United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta educated May Day rallyers, placed candidates desiring elected positions on notice against “false promises,” and called out Tulare and Kern counties on a lack of representation at Courthouse Park.
Just about 200 people rallied at the downtown event yesterday (May 1) organized by SEIU (Service Employees International Union) Local 521, where Huerta, 88, delivered a keynote address. The downtown event marked the annual celebration of immigrants and worker’s rights, which drew marches and protesters worldwide.
“What are the things labor brought to workers? The 8-hour day; people don’t know about that because it is not taught in our school books,” Huerta said through a microphone on the grounds of Fresno’s court house and Hall of Records.
“There was a huge demonstration at the turn of the last century to try to get an 8-hour day. People were killed so that we could have an 8-hour day. For the next May Day, lets remember those who died so that we could have an 8-hour day.”
Huerta told the boisterous crowd, who often shouted “union” and "Viva Dolores Huerta," that it was organized labor who brought about social security, safety standards, worker’s compensation, disability insurance, public education, “and these are the things, we know, that they are trying to privatize and take away from us.”
Huerta said the annual event isn't officially celebrated in the U.S. except among those calling for immigrant’s and worker’s rights.
“It’s called the Day of the Worker. I think it’s wonderful that we’re doing this here in Fresno, and they are having marches in other parts in the state of California,” said Huerta, who makes numerous appearances through the Dolores Huerta Foundation.
Over the microphone, she said: “Why are labor unions important? Because it’s the only organization that workers have. The bosses have a ton of organizations that they pay dues to, but they don’t’ want workers to have an organization that they can pay their dues to.”
Fresno City Council president Esmeralda Soria, numerous SEIU union members and leaders, Andrew Janz, a Democrat campaigning for the 22nd congressional seat held numerous years by Republican Devin Nunes, attended the event. Soria and Janz did not take the podium.
“We want to hold them (elected officials) accountable. We don’t want them to make us any false promises, and then when they get into congress, they forget the workers that got them elected,” said Huerta, “That happens often, but we want to put them on notice ahead of time. They want the people to go out there and help them get elected, but once they get into congress, they forget about the working people.”
Known as “El Capitán,” a nickname he picked up during his time marching with Huerta and the late César Chávez, Roberto Bustos spoke briefly.
“That’s what we do is march, march, and march. Unionize, organize, and hopefully we vote and make the changes we need to make,” Bustos, who turns 76 this weekend, later said.
Bustos commented on the workers of Gerawan Farming, and their relunctance to the United Farm Workers union.
“What happens to those people, they’re going to be sorry. Right now, they just want us to get out. And then, when we get out, and there’s no more activity, they’re going to come back and do their old tactics. The old tactics about not paying them, and treating them bad and all that, and firing them whenever they want to, that’s not right,” said Bustos.
Huerta also spoke of lawsuits against Kern County, and a potential suit against Tulare County, for not having people of color on their respective boards of supervisors.
According to suburbanstats.org, Kern County contains 59 percent Latinos, while Tulare County sits at 60 percent Latinos.
“They (Tulare County) have until Cinco de Mayo to respond,” she said, “If they do not agree to make new electoral voting lines by then, we are going to file a lawsuit against them.”