The name of Dolores Huerta is often spoken in the same breath as that of labor rights icon, Cesar Chavez. Huerta looks none of her 89 years. Wearing a bright red blazer and black pants, her diminutive figure was larger than life when she spoke to a sold out breakfast Tuesday for the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Huerta and Cesar Chavez were co-founders of the United Farm Workers. Labor was still very much on Huerta’s radar. She spoke about the lack of labor unions in Texas, and she attacked the state’s right-to-work laws. Those laws specify that a person can’t be denied employment for membership or non-membership in a labor organization. Huerta said those laws hurt all workers.
“What does right to work mean?” she asked. “Right to work means the right to work for low wages, no pension benefits, to be able to be treated decently at your work site. And that means, basically, the prevention of labor unions.”
She also told the ballroom full of lawmakers, community leaders, and business men and women about the reluctance and even fear in the Latino community over participating in the census. Huerta said there’s no citizenship question on the census, and it’s entirely confidential. Every person who chooses to not participate, she said, is at a cost to their community.
“For each one of us, each one of us that gets counted, we bring in $20,000 into our community. Each one of us that gets counted. Over 10 years, $20,000. ... That money is going to be used for schools, for health care, for infrastructure.”
Huerta said there’s no citizenship question on the census, it’s entirely confidential, and there’s nothing to fear.
“Que no tengan miedo. Don’t be afraid,” she said. “Please. It’s your responsibility to get counted, to fill out that questionnaire, to participate. Si se puede.”
Dr. Erika Gonzalez, 2020 Chairwoman of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, said the theme for the chamber this year is “Power of Our Voice.” She said the chamber is mobilizing to encourage census participation.
“We’re going to be doing boots on the ground, going out there into the communities and to our small businesses, educating them on the things that they may be afraid of which is why they’re not filling out the census report.”
Gonzalez was confident that Huerta’s voice will reassure people who might be reluctant to participate in the census.
“I think that she is a very trusted figure in Latino history,” Gonzalez said. “They know she fought for the rights of the labor workers. So for a lot of our community, that resonates with them and they know, ‘you know what? If she’s telling us it’s ok, then it’s ok.”