Dolores Huerta

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Dolores Huerta
Dolores Huerta
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Dolores Clara Fernández Huerta (born April 10, 1930) is an American labor leader and civil rights activist who, with Cesar Chavez, is a co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers (UFW).


  • We had violence directed at us by the growers themselves, trying to run us down by cars, pointing rifles at us, spraying the people when they were on the picket line with sulfur. And then we had violence by the Teamsters union with the goons that they hired at that time — and by the way, I have to say that the Teamsters union are OK today...They came at us with two by fours. We had a lot of violence, definitely. And then I was beaten up by the police San Francisco [in 1988], which also is shown in the film.
  • We were in Arizona. We were organizing people in the community to come to support us. They had passed a law in Arizona that if you said, "boycott," you could go to prison for six months. And if you said "strike," you could go to prison. So we were trying to organize against that law. And I was speaking to a group of professionals in Arizona, to see if they could support us. And they said, "Oh, here in Arizona you can't do any of that. In Arizona no se puede — no you can't." And I said, "No, in Arizona sí se puede!" And when I went back to our meeting that we had every night there ... I gave that report to everybody and when I said, "Sí se puede," everybody started shouting, "Sí se puede! Sí se puede!" And so that became the slogan of our campaign in Arizona and now is the slogan for the immigrant rights movement, you know, on posters. We can do it. I can do it. Sí se puede.
  • When I went to Mexico, they always talked about gays. These were people that had to be protected, not abused. And in the early farm worker movement we had a young group of gay men who worked in the packing shed. They were really, really strong activists. So growing up it never occurred to me that you should discriminate against people who are gay and lesbian. I personally always felt that any kind of discrimination is wrong. I've always supported gay rights and went to all the gay rights marches that they had.
  • I never felt overlooked because I didn’t expect any kind of recognition. I think that’s very typical of women. I had been acculturated to be supportive, to be accommodating, to support men in the work they do. We never think of getting credit or recognition or even taking the power. We didn’t think it those terms. Of course I think that’s changing now and there’s a surge of women who are not only running for office, but getting elected. That could make an incredible amount of difference in our world. We will never have peace in the world until feminists take power.
  • La Cucaracha (cartoon) speaks for the disenfranchised with humor and a cutting voice

1974 speech, in Voices of Multicultural America: Notable Speeches Delivered by African, Asian, Hispanic and Native Americans, 1790-1995 by Deborah Gillan Straub[edit]

  • It is no accident that farm workers have an average life span of forty-nine years of age.
  • Now when we first tried to get this plan passed, many of the growers were very upset about it. They said you have to go through an insurance company. We are very lucky that César Chávez is a grammar-school dropout and he hasn't been educated to think that insurance is a way of life. He said he wasn't going to give any of his money to an insurance company, any of the workers' money.
  • once we got the medical plan, we found that that really didn't stop the abuses, because the doctors were still not giving the workers good health care. So the next step was then to build a clinic. So the workers started to build their clinics.
  • I think our clinics are unique in that we call them people's clinics. The people built them, we raised the money for them. There is no government money at all in our clinics. And the kind of work that the clinic does is primarily, first of all, educational. And we don't have Mickey-Mouse clinics. Our clinics are really beautiful. I mean there is good medicine in our clinics. The workers are taught about nutrition, to combat diabetes, which is very common among farm workers. They are given prenatal instruction to have healthier babies and healthier mothers. They are taught about inoculations. You know, it's really a funny experience to go into the waiting room of our clinic, and you will see a group of farm workers sitting around talking. And one worker will say to the other one, "Well, I came in to get a shot." And the other worker will say, "Why, you shouldn't get a shot if you just have a cold, because you know you can build up an immunity to penicillin." And these are farm workers teaching each other about health.
  • Now, some of you might wonder how come I have ten children, right? One of the main reasons is because I want to have my own picket line.
  • Now another great thing about our clinics is that we train farm workers as lab assistants, lab technicians, nurse's aides, we train farm workers to do the administration of the clinic.
  • what we're doing is we're not only just giving good health care-fantastic health care-but we are training our own people to be able to do the health work and to administer the program.
  • you can't help poor people and be comfortable. You know, the two things are just not compatible. If you want to really give good health care to poor people you've got to be prepared to be a little uncomfortable and to put a little bit of sacrifice behind it
  • I'm going to talk a little bit about the pesticides, because... we raised the issue many years ago and a lot of people have been concerned about [it], but it was sort of a no-no. Nobody could talk about it openly.
  • Do you know that we were amazed to find out you can get all kinds of information about what's harmful to a pet, but you can't get any information about what's harmful to a farm worker?
  • when we were negotiating contracts-I was in charge of the contract negotiations for the union-we called up a friend of ours who worked with the Los Angeles County Health (Department), and he gave us some information on one of the organic phosphates that we wanted to know. Well, one of the growers who was in on the negotiations tried to get him fired for giving us that information. And this man worked for the Los Angeles County Health Department. But this shows you and I'm going to talk about that a little bit more about the kind of repression that I know a lot of you are faced [with] when you do try to make real changes or when you try to get into those controversial areas where you have conflicts of power.
  • In our contracts, we banned DDT, Aldrin, Endrin, 2,4-D, 2,4-T, Tep and many of the other-Monitor 4-many of these other pesticides. We banned these pesticides in our contracts starting from 1970. It is interesting that just recently, the government has come out against Aldrin and Endrin. And the Farm Workers Union banned these pesticides many years ago. We find that the only way that you can be sure that the so-called laws are administered, that the so-called laws are carried out, is when you have somebody right there on the ranch, a steward, a ranch committee, somebody that can't get fired from the job, somebody that has the protection of a union contract to make sure that these things are carried out.
  • It is sad for us to report this, but the clock has been turned back and California agriculture, with the exception of a handful of contracts that we still hold, we now have the labor contractor, the crew leader system back again, we now have child labor back again.
  • We now have a return to pesticides-forty thousand acres of lettuce were poisoned with Monitor 4. This lettuce was shipped to the market. In California, it was sold as shredded lettuce in Safeway stores. That's nice to have Monitor 4 with your shredded salad, huh? And we have a return back to the archaic system that we had, [a] primitive system that existed before and still exists, where we don't have United Farm Workers contracts. People working out there in those fields without a toilet, people working out there in those fields without any hand-washing facilities, without any cold drinking water, without any kind of first-aid or safety precautions. All of this has come back again.
  • The California Rural Legal Assistance just did a spot survey of about twenty ranches in the Salinas and the Delano area just a couple of months ago. And [in] every single instance they found either no toilet or a dirty toilet, and you can imagine. And this is something consumers don't understand that that lettuce, those grapes are being picked right there in that field. If there's a dirty toilet, it's right next to the produce, and that produce is picked and packed in that field and shipped directly to your store.
  • The Teamsters have brought back illegal aliens. And now when I say this, I want to tell what's happening to these people. Today, President Ford is meeting with Echeverría in Mexico. And they're going to talk about a bracero program, which is a slave program for workers, for Mexican workers.
  • They want to bring in one million Mexicans from Mexico. We've already got close to a million people here illegally. And how are they being treated? They are paying three hundred dollars each to come over the border. They are being put in housing where you have thirty or forty people in a room without any kind of a sanitary facility.
  • I think that the one thing that we've learned in our union is that you don't wait. You just get out and you start doing things.
  • We don't have to talk about a charitable outlook. You know, people come in with a lot of money and they give people charity. We've got to talk about ways to make people self-sufficient in terms of their medical health. Because when they go in there with charity and then they pull out, then they leave the people worse off than they ever were before. We've got to use government money to help people. And I don't think that this is so radical. Lord knows that the growers are getting billions of dollars not to grow cotton, all kinds of supports and subsidies. Well, if any money is given for medical health, it should stay in that community.
  • We've got to take the side of the people that are being oppressed. And if we can't do that, then we're not doing our job, because the people in that minority community or in that community are not going to have any faith in the medical program that is in there if you can't take their side.
  • Health, like food, has got to be to cure people, to make people well. It can't be for profit. Food should be sacred to feed people, not for profit. Health has got to be a right for every person and not a privilege. You would be sad to know that many farm workers-before we had our clinics-had never been to a doctor.
  • Within the next year they are spending millions of dollars to destroy the United Farm Workers. They are spending millions of dollars to tell what a bad administrator César Chávez is. Have you seen these articles in the New York Times and Time magazine? They say César Chávez is a bad administrator. What they really mean is he is the wrong color. And if he were a good administrator.... Can you imagine five clinics, a medical plan, a credit union, a retirement center for farm workers, fantastic increases in wages, the removal of the labor contract system-all of this César did in a few short years. What would he do if he was a good administrator?
  • And you will really see-when we talk about the principle of nonviolence, you will see it in action. Because you will see farm workers getting beaten and killed, and you will see that the farm workers do not fight back with violence. We are using a nonviolent action of the boycott, so we really need your help in that.
  • We're going to say first "Viva la Causa," which is the cause of labor, peace, and health, "Viva la justicia," which is justice, and then we will say "Viva Chávez," for César, may God give him long life. And then we'll say "down with fear," abajo, and "down with let-tuce and grapes," abajo, and "down with Gallo wine." Because Gallo is on the boycott too
  • We did that at the impeachment rally in Washington, D.C., and we said, "Down with Nixon! Abajo!" and it worked.
  • Can we live in a world of brotherhood and peace without disease and fear and oppression? Si se puede

1966 speech, in Voices of Multicultural America: Notable Speeches Delivered by African, Asian, Hispanic and Native Americans, 1790-1995 by Deborah Gillan Straub[edit]

  • We have met with the governor and his secretaries before in a closed-door session. We are n o longer interested in listening to the excuses the governor has to give in defense of the growers, to his apologies for them not paying us decent wages or why the growers can not dignify the workers as individuals with the right to place the price on their own labor through collective bargaining. The governor maintains that the growers are in a competitive situation. Well, the farm workers are also. We must also compete with the standard of living to give our families their daily bread.
  • The difference between 1959 and 1966 is highlighted by the peregrination, it is revolution-the farm workers have been organized.
  • To the governor and the legislature of California we say: You cannot close your eyes and ears to our needs any longer, you cannot pretend that we do not exist, you cannot plead ignorance to our problem because we are here and we embody our needs for you. And we are not alone. We are accompanied by many friends. The religious leaders of the state, spearheaded by the California Migrant Ministry, the student groups and civil rights groups that make up the movement that has been successful in securing civil rights for Negroes in this country, right-thinking citizens, and our staunchest ally, organized labor, are all in the revolution of farm labor.
  • The workers are on the rise. There will be strikes all over the state and throughout the country because Delano has shown what can be done, and the workers know now they are no longer alone.
  • The social and economic revolution of the farm workers is well under way and will not be stopped until they receive equality.

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