Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Women in the Labor Movement

Last week I attended a press conference at the Albuquerque, New Mexico office of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.  From my seat I had a great view of a beautiful mural and it got me thinking about the labor movement. 

You may have heard of César Chávez co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers (UFW).  If you do not recognize his name, I know you’ve heard his slogan: "Sí, se puede.” 

Who you may not have heard of is Dolores Huerta, Chavez’s co-founder. 

Huerta was born Dolores Clara Fernandez, on April 10, 1930 in northern New Mexico.  Her father, Juan Fernández, was a farm worker, miner and union activist who would be elected to the New Mexico legislature in 1938.  In the mid-1930s Juan and Dolores’ mother Alicia Fernández divorced.   Huerta then moved with her mother and siblings to Stockton, in northern California's San Joaquin Valley.

In 1955, Dolores co-founded the Stockton chapter of the Community Service OrganizationThrough her work she met CSO Executive Director, Cesar Chavez.  The two soon realized that they shared a common vision:  to organize farm workers.

In the spring of 1962, César and Dolores resigned from the CSO and launched the National Farm Workers Association.  Dolores’ organizing skills were invaluable to the development of the organization.  Despite her hard work, the obstacles she faced as a woman did not go unnoticed.  In a letter to Chavez she joked…”Being a now (ahem) experienced lobbyist, I am able to speak on a man-to-man basis with other lobbyists.”

In 1965 Huerta directed the United Farm Workers’ national grape boycott, which launched her into a fast-paced period of negotiating contracts, lobbying, organizing boycotts and strikes and spearheading farmworker political activities.

She now serves as President of the Dolores Huerta FoundationYou can read more about her organizing work here and you can find out more about women in the labor movement here.

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