Labor activist and former UC Regent Dolores Huerta, most known for her work with Cesar Chavez in the 1970s and 80s, came to UC Irvine on Nov. 8 to speak about her work with Chavez, the importance of labor unions and her ideas concerning cultural diversity in America.
The event was sponsored by the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, the Cross-Cultural Center, the Program in Women’s Studies and the Coalition of University Employees.
Huerta worked with Chavez to establish the United Farm Workers in 1962. She worked with Chavez for over 30 years to fight for better wages, working conditions and benefits. She also helped establish the Agricultural Labor Relations Act, the Immigration Act of 1985 in order to grant amnesty for farm workers. Huerta also filled a temporary seat on the UC Board of Regents in 2003.
The night began with a presentation from Local 3299 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union representing over 17,000 health care and service workers employed throughout the UC system. Hoping to gain student support, Oscar Mendoza, an employee in Middle Earth Housing, talked about his work on the AFSCME negotiating committee and their current efforts to get a better contract for employees throughout the UC campuses.
Huerta started her speech by praising the UC school system, but also discussed why students should help AFSCME and the employees at UCI.
‘If it were not for organized labor, we would not have a public educational system,’ Huerta said. ‘The University of California would not exist.’
She pointed out that in America, laborers are neither respected nor appreciated.
‘The sad thing about it is that we have a bigoted mentality in our country in that we do not respect the people that work with their hands,’ Huerta said. ‘It is the people who work with their hands that create the wealth.’
She illustrated her point by posing a question to the students: ‘If you were on a deserted island, who would you take with you