She met Chávez through the CSO, where they learned about community organizing from Fred Ross, Sr., who had launched the group with Roybal. Huerta recalled a conversation with Chávez at the kitchen table of his Boyle Heights home. “We have to start a union,” she remembered him saying. “Farmworkers will never have a union unless you and I do it.”
By the early 1960s, Chávez and Huerta were beginning to organize farmworkers using the tactics they had learned a decade earlier under Ross. On the Cal State LA campus, a small but active group of Mexican American students was beginning to flex its muscle.
In April 1964, Robert Carrasco, Félix Gutiérrez, John Huerta and Leonard Torres won four top spots, including president and vice president, in the student government elections. It was a significant succession of power in a student government that had been predominantly white since forming in the 1950s.
Serving in the student government provided an understanding of how the University bureaucracy functioned, knowledge that would prove valuable as Mexican American students became more organized and as the four student leaders embarked on their careers. Gutiérrez and Carrasco earned doctorates and became professors at the University of Southern California and Northern Arizona University, respectively, and Huerta and Torres earned law degrees and became accomplished attorneys.