Iconic labor leader Dolores Huerta, Founder and President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, called for migrant workers to “be treated as essential workers and as essential to society.” Her comments on Wednesday at Migrant Legal Aid’s annual Harvest of Justice event also encouraged immigration reform, an end to systemic racism and steps to address climate change.
Migrant farmworkers are also heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’ve witnessed workers being crowded into bunkhouses and using their own bedsheets to create barriers to protect themselves” reported Teresa Hendricks, the executive director of Migrant Legal Aid. “Thanks to generous donations, we’ve distributed more than 5,000 pandemic kits to migrant workers in our area. There is still so much more to be done.”
Hendricks explained how the organization’s mission has adapted to the challenges facing the migrant community, including unsafe housing and hate crimes. “Workers often suffer in silence. They are afraid of retaliation against them and their families by their employers and are unlikely to seek help from authorities out of fear of being deported or worse.”
Migrant Legal Aid has become an important resource for leaders in Michigan’s justice system. In addition to educating law enforcement and judges, they work with attorneys to guide workers’ cases through the courts to find the justice they deserve.
One of their clients, Emilio, came from Mexico to work in the fields to support his wife and daughter back home. After being exposed to pesticides, he and his coworkers struggled with nausea, vomiting and were even losing their fingernails. Although reluctant to seek medical help, Emilio eventually landed in a hospital with multiple organ failure. He was deported the day after his hospital discharge, even though he would require kidney dialysis three times a week in order to survive. Sadly, Emilio passed shortly after returning home. Migrant Legal Aid is now assisting his widow and daughter in their efforts to obtain just compensation for his work-related death.
Thank you Dolores Huerta
Iconic Migrant Farmworker Activist, at Harvest of Justice Virtual Event
Dolores Huerta is a civil rights activist and community organizer. She has worked for labor rights and social justice for over 50 years. In 1962, she and Cesar Chavez founded the United Farm Workers union. She served as Vice President and played a critical role in many of the union’s accomplishments for four decades. In 2002, she received the Puffin/Nation $100,000 prize for Creative Citizenship which she used to establish the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF). DHF is connecting groundbreaking community-based organizing to state and national movements to register and educate voters; advocate for education reform; bring about infrastructure improvements in low-income communities; advocate for greater equality for the LGBT community; and create strong leadership development. She has received numerous awards: among them The Eleanor Roosevelt Humans Rights Award from President Clinton in 1998. In 2012 President Obama bestowed Dolores with The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.
HOJ 2020 Sponsors
History of the Harvest of Justice
The Harvest of Justice is a yearly luncheon that started in 2010 and focused on sharing Migrant Legal Aid’s client success stories with donors and community members. In the past, the event has been held in a farm orchard in order to bring people close to the setting where many of our clients work. Sharing stories of success in this environment helps to ensure that donors understand how they are affecting the lives of the clients.
This mission-focused event attracts people who are passionate about our mission to help the community protect migrant farmworkers. It is a celebration of those who further our mission. We give out both a Good Grower Award and a Responsible Retailer Award to honor those in the community committed to good harvesting practices and protecting migrant’s rights.
This event has led to the development of our newsletter, because attendees wanted to stay in touch with Migrant Legal Aid’s activity. Furthermore, by presenting our work at the Harvest of Justice, we have been able to grow our capacity and recognition within the community.