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Dolores Huerta is an activist and labor leader who co-founded what would become the United Farm Workers.
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Dolores Huerta has worked to improve social and economic conditions for farm workers and to fight discrimination. To further her cause, she created the Agricultural Workers Association (AWA) in 1960 and co-founded what would become the United Farm Workers (UFW). Huerta stepped down from the UFW in 1999, but she continues to her work to improve the lives of workers, immigrants and women.
Activist and labor leader Dolores Fernández, better known as Dolores Huerta, was born on April 10, 1930, in Dawson, New Mexico. Huerta grew up in Stockton, California, which was in the San Joaquin Valley, an area filled with farms. In the early 1950s, she completed a teaching degree at Delta Community College, part of the University of the Pacific. She briefly worked as an elementary school teacher. Huerta saw that her students, many of them children of farm workers, were living in poverty without enough food to eat or other basic necessities. To help, she became one of the founders of the Stockton chapter of the Community Services Organization (CSO). The CSO worked to improve social and economic conditions for farm workers and to fight discrimination.
To further her cause, Huerta created the Agricultural Workers Association (AWA) in 1960. Through the AWA, she lobbied politicians on many issues, including allowing migrant workers without U.S. citizenship to receive public assistance and pensions and creating Spanish-language voting ballots and driver's tests. In 1962, she co-founded a workers' union with Cesar Chavez, which was later known as the United Farm Workers (UFW). The two made a great team. Chavez was the dynamic leader and speaker and Huerta was a skilled organizer and tough negotiator. Huerta was instrumental in the union's many successes, including the strikes against California grape growers in the 1960s and 1970s.
Huerta may have stepped down from her position at the UFW in 1999, but she continues to her work to improve the lives of workers, immigrants and women. She has received many honors for her activism, including the Ellis Island Medal of Freedom Award (1993) and the Eleanor Roosevelt Award (1998). Huerta, mother of 11 children, was inducted to the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1993.
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