Dolores Huerta, Co-Founder, United Farm Workers

Dolores Huerta is a union leader and an activist for the rights of farm workers and women and created the now famous rallying cry “Sí se puede.” Along with Cesar Chavez, she founded the first successful farm workers union in the country, the United Farm Workers, in 1962. She is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Huerta was born in New Mexico in 1930 where her father was a union activist and state legislator. Following her parents' divorce, Dolores moved with her mother to California’s farm-filled San Joaquin Valley. She was inspired to fight for workers rights when, as a young school teacher, she noticed that many of her students were showing up to school ill or malnourished. “I thought I could do more by organizing farm workers than teaching their hungry children,” she says. To further her cause, she founded the Agricultural Workers Association in 1960 and used the organization to lobby politicians on a variety of issues pertaining to the rights of migrant workers. She left the AWA just two years later, when she and Cesar Chavez founded what would come to be known as the United Farm Workers union.

Over several decades, Huerta would play a critical role in many of the union’s accomplishments, including the strikes against California grape growers in the 1960s and the enactment of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975. Often she risked life and limb in order to ensure the rights of farm workers—in 1988, a San Francisco police officer beat her so badly that she was left with several broken ribs and a ruptured spleen. Huerta has since stepped down from her position at the UFW, but she continues to lecture on worker’s issues and women’s issues around the country. In addition to the Presidential Medal of Freedom, she has received numerous awards and recognitions—among them the Eleanor Roosevelt Humans Rights Award from President Clinton in 1998, the Ohtli award from the Mexican Government and nine honorary doctorates from Universities throughout the United States.