tv Civil Rights Activist Dolores Huerta CSPAN April 24, 2016 10:34pm-10:46pm EDT
she described how her sweater was very wrinkled and she was standing on top of a truck, which we don't see in the cropping of the image. there are versions around are you see the truck. holding that sign to animate and to call on workers to leave the grape fields and join with the organizing committee. i hope that viewers of this exhibition extend their knowledge of the farmworkers union, which is perhaps still not as known in detail as part of the civil rights movement of our country. that they understand these issues are still very important. some of them -- dolores huerta did a lot to advance the cause. and dolores was crucial to the limit -- to the movement as cesar chavez.
much onment relied very incredible skills as an organizer, her exceptional commitment, her unwavering commitment to social justice. >> you can watch this another american artifacts programs by visiting our website at c-span.org/history. announcer: now more on dolores huerta's life story. we talked to her when our local content vehicles visited bakersfield, california.
>> dolores huerta is a civil rights activists who cofounded the national farm workers association in 1962, which became the united farm workers of america. in 2012, president obama awarded her the medal of freedom for her life's work. delores huerta: i was born in dodson, new mexico and then moved to california when i was six years old. my parents moved us to california. my parents divorced. sister androught my california. to my two brothers to california. as a teenager we were always harassed by the police. we had a lot of discrimination in high school against all the kids of color. a lot of the kids that were the okie kids as they called them faced quite a bit of
discrimination. you always had this sense of injustice happening all around you. stockton, california is another agricultural community just like bakersfield is. you had all the same dynamics that were going on there. a lot of the people of color did farmwork. it was always like they were always trying to denigrate the people that did farmwork and making the feeling they were less of people, individuals. that was the dynamics that permeated the community. they started the bracero program in 1942. we went into the war and they brought in many of people to mexico to be farm labor. what happened is after the war ended the kept bringing more and more people in, and the local workers' wages dropped to $.50 an hour. they would bring in the braceros and not hire the local workers. i grew up in stockton, california. i started my first organization of farmworkers called the agricultural workers association. of thet -- as part afl-cio. but i left the organization because i felt they were not doing the kind of organizing
that was going to be successful. that's when we started united farmworkers. we organized from 1962 to 1965, for three years. in 1965 we had a huge strike with thousands of workers on strike. announcer: striking grape workers begin a 300 mile pilgrimage northward. delores huerta: that went on for five years. the strike started in 1965 and did not end until 1970. we could not win because they kept arresting us and bringing in more and more strikebreakers. we started a boycott of california table grapes. when the employers saw they could not sell their grapes and not making a profit anymore that's when they decided they would sign contracts with the union. basically what you learn and what you teach is that people have power. you don't have to be rich, you don't have to speak the english language, you don't even have to be a u.s. citizen. but you do have power and you can make changes. one of the big provisions we got
for farmworkers was the right to have toilets in the fields. people don't realize that the crops that are picked in the fields go into the box, the supermarket, and they don't go through the car wash. right? so the way that those fruits and vegetables are put into that box is the way to go to the supermarket. it is horrifying to think that farmworkers did not even have toilets in the fields, or cold drinking water, or soap and handwashing facilities. yet all that produce is going directly to the supermarket. so we got that into our contracts in 1966. we finally got it as a state law again in 1975. it did not become a national law until 1985. now we do have a national law that says employers have to have toilets in the fields for their workers, separate for men and women. they are supposed to keep them clean also. when you think of all the great things and came out of the farmworker movement in terms of legislation and in terms of leadership, i think that it was probably very few regrets but
there are a lot of gains. and a lot of wins. from day one when we started the organization and united farmworkers, we've always been engaged in helping people come into the united states. in 1986 we were able to pass legislation. we got legalization for 1.4 million farmworkers. our partner was senator ted kennedy who helped us get that law, along with peter rodino of new jersey. immigrant rights were always at the top and we are still continuing that right now. legislation is going to congress. i don't believe the guest worker program should be implemented at all. we have a 30% unemployment right now. we have lots of people who don't have work. yet employers continue to bring in people from other countries to do the work. they keep saying ordinary people won't do this work. that is not true at all. we look again at "the grapes of wrath" and when all that was going on, people were coming from other places.
we have many people here, individuals now in office and hold different positions in government that were once farmworkers. it is not that people won't do farm work, it's that they don't want to pay enough money to pay the farmworker in the kind of health benefits they need. farmworkers see their work as something they do with dignity. they consider themselves professionals and they should be treated with dignity. if you're not going to treat people with dignity, and you bring to people that don't of the laws and are afraid to speak up or sent out or their contracts will be cut off if they speak out. we should develop a local farm labor force like we had before. [applause]
dolores huerta: i got the medal of freedom but it represents the work of thousands of people that have worked to make a better life. the farmworkers movement -- we had five farmworkers that were killed. two here in kern county. i got the medal of freedom but that comes on the back of many other people that if often the -- that have fought for the rights of farmworkers, and women in the world. we were able to make a lot of gains for farmworkers in california. we know there are still pockets of california, especially where they bring in new immigrants that don't know their rights, where the farmworkers are still being mistreated. where employers are not following the laws in terms of providing them with clean toilets and drinking water, or rest periods or safety conditions. and then these basic rights in california, farmworkers around the country still do not have those basic rights. i think that is a tragedy. announcer: you are watching
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