Dolores Huerta to Receive Medal of Freedom
President Obama named longtime civil rights and labor leader Dolores Huerta a recipient of the Medal of Freedom, the United State's highest civilian honor.
With Cesar Chavez, Huerta co-founded the National Farmworkers Association in 1962 to fight against the exploitation and degredation of farm laborers. Three years later, that union joined a grape strike started by Filipino workers in the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee. Eventually the two unions merged into the United Farm Workers.
The United Farm Workers called on people around the world to support the strike by boycotting grapes. Unions, churches, students and millions of consumers answered the call. After 5 long years, the first union contracts were signed, guaranteeing farmworkers basic protections like toilets and drinking water in the fields, overtime pay, and the right to join a union.
Huerta was influential in securing the passage of California's Agricultural Labor Relations Act in 1975, which requires that farmworkers be allowed to organize unions that their employers are bound to recognize.
Also among this year's awardees is Gordon Hirabayashi, who as a student in Seattle during World War II defied the government's exclusion orders against Japanese Americans. Hirabayashi died earlier this year.
The Medal of Freedom is awarded to individuals who have made especially mertiorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
The awards will be presented at the White House in late spring.