Renowned union activist speaks at SMC

Dolores Huerta, union activist and co-founder of the United Farm Workers Union, spoke to a full house at Santa Monica College's main stage Tuesday. Huerta co-founded the UFW with activist Cesar Chavez to lobby for better working conditions for farm workers in 1962. SMC President and Superintendent Chui L Tsang presented Huerta with an award for her 50 years of service at the union.

Huerta, 82, spoke for an hour about income inequality, social injustice and education reform. “There's a war against the poor, and working people," she said. “And there is a war on education.” Huerta addressed this month’s protests and congratulated students on their efforts to stop the Contract Ed program.

“It was good you ended the two tier system, it was wrong,” she said. "Privatization of education is very dangerous. Cuba and Venezuela have free education and free medicine. There are social programs there and no one goes hungry."

Other topics included women’s rights and a push for more gender equality. “We’ve got to educate women not to be victims,” Huerta said.

Huerta also attacked homophobia and racism with a call to action for Latino communities to be more accepting of the LBGT community. “The same people promoting hate for homosexuals are those promoting hate towards immigrants and people of color,” she said.

The speaking engagement was sponsored by SMC's Associated Students, MECHA and The Latino Center. "We're honored to have her here," said Marian Martinez of The Latino Club. "It's the 50 year anniversary of the UFW, she's a living legend," she said.

Martinez said that she had expected a big crowd citing increased interest in social activism after protests at the college earlier this month.

"It's just a coincidence that she'll be here after the incident; we've been planning it since December," she said.

Huerta was portrayed in SMC's 2011 staging of Cesar and Ruben, an Ed Begley Jr. musical about Chavez that was performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Martinez says Huerta attended the play at the college last fall.