Dolores Huerta

Remarks at 2012 Children's Defense Fund National Conference - July 25, 2012

Dolores Huerta
July 25, 2012— Cincinnati, Ohio
2012 Children's Defense Fund National Conference
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Huerta spoke as part of the closing plenary and charge for the 2012 Children's Defense Fund National Conference.

We had convince people that they have power. They have power. And of course if you say to a farm worker who doesn't speak the English language, doesn't have a formal education, doesn't have any assets, doesn't have any money that he she has power they say, "What kind of power do I have?"

And so what we had to convince the workers is, you do have power but that power is in your person. That power is in your person. And when you come together with other workers, other people, and they also understand that they have power, this is the way that changes are made.

But you can't do it by yourself. You've got to do it with other people. You've got to work together to make it happen.

And of course following Gandhi and Dr. King in this, you have to change things through non-violence. Because when we use non-violence as our philosophy of organizing and of the actions that we take, then other people will come forward to help us.

We were in Manhattan and this farm worker called me. I'm in the office there in New York City, and he calls me and he says, "Señora. Señora Huerta…" – and he says this in Spanish – "They took the grapes off the store."

And so I told him, "Well, what's the name of the store?"

And he said, "I don't know."

And I said, "Well look at the sign and you can see with the name of the store is."

And he said, " Señora, I don't know how to read."

I don't know how to read. This farmer gone from Delano, California, all the way to New York City, standing in front of the store, telling people don't come into the store because they're selling grapes. And he got that store to take the grapes off.

And it was farm workers like this farm worker that went all over and eventually something like 14 million Americans stopped eating grapes and got the growers to sit down and negotiate. And this made such a difference, because because of these workers that understood their power, then we were able to get those growers to give contracts with the medical plan, with a pension plan, workers could negotiate better wages, getting them rest periods – all of these things that the workers didn't have.

That struggle of course is not finished. Even though the United Farm Workers is now celebrating its 50 years of organizing we still have farm workers all over the country that still have not won the protections that farm workers in California have, like unemployment insurance, etcetera. So it's still an ongoing struggle.

But the thing that we have to remember is that change comes from the bottom, okay. All of the changes that have been made, whether it's the a civil rights movement, the peace movement, the woman's movement, the LGBT movement, the immigrants' rights movement, the DREAMers have just shown this recently with all the organization they have done, that we can make the change but it's gotta start with us.

The one thing that we have to always tell people is nobody is going to do this for us. We have to do it for ourselves. Nobody is going to solve our problems. [applause]

And the one thing that we know is that the people who are suffering the problems are the ones that have the solutions. The people that are going through the suffering and the discrimination – they are the ones that have the answers to how to solve the problems.

So the only thing that we need then are the resources, the recesses for organizing so that we can share our stories and we can show people how to organize. This is what my foundation does.

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