Please read professor black woman’s post about the continued exploitation of migrant farmworkers in California, then sign the UFW petition for farm workers’ rights.
For my fellow Pinoys, please remember that in 1965, led by Larry Itliong, Philip Vera-Cruz, and Pete Velasco, 1,500 Filipino farm workers went on strike in Delano, California. The agribusinesses responded by sending goons to beat the strikers, and by turning off the gas, electricity, and water in the labor camps. When the agribusinesses brought in Mexican laborers as replacements, Itliong turned to the Mexican National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), headed by Cesar Chavez.
Itliong’s group, the Filipino Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) and Chavez’s NFWA later merged to form the United Farm Workers of America.
It was this UFW alliance of Filipino and Mexican farm workers that, in 1970, forced the grape growers in Delano to accede to the strikers’ demands—fair wages, a medical plan for farm workers, clinics, a day care center, a school.
This history is not as well-known among Filipino American immigrants, especially those who came after the 1970s. But the struggles for labor and farm workers’ rights chronicled by Carlos Bulosan and taken up by activists like Gene Viernes and Silme Domingo continue. And these struggles continue to this day, as agricultural businesses work to erode gains that social activists have fought and died for.
Our histories are inextricably connected. The struggle for farm workers’ rights is our struggle and our history as well.