerta Foundation visit