The employer puts pressure on them. People care about their jobs and they're afraid. This law Jerry Brown signed [SB 126; if there is employer misconduct in a unionization election, the employer can be forced to negotiate with that union] is going to make a lot of difference. Some companies I was negotiating with 20 years ago that had not come back to the table are bargaining now. So I think you're going to see a big renaissance with the union because of that law.
You and Cesar Chavez went after each other sometimes.
Oh, we had differences. They were mostly about tactics. They were never personal. Cesar respected me; I respected him. During his first fast, I told Cesar, "I feel so bad because I argue with you," and he said: "Don't ever stop. You're the only one in the organization who really makes me stop and think." We were always together in terms of what we wanted to do.
Cesar's wife, Helen, is a very strong woman. I like to say the only beings Cesar was afraid of were God and Helen.
How much grief have you gotten because you're a woman?
A lot. I grew up with racism. Sexism is always so painful because it comes from the people who are close to you. I think sexism is much more painful for women than racism is. Until we get majority [representation], it's always going to be hard for us.
Cesar [once] said, "You know, Dolores, I treat you and Cecilia [another UFW board member] different," and I said yes, it's called male chauvinism. And he started laughing. But he was really good about having women in positions of power. People would ask why, and he'd say because they do the work.
What did you think when Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor referred to herself as a wise Latina?
Oh I loved it! I know she got a lot of criticism. You can say you're a great Irish person or any other group, but boy, don't say you're a great Latina.
It's so bad [that] one of my staff who happens to be white went to a gathering with his family and he said one relative, who is a liberal, wanted to know if it was politically correct to say the word "Mexican."
Do you still boycott anything?
Grapes. And that's because the United Farm Workers don't have any contracts with [table] grape growers right now. It's just a continuous struggle.
What else are you doing now?
I'm interested in the [microcredit] model that Muhammad Yunus is talking about — ways we can fund organizations and programs. We do a lot of work with young women for teen pregnancy prevention. I'm on the board of Equality California, educating the Latino community on the rights of LGBT people, and the issue of choice.
I tell them what Benito Juarez [president of Mexico in the 19th century] said, that respecting other people's rights is peace. And we have to make sure we see the day when we have gender balance in our society at every level. Coretta King said we will never have peace in the world until women take power.
This interview was edited and excerpted from a taped transcript. An archive of Morrison's interviews can be found at latimes.com/pattasks.