farmworkers rights

At 87, Dolores Huerta is a living civil rights icon. She has spent most of her life as a political activist, fighting for better working conditions for farmworkers and the rights of the downtrodden, a firm believer in the power of political organizing to effect change.

And yet, her role in the farmworkers movement has long been overshadowed by that of Cesar Chavez, her longtime collaborator and co-founder of what became the United Farm Workers of America union. That’s true even when it comes to credit for coining the movement’s famous slogan, Sí se puede — Spanish for “Yes, we can” — which inspired President Obama’s own campaign battle cry and has often wrongly been attributed to Chavez. (Obama acknowledged Huerta as the source of that phrase when he awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. She talks about its origins below.)

Dolores, a new documentary from director Peter Bratt, aims to finally set the record straight.

Dolores Huerta: The Civil Rights Icon Who Showed Farmworkers ‘Sí Se Puede’

Photo: George Ballis//George Ballis/Take Stock/The Image Work

The Harvard Foundation has named Rihanna the 2017 Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year!

Singer to accept Harvard Foundation’s award next week


The popular singer Rihanna has been named the 2017 Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year, and will come to campus to accept the Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award at a ceremony next Tuesday (Feb. 28).

“Rihanna has charitably built a state-of- the-art center for oncology and nuclear medicine to diagnose and treat breast cancer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown, Barbados,” said S. Allen Counter, the Harvard Foundation’s director.

“She has also created the Clara and Lionel Foundation Scholarship Program [named for her grandmother and grandfather] for students attending college in the U.S. from Caribbean countries, and supports the Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen Project, a multiyear campaign that will provide children with access to education in over 60 developing countries, giving priority to girls and those affected by lack of access to education in the world today.”

An international musical phenomenon, the Barbados-born singer, actress, and songwriter — whose full name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty — has sold more than 200 million records.

The Harvard Foundation recognizes prominent public-spirited leaders each year in honor of the late Rev. Professor Peter J. Gomes. Past honorees include physician-statistician Hans Rosling; actor James Earl Jones; Nobel Peace Prize Committee chairman Thorbjørn Jagland; U.N. Secretaries General Ban Ki-moon, Kofi Annan, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and Javier Pérez de Cuéllar; gender rights advocate Malala Yousafzai; anti-child-labor spokesman Kailash Satyarthi; tennis player and activist Arthur Ashe; former Health and Human Services Director Louis W. Sullivan; and farmworker rights advocate Dolores Huerta.

The award will be presented at 4 p.m. at Sanders Theatre on Feb. 28. Admission is free, however, tickets are required and can be picked up at Sanders Theatre beginning at noon the day of the performance. A Harvard ID is required and tickets are limited to two per person. In-person distribution only and the tickets are valid until 3:45 p.m.

History shows a long, sorry resistance to treating farmworkers with even the most basic dignities. In July 2010, Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill to give farmworkers overtime pay after eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. This February, after lobbying from Kraft Foods, the American Meat Institute and others, the USDA withdrew a proposed rule requiring companies doing business with the agency to prove that their subcontractors–including growers–are complying with labor laws.

Can you imagine any other profession where such injustices would be allowed? We hear of the sweatshops behind our computers, sneakers and other attire–yet the exploitation of farmworkers has become normalized. Somehow food, so intrinsic to our daily lives, escapes the kind of justice we should take for granted in 2012.

Our ongoing “harvest of shame” is about more than water and shade. It is about toxic pesticide exposures that send farmworkers to the hospital–up to 20,000 are poisoned annually according to the Centers for Disease Control. It is about rock-bottom wages for back-breaking work: more than 60 percent of farmworkers live south of the poverty line.

—  Christopher Cook, “Why Are People Dying to Bring You Dinner?”