Less than one month before losing his job as Governor, Gray Davis screwed California taxpayers with one of many “payoff” appointments: Dolores Huerta, appointed to fill the remainder of a term on the University of California Board of Regents. On September 9, 2003, Davis appointed Huerta to the Board, the governing body for the UC system. The appointment followed just days after Davis signed legislation to give illegals drivers’ license. Earlier in the year, he also signed an extensive farmworkers’ bill for which Huerta agitated. To many, her appointment was seen as a sop to the Hispanic community in Davis’ quest for votes.
One may question Huerta’s fitness for the position, as she is a well-known radical labor activist and a board member of the Democratic Socialists of America. While Huerta is admired in many quarters for her efforts to organize (read: radicalize) migrant farmworkers, her benevolence must be seen within the framework of her radical worldview. In addition to her leadership roles in the DSA, the United Farmworkers of America, the Coalition for Labor Union Women, and the California AFL-CIO, Huerta is also a founding board member of the Feminist Majority, a board member of Latinas for Choice, a board member of the Center for Voting and Democracy, and for the conservative-bashing FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting). FAIR regularly refers to conservative talk radio as “hate radio.”
The good news for the Golden State is that the appointment is short: Huerta’s term expires next March 1. But during that short period, the Regents will meet three times for their regular, two-day sessions, and Huerta is not likely to sit quietly on the sidelines. Had Davis prevailed in the recall vote, Huerta could have been reappointed for a regular 12-year term. Replacing Huerta will be Governor Schwarzenegger’s first opportunity to influence the direction of the prestigious college system, and he should take the opportunity to drop Huerta like a bad habit.
At the time of the appointment, Gray Davis’ spokesman said that Dolores Huerta was a “folk hero who could bring a unique perspective to the board.” When pressed on the political timing of the appointment, he said that Huerta was the best-qualified candidate to fill the vacancy. It is more likely that Huerta was placed on the Board for two reasons: to attract Latino and union worker votes for Davis, and to be the thorn in fellow Regent Ward Connerly’s side. This seems more likely since both the recall and Proposition 54—the Racial Privacy Initiative—were on the same ballot in the recall election. (The worthwhile Prop 54 failed; Arnold Schwarzenegger did not support the measure.)
She could not differ more with Ward Connerly, who has long labored to make society more colorblind. When Connerly proposed to the Regents that the University of California end its practice of offering preferential admission to minority students, Huerta was outside the boardroom doors leading a raucous protest. In July 1995, she joined with Jesse Jackson and students signing protest songs. In fact, Huerta is so committed to leftist agitation that she told the Los Angeles Times that during her tenure as a Regent, she may find herself tempted to leave her “comfortable” seat and join the radicals outside the hall again. Her leftist allies hope instead that she will be able to open the doors for their agenda.
There are, in fact, a myriad of reasons to oppose Huerta’s appointment. For one thing, this college administrator has never earned a college degree. Although most of Huerta's biographies indicate that she received a teaching degree from University of the Pacific’s Delta Community College, the San Francisco Chronicle has revealed that she actually “fell a few units short of her degree.” She never returned to campus except to collect honorary degrees, conduct radical activism workshops and give leftist commencement speeches.
Dolores Huerta taught school (even without an education degree) until 1955, when as a single mother of 7 children (she now has 11) she started her career as a political activist. She was one of the founders of the Stockton, California, chapter of the Community Service Organization, a “voters’ rights” organization. While there, she met labor radical Cesar Chavez and founded the Agricultural Workers Association. In 1962, Chavez and Huerta split from the CSO when it would not prioritize unionizing farmworkers. Chavez and Huerta started the National Farm Workers Association, the predecessor to the United Farmworkers of America. At the time of his death in 1993, Cesar Chavez had virtually destroyed the union he founded, because he was too willing to work with Republicans in Sacramento.
While the fledging organization was working to organize laborers and lobby for AFDC payments to migrants, the Filipino grape pickers of the San Joaquin Valley went on strike. Huerta and Chavez seized the opportunity and joined with what became known as the five-year Delano Grape Strike. As Huerta negotiated with the wine growers, she picked up the nickname “Dragon Lady."
Although Huerta has won awards for her left-wing agitation, she will never win an award for her parenting skills. When she was recently given the $100,000 Nation/Puffin award for Creative Citizenship, she admitted that her choices affected her children. She often left the older children in charge of their younger siblings while she spent long hours in the fields unionizing farmworkers. Her children's lives were filled with hardship, sacrifice and deprivation for “the cause.” Her children have watched their mother land in jail more than 20 times as a protestor, and even suffer life-threatening injuries during a 1988 protest against George H.W. Bush in San Francisco. Whether or not they harbor regrets about the way they were raised, Huerta was an absentee mother who let her kids raise each other, ignoring her parental responsibilities while she pursued Marxist causes. And this abandonment has won her the adulation of the Left. She is often praised in feminist circles for her defiance of the traditional roles of mother and wife (she lives unmarried with Richard Chavez), and for her support for abortion in opposition to her Catholicism.
Huerta is driven by a belief that true democracy can only be achieved through a redistribution of wealth. In a 2002 interview, Huerta stated, “I think organized labor is a necessary part of democracy. Organized labor is the only way to have fair distribution of wealth; it helps create a middle class. Without a middle class, there would be no democracy.”
Huerta enjoined her labor organizing to gender equity after meeting Gloria Steinem in the 1970s. In a 1973 interview with The Nation on sexism in the labor movement, Huerta responded:
I really believe what the feminists stand for. There is an undercurrent of discrimination against women in our own organization, even though Cesar goes out of his way to see that women have leadership positions…Excluding women, protecting them, keeping women at home, that’s the middle class way. Poor people’s movements have always had whole families on the line, ready to move at a moment’s notice, with more courage because that’s all we had.
To recap: Huerta wants labor unions to create a middle class, but then doesn’t want the new middle class women to behave as a middle class. No confusion there….
As a left-winger, Huerta cannot resist any opportunity to protest a Republican leader. She has actively opposed President Bush’s War on Terrorism and believes that the war on terrorists is really a war on immigrants. She accuses Bush of having a “cowboy mentality” and told WarTimes.org that “It’s always been a part of U.S. foreign policy to first put a dictator in power and than to get rid of him.” According to Huerta, the U.S. trained the Taliban and Saddam Hussein so we could then play war. Huerta continued by saying that she “doesn’t think there is a single person in the U.S., besides oil corporations, who cares about who rules Iraq. Those are not our interests.” Huerta has trumpeted her ignorance in appearances with celebrities like Martin Sheen at antiwar rallies of the Office of the Americas in Los Angeles.
Huerta summarized her life's mission in a 2001 interview given while she was recovering from a near-fatal opening in a major artery in her intestines. When asked about the future of La Raza (literally, "the race"), the name radical Hispanic activists have given to their movement, she said: “The future depends on us. We need to organize and elect officials that will really represent us…The opposition are the Republican corporations whose goal is to take over the governorship of the State of California. That’s why we need to establish a leadership institute and foundation that will train young organizers to build communities from the ground up.” Her $100,000 prize from the Nation/Puffin Foundations will attempt to do just that.
Radical Hispanic activists also hope she will open the university admissions to children of farmworkers—many of whom are illegal aliens. The issue of offering in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants has dominated the national debate on immigration for almost two years; undoubtedly, Huerta will have something to say about it at future UC board meetings.
So, what kind of damage could Huerta cause during her short stay on the Board of Regents? She has been appointed to the Committee on Educational Policy (replacing Ward Connerly), the Committee on Grounds and Buildings, and the Committee on Health Services. According to the Regent bylaws, the Educational Policy Committee influences the educational philosophy and objectives of the university. It can also make recommendations for honorary degrees, commencement ceremonies, research, training and public service program activities of the university. In other words, Huerta can swoop in and place any number of her radical friends onto the radar screen of the decision makers, and then agitate publicly for their inclusion in UC activities.
Huerta’s AFL-CIO pals are doubtlessly thrilled to have an advocate on the Grounds and Building Committee who can insist on the use of union-only shops and vendors. And her appointment to the Committee on Health Services must have feminists smiling with glee. This Committee advises on policies relating to medical research and clinical practices, including student health clinics. Feminists have made the availability of “reproductive services,” including the “Morning After” pill on college campuses a top priority. Now one of their own is at the table to influence the priorities of health centers at all UC campuses.
Despite liberals’ hope that Huerta will oppose Ward Connerly’s vision of a color-blind admissions process, the High Court has made sure Huerta will have blessed little influence on shaping the racial composition of the UC student body. One of the often-misunderstood aspects of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the University of Michigan’s undergraduate admissions program is that if a university has been successful in creating (racial) diversity by using a race-neutral admissions process, then it cannot reestablish Affirmative Action programs. Since the voters passed Proposition 209, which abolished the Affirmative Action admissions in UC, the system has successfully maintained its goal of diversity. Therefore, the Regents cannot overturn Proposition 209 and reestablish racial gerrymandering in admissions. Sorry Dolores; Ward’s already beaten you on this one.
The danger in having Dolores Huerta on the UC Board of Regents for a five-month period lies in the fact that her appointment sends the message that the University of California system is merely another political party, not a place of academic excellence (a quality in which she is sorely lacking). With the widespread hegemony the Left already exerts over UC governance, her presence will only push the university further leftward, alienating conservative students, faculty and administration. Governor Schwarzenegger would serve Californians well by swiftly replacing Huerta when that March 1st date rolls around.