Alice Barnes' decades-long commitment to social justice impacted many Americans through her energetic and unstinting efforts on behalf of the United Farmworkers' Union, the American Indian Movement, and the Feminist Movement, among others. After 25 years as an elementary school teacher, Barnes spent the bulk of 30 years as a full-time activist for social justice. Her work earned her the praise and admiration of such notable figures as Gloria Steinem, Governor Jerry Brown, Cesar Chavez, and Dennis Banks. In the words of Cesar Chavez, "She is just always there, in good times and bad, giving of herself to farmworkers and the farmworkers' cause. She is a beautiful example, for all generations, of what it means to share life with others."
She helped the United Farmworkers Union wherever there was a need: organizing boycotts, walking in picket lines, furnishing meals for strikers and their supporters, and gathering signatures for petitions. In 1980 she helped form a food cooperative for farm laborers in San Diego's North County, despite hostile opposition. She marched, at the age of 70, in the American Indian Movement's "Longest Walk" (1977), which protested proposed legislation that would have abrogated treaties with Native Americans. At least once during the march she spontaneously organized food and housing for 300 marchers.
Throughout the years, Barnes joined actions in support of the ERA, spoken out against nuclear power, and helped form the San Diego chapter of the Gray Panthers. Her many honors included the Unity Plaque presented by the United Domestic Workers; recognition by Nia Cultural Organization and the Campaign for Economic Democracy; a poem for her 70th birthday written by Dennis Banks; and a special organizer's pin from the UFW. Alice Barnes once said, "I believe in putting my money, my efforts, and my time where my mouth is. When I sense something is wrong, I want to go out and do something about it. I love being where the action is; it's my reason for living. I'd much rather be out fighting than sitting at home." Alice Barnes died in 2003.