A woman who once fought alongside Cesar Chavez for laborers’ rights will now serve with multi-millionaire CEOs as a UC regent.
Dolores Huerta, who co-founded the United Farm Workers union with Chavez in 1962, was appointed to the position by Gov. Gray Davis on Sept. 9. The California Senate approved the appointment two days later in a 25-5 party line vote.
The 73-year-old has spent decades as a lobbyist and civil rights activist, including a stint fighting segregation with the Stockton chapter of the Community Service Organization in the 1950s. After working with Chavez in the ’60s, she lobbied for the California Labor Relations Act in 1975. In 1986 she was a key supporter of the Simpson-Rodino Immigration Reform and Control Act, which granted amnesty to many immigrants and punished employers who deliberately employed illegal immigrants. In 1995 Huerta protested the regents’ decision to abolish affirmative action.
Her history of activism and outspokenness make Huerta unique among the UC Board of Regents. She will be joined at the quiet, structured regents’ meetings by, among others, the CEO of Paramount Pictures and the owner of the San Diego Padres.
Fellow RegentWard Connerly told the Los Angeles Times Huerta’s selection was “unconventional.”
“Regents are typically people who have a history of working within the system,” he said. “Regent Huerta …throughout her history has stood outside, throwing rocks at the system.”
Local labor leaders greeted Huerta’s appointment with reserved optimism.
Local president of the University Professional and Technical Employees Rodney Orr, whose union concluded a nine-month contract battle with the University in June, said, “I’m not too confident her appointment will have a major effect, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed. We are confident she will actually listen to labor, unlike other regents who tend to only listen to the concerns of a tight circle of friends.”
The Coalition of University Employees concluded nearly two years of contract negotiation with the University in May. Local representative Brandon Johnson said the labor-friendly Huerta would “definitely have a positive impact on how the regents operate.”
The length of Huerta’s term may directly depend on the upcoming recall election. Davis appointed Huerta to finish out the final six months of the term of Regent Norman Pattiz. After six months she would be re-appointed and serve a full 12-year term. Should Davis be replaced, Huerta’s re-appointment would be up to the new governor.
“Among C.U.E. activists, the opinion is that this is a person who could be of benefit to union members,” local C.U.E. chapter president Monica Curry said. “But we’re not sure if she could stay in that position, depending on the recall.”