Si se pueda! Yes we can honor great women in America.
The Medal of Freedom is presented to people who have made meritorious contributions to the national interests of the United States, to world peace or to other significant endeavors.
Yesterday, among others, Delores Huerta was given the highest honor in the land awarded to civilians. Her history as a civil rights and labor leader for Hispanics is prestigious and legendary.
SHe was born in 1930 in a mining town in Northern New Mexico where her father was a union activist and State Assemblyman. After her parent’s divorce, her mother, Alicia Chavez, moved the family to Stockton, Calif. Her mother owned a restaurant and hotel where farm workers were welcome for free, setting an example of generosity and concern for others.
Huerta graduated from the University of Pacific with a teaching degree, but felt she could do more by organizing farm workers, so she founded the Community Service Organization (CSO) to confront segregation and police brutality against the Hispanic population. In 1960 while working for the CSO, she organized and founded the Agricultural Workers Association and became a fearless lobbyist in Sacramento where she championed landmark legislation like allowing voters the right to vote in Spanish and to take a driver’s license test in their native language. In 1962 she went to Washington to lobby for an end to the Bracero Program.
Huerta and Cesar Chavez form team, advocate for Filipino workers as well
After meeting Cesar Chavez, they worked together to organize farm workers. In Delano, Calif. they formed the National Farm Workers Association, which was the predecessor of the United Farm Workers (UFW).
In 1965 Huerta and Chavez incorporated Filipino workers in their cause and went on strike in Delano, Calif., against grape growers. In September 5,000 grape workers walked off their jobs in the famous “Delano Grape Strike.” The strike lasted for five years. Ms. Huerta directed the United Farm Workers’ national grape boycott, taking the plight of the farm workers to the consumers. The boycott resulted in the entire California table grape industry signing a three-year collective bargaining agreement with the United Farm Workers.
As a proactive environmentalist, Ms. Huerta was one of the first to warn of the hazards to farm workers, consumers and the environment of DDT and Parathyon.
At 69, Dolores Huerta still works long hours for the union she co-founded and nurtured. Many days find her in cities across North America promoting "La Causa" (the farmworker’s cause) and women’s rights. For more than 30 years, Dolores Huerta remained Cesar Chavez' most loyal and trusted advisor. Together they founded the Robert F. Kennedy Medical Plan, the Juan De La Cruz Farm Worker Pension Fund, the the Farm Workers Credit Union, the first medical and pension plan and credit union for farm workers. They also formed the National Farm Workers Service Center, Inc., a community based affordable housing and Spanish language radio communications organization with five Spanish radio stations.
As an advocate for farm worker rights, Dolores has been arrested 22 times for non-violent peaceful union activities.
In 1984 the California State Senate bestowed upon her the Outstanding Labor Leader Award. In 1993 Dolores was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. That same year she received the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty Award, the Eugene V. Debs Foundation Outstanding American Award, and the Ellis Island Medal of Freedom Award. She is also the recipient of the Consumers Union Trumpeter's Award. In 1998 she was one of three Ms. Magazine's, "Women of the Year" and the Ladies Home Journal's "100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century".
She received honorary doctorate degrees from:
New College of San Francisco, 1990
San Francisco State University, 1993
S.U.N.I. New Palz University, 1999
Aside from currently serving as the Secretary-Treasure of the United Farm Workers, she is the vice president for the Coalition for Labor Union Women, the vice president of the California AFL-CIO, and is a board member for the Fund For The Feminist Majority, which advocates for the political and equal rights for women.
Her achievements and advocacy are legendary and no one deserves the highest honor in the land more than Delores Huerta.
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