HISTORICAL NOTE: Starting the Delano Grape Strike

To protest the poor working condition of farm workers, Filipino American grape workers, members of the union Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) led by labor organizer Larry Itliong, initiated a strike on September 8, 1965 against the Delano grape growers in California. A week later, they were joined by the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), the Latino union which Cesar Chavez co-founded with  Dolores Huerta.

Itliong and Chavez believed that the combined Filipino and Latino farm workers’ action prevented the Delano grape growers from pitting one group against the other. The resulting formation of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) with Chavez as president and Itliong as vice president became the major labor organization that successfully drove the five-year Delano Grape Strike and resulted in stronger farm workers’ bargaining power. The grape strike and UFW catapulted Cesar Chavez into national prominence as a civil rights activist. His birthday today March 31st has been designated by a presidential proclamation as Cesar Chavez Day.

Larry Itliong and the Filipino farm workers (respectfully called “Manongs” a Filipino title for older men) are finally getting recognition for their pivotal role in the Delano Grape Strike and the formation of UFW. Their story is chronicled in the 2015 Emmy-nominated documentary “The Delano Manongs: Forgotten Heroes of the United Farm Workers” by writer and director Marissa Aroy. The following videos show two clips from this film and a video profile of Larry Itliong by his son:

[Delano Manongs Movie] Trailer for “Delano Manongs: Forgotten Heroes of the United Farm Workers”
[Kababayan Today / YouTube] Larry Itliong Excerpt from the Marissa Aroy’s “Delano Manongs” Film
[Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus / Vimeo] AAPI Civil Rights Heroes – Larry Itliong
[ YouTube] Larry Itliong (exerpt from The Pilipino Americans), 1974]

Learn more:

  • [New York Times] Forgotten Hero of Labor Fight; His Son’s Lonely Quest: “Mr. Itliong, known as “Seven Fingers” — the tales vary about how he lost the missing three — came to the United States in 1929 when he was 15, having never slept in a bed or lived in a home with electricity.” Read more
  • [New York Times] History of Filipino Labor Leader Resides in Shadows (View slide show)
  • [United Farm Workers] The 1965-1970 Delano Grape Strike and Boycott: “Cesar insisted the Latino and Filipino strikers work together, sharing the same picketlines, strike kitchens and union hall. He asked strikers take a solemn vow to remain nonviolent.” Read more
  • [United Farm Workers] What happened when Mexicans and Filipinos joined together: “It was a very exciting time as we knew the potential when we joined together not as competitors but as true brothers joined in a very legitimate cause.” Read more
  • [History Channel] Cesar Chavez: “Chavez’s drawing on the imagery of the civil rights movement, his insistence on nonviolence, his reliance on volunteers from urban universities and religious organizations, his alliance with organized labor, and his use of mass mobilizing techniques such as a famous march on Sacramento in 1966 brought the grape strike and consumer boycott into the national consciousness. “ Read more
  • [White House] Presidential Proclamation — Cesar Chavez Day, 2016: “On his birthday, we celebrate a man who reminded us — above all else — that we all share a common humanity, each of us having our own value and contributing to the same destiny, and we carry forward his legacy by echoing his peaceful and eloquent calls for a more just and equal society.” Read more

Photo credit: Screenshot from Trailer for “Delano Manongs: Forgotten Heroes of the United Farm Workers”

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