The annual Salem Peace Lecture will celebrate its 20th year by presenting United Farm Worker union organizer Dolores Huerta on Wednesday, October 21 at 7:30 p.m. at Hudson Hall in the Mary Stuart Rogers Music Center at Willamette University. Ms. Huerta will speak on “Immigration Reform and Farm Worker Justice.” The lecture is free and open to the public.
Dolores Huerta was co-founder and first Vice-President of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW). In 1962 she and Cesar Chavez formed the National Farm Workers Association, the predecessor to the UFW. She directed the UFW’s national grape boycott, resulting in the entire California table grape industry signing a three-year collective bargaining agreement with the UFW.
Ms. Huerta spoke out early and often against toxic pesticides, like DDT and parathion, that threaten farm workers, consumers and the environment. She lobbied in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., organized field strikes, directed UFW boycotts, and became one of the UFW’s most visible spokespersons.Â Robert F. Kennedy acknowledged her help in winning the 1968 California Democratic Presidential Primary moments before he was shot in Los Angeles.
Ms. Huerta directed the east coast boycott of grapes, lettuce and Gallo wines. The boycott resulted in the enactment of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act, the first law of its kind in the United States, granting farm workers the right to collectively organize and bargain for better wages and working conditions. In 1975 she lobbied against federal guest worker programs and spearheaded legislation granting amnesty for farm workers that had lived, worked and paid taxes in the United States for many years. Her efforts were instrumental in passing the Immigration Act of 1985.
Dolores Huerta has received many awards, including three honorary doctorate degrees. In 1984 the California State Senate bestowed upon her the Outstanding Labor Leader Award. In 1993 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. That same year she received the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty Award, the Eugene Debs Foundation’s Outstanding American Award, and the Ellis Island Medal of Freedom Award. In 1998 she was named one of three Ms. Magazine’s “Women of the Year” and was honored among the Ladies Home Journal’s “100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century.”
Ms. Huerta continues to work long hours on behalf of the rights of farm workers, immigrants and women, and she serves as president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation. She has been arrested 22 times for nonviolent, peaceful protests.
Each year the Peace Lecture Committee recognizes a local advocate for peace and justice. This year Gail McDougle, pastor of Salem’s First Congregational Church UCC, will receive the 2009 Salem Peacemaker Award just prior to Ms. Huerta’s address.
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