Right now the world is plagued with big issues that oftentimes seem unsolvable. Those who wish to right the wrongs of the world may feel hopeless or intimidated by the scale of these issues. During the closing celebration of Latinx Heritage Month on October 13, USC Annenberg held a Zoom discussion between USC President Carolt Folt and labor activist Dolores Huerta. Huerta reminded students and attendees that the answers to these seemingly unsolvable questions can be found within our own humanity: “We are one human race,” Huerta stated. It is Huerta’s strength in soft skills like empathy and her 360-degree thinking, that have helped her become a powerful organizer and activist for human and civil rights.
Dolores Huerta is best known for her community service activism in co-founding the United Farm Workers, formerly known as the National Farmworkers Association, with late labor activist Cesar Chavez. She is also founder of the Dolores Huerta Foundation. At an early age, Huerta started lobbying, organizing farmworkers and negotiating contracts for laborers. Throughout her life, Huerta’s organizing skills originated from her strength in contextualizing her passions into soft skills and rejecting the status quo, while believing in the power of individual and collective action.
Huerta’s experiences with community activism and in trying to solve the issue of securing labor rights required the very soft skills that the Center for Third Space Thinking highlights. Huerta was able to empathetically change the dialogue of workers’ needs while listening to what they wanted in the workplace.
“We, individually and collectively, have the power to change things,” Huerta told President Folt, when discussing fighting for the benefits of farmworkers. Huerta explained that the farmworkers were desperate to get toilets and drinking water in the workplace, but did not know exactly how they were going to get them. “We have to teach people and make them understand that they have power and not to give up.”
Huerta also highlighted adaptability as a key factor in creating social change as she discussed generational progress with President Folt. “We have so many challenges, and some of these issues we’ve been dealing with for generations,” Huerta stated. “When something doesn’t go our way, that just means we have to do it differently.” The power of adaptability and 360-degree thinking allow this generation to use the present tools to keep striving for progress and mobility. “We don’t have to wait for decades to make things happen because we have all of these tools to help people mobilize others,” Huerta stated, in reference to today’s numerous technological tools, such as social media.
Dolores Huerta closed Latino Heritage Month with a reminder that every voice counts, and when the appropriate skills to empower others are applied, societal change is possible. Huerta specifically noted the importance of Latino voices in Los Angeles, a city rich in Latino cultures, as well as the importance of being an activist in democracy and being engaged in society through voting and taking part in the Census.
Dolores Huerta’s application of soft skills in social justice is proof that social movements and the power to enact change are present within all of us. Especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for soft skills are at an all time high as many across the nation and globe face challenges that require human expertise. Huerta ended the webinar reminding the attendees that grand issues are solvable through humanistic resolutions. Huerta affirmed, “The pandemic has shown us that we have to take care of each other.”
More information about the Dolores Huerta Foundation and Huerta’s current projects can be found at https://doloreshuerta.org/.
To learn more about the United Farm Workers and their current work towards labor justice, visit https://ufw.org/.