New law: Every April 10 will officially be Dolores Huerta Day

United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta speaks at a May Day 2018 event held by SEIU union workers at Courthouse Park in Fresno.
United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta speaks at a May Day 2018 event held by SEIU union workers at Courthouse Park in Fresno.

California’a governor will be required to annually proclaim April 10 at Dolores Huerta Day under a bill signed into law today (July 18) by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The governor – a long-time supporter of the United Farm Workers’ icon – did not comment about AB 2644, which was sponsored by Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes, D-Grand Terrace.

“Thank you Gov. Brown and Assemblymember Reyes for honoring our mother’s life and work,” said Huerta’s son, Emilio Huerta, on a Facebook post. “¡Sí Se Puede!”

The bill was also supported by Assemblymembers Joaquín Arámbula, D-Fresno; Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield; Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton; Assemblymember Anna Cabellero, D-Salinas; and, 19 other Assembly colleagues.

State Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Ángeles, was a principal co-author.

April 10 will not be a state holiday.

The law requires the governor to designate April 10 (Huerta’s birthday) as having “special significance, and would encourage all public schools and educational institutions to observe that date by conducting exercises remembering the life of Dolores Huerta and recognizing her accomplishments and the contributions” she made to the state and the farmworker community.

“I’m happy to hear that our young learners will have the opportunity to learn more about social justice and civil rights because there is still a lot of work to do by the Dolores Huerta Foundation,” said Huerta at a state Capital celebration in April in support of the bill.

Dolores Huerta is pictured at a farmworker rally in the documentary ‘Dolores.’

“We have low-income communities with inequitable representation in local education, and at the same time, they are facing tough anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric, all happening right in front of our faces. We need to continue organizing to empower communities so that they can fight for their representation, voting rights, and an equitable education to change the future for a fair and just society and human rights for all,” said Huerta, who left her powerful position as United Farm Workers secretary-treasurer in September 2000 and later established the Dolores Huerta Foundation.

That foundation successfully sued earlier this year to get Kern County to make another Latino-friendly supervisorial district. It is trying to do the same in Tulare County.

Huerta, who was born on April 10, 1930 in Dawson, New México, was the subject of ‘Dolores,’ a documentary that was released last year.

Her father, Juan Fernández, was a farmworker, miner and union activist who won a seat in the New México Legislature in 1938. Her mother, Alicia, was active in civic organizations and often housed low-wage workers in her 70-room hotel.

Huerta spent most of her childhood and early adult life in Stockton, where her mother moved following a divorce. She was a schoolteacher when she quit and joined the local chapter of the Community Service Organization, where she met César E. Chávez.

Chávez and Huerta eventually formed the UFW in Delano in 1962. With Huerta as an organizer and tough negotiator, the union won contracts with table grape growers in the Delano area.

old pic
Dolores Huerta, right, is shown in a family photo that was displayed at a 2008 appearance at Fresno City College. DOLORES HUERTA Special to Vida en el Valle

Huerta was also instrumental in the passage of the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB), which Brown signed in 1975.

She has four elementary schools named after her in California.

Speaking at Fresno City College in April following a screening of the film, Huerta encouraged students to get active just like the farmworkers who had no money or spoke no English did in the 1960s.

“Where is the power? In their person, right,” said Huerta. “That is the only power we need.”

Huerta said if people are not active or don’t take responsibility, nothing changes.

“Nobody is going to do it for us. We have to do it for ourselves,” she said.