Civil rights activist Dolores Huerta to headline Farmworkers Awareness Week

Closeup of Dolores Huerta
Dolores Huerta

United Farmworkers Union co-founder and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will give the keynote address during National Farmworkers Awareness Week at Washington State University Pullman, which runs March 27–April 3. 

Huerta’s speech on April 3 from 4–5 p.m. (and live-streamed) in the CUB Auditorium will cap a week-long series of events that include clothing and blood drives, a film screening, and a bandana project.

Huerta, 92, co-founded the United Farmworkers Union (UFW) with César Chávez in 1962, served as its vice president, and played a critical role in the organization for four decades. 

“The fact that she’s still traveling and serving as an activist and educator is very special,” said Michael Heim, director of WSU’s College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP). “She has become a legend for her work giving farmworkers a voice, which I think helped pave the way for students with migrant and seasonal farm-working backgrounds to attain education.”

Huerta’s strong advocacy for better working and living conditions has had a major impact on the lives of farmworkers for more than six decades. In 1965, Huerta helped organize a strike involving 5,000 grape workers in California and was the lead negotiator in landing a new workers’ contract. Throughout her work with the UFW, she negotiated contracts, fought for unemployment and health care benefits for agricultural workers, and advocated for safer working conditions, including the elimination of pesticides.

Huerta’s work earned her numerous honors, including the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award bestowed by President Bill Clinton in 1998, the Presidential Medal of Freedom bestowed by President Barack Obama in 2012, and Mexico’s Order of the Aztec Eagle Award presented by Mexican Ambassador Miguel Basáñez in 2015.

WSU community encouraged to get involved

In the days leading up to Huerta’s speech, the entire WSU Pullman community will have opportunities to get involved with National Farmworkers Awareness Week:

  • Clothing Drive, March 27–March 31. Long-sleeve shirts, caps, gloves, and other clothing appropriate for field work can be dropped off at several locations including the LGBTQ+ Center in CUB 401, the Women*s Center in Wilson-Short Hall 8, and Scott/Coman Hall. The clothes will be donated directly to farmworkers in the region.
  • Harvest of Shame documentary screening and panel discussion, March 28 at 6 p.m., CUB Auditorium. Produced by Coug alum Edward R. Murrow in 1960, Harvest of Shame exposed the living and working conditions of farmworkers of the time. Following the film, CAMP students will share insights about the conditions experienced by today’s farmworkers.
  • César Chávez Blood Drive, March 30, 7 a.m.–7 p.m. in the CUE atrium. Organized by two WSU sororities, Alpha Nu and Kappa Delta Chi, the drive will support local hospitals.
  • Bandana Project, March 30, 12–4 p.m., CUB 402. The Bandana Project is an art-activism campaign to educate people about the sexual violence farm working women experience in the workplace. The WSU community is invited to decorate bandanas with words of encouragement or inspirational art. Bandanas decorated last year will be on display.
  • Closing Ceremony, March 31, 1–4 p.m., CUB Auditorium. Alma Salazar Young, systemic change coordinator with the UFW Foundation in Georgia, will speak, followed by a panel discussion led by parents of CAMP students and performances by WSU’s Ballet Folklórico and Mariachi group.

Bringing a ‘rich culture’ to WSU

WSU’s strong ties with the agricultural industry, its land-grant heritage, and its long history of providing support to students from migrant and seasonal farm-working backgrounds through programs like HEP and CAMP point to the significant role these students have at the university. As WSU’s population of these students — which Heim estimates to number between 300 and 400 students — continues to grow, he said attending these events, including Huerta’s speech, are great opportunities to learn more about them. 

“It is important for everyone to be seen and heard, and these activities serve to bring some attention and education around these students,” Heim said. “They bring to WSU a rich culture and a lot of pride in their families and the work they do.”

Huerta’s visit to WSU is supported in part by The Office of the President, Office of the Pullman Chancellor, and the Division of Student Affairs.

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