Labor activist honors MLK

EVERETT – Labor activist Dolores Huerta delivered a fiery speech in Everett on Wednesday, saying Iraq wouldn’t have been invaded if its population were white, minimum wage should be raised to $20 and undocumented workers ought to be granted legal residency.

Huerta, who founded the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez, spoke after a march through downtown Everett commemorating slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

“Dr. King’s dream is going the other way because there are forces that are trying to erase and degrade what he did,” she said.

More than 200 people – mostly high school students – gathered at noon to hear her speak at the Edward D. Hansen Conference Center in downtown Everett.

She also spoke to Everett High School students earlier Wednesday morning.

The 76-year-old Hispanic labor activist said court and voter-led challenges to affirmative action have been a negative blow against racial equality.

She said her son, a family doctor, would not have been granted admission to UCLA Medical School if it weren’t for race-based admissions policies in place when he attended.

Huerta also said high dropout rates among blacks and Hispanics, and high incarceration rates among blacks, Hispanics and poor whites, are the result of inadequate funding for public education.

“The No Child Left Behind Act, enacted by Congress in 2001, is leaving every child behind,” she said. “We are paying for this war and depriving our children what they need.”

She also blasted the North American Free Trade Agreement, the plight of family farms and anti-Semitism.

A committee of representatives from Everett, Snohomish County, the YMCA of Snohomish County and other organizations selected Huerta for this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day event. The committee that sponsors the event raised $7,000 to cover Huerta’s speaking fee.

Past speakers include American Indian author Sherman Alexie; Morris Dees, a civil rights lawyer and founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center; and Yolanda King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s oldest child.

Reporter David Chircop: 425-339-3429 or dchircop@heraldnet.com.

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