by photo courtesy of Filipino American National Historical Society

In the State of California, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a proclamation to name Oct. 25 as Larry Itliong day and introduced his name to the Hall of Fame that same day for his contribution to protect farm workers nationwide. 

During Filipino American Heritage Month, The City of Chula Vista followed the state in designating the 108th anniversary of Larry Itliong’s birth as a city-wide commemorative day in honor of his efforts as a labor leader and organizer.

Itliong was born in 1913 in the Philippine province of San Nicolas, Pangasinan. He arrived in the United States at 15 years old where he worked as a farm labourer and in the canneries of Alaska.

In the 1930s, Itliong joined lettuce workers striking in Washington state and aided in the establishment of the Alaska Cannery Workers Union within a year and fought for a contract that gave workers an eight hour work day with overtime. 

According to Newsom, it was through this work Itlong emerged as a leader in the Filipino American community recognized as “Manongs”- respected elder workers who were instrumental in the shaping of the farm labor movement.  

After serving in World War II, Stockton, California became home to Itliong where he aided in the asparagus strike of 1948. Nearly a decade later in 1956, Itliong founded the Filipino Farm Labor Union in Stockton where he worked to establish the Agricultural Workers Organization Committee (AWOC) alongside Philip Vera Cruz and other Manongs active in the labor movement. AWOC was affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

Members of the AWOC began the Delano strike on Sept. 8, 1965 which Larry helped lead. According to United Farm Workers, Itliong asked Cesar Chavez’s National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) to join the strike. With the aid of Dolores Huerta who spoke with the NFWA, a five-year grape strike and a three year international boycott of California table grapes commenced. This boycott led to the first farm worker union contracts. 

Both Larry Itliong and Cesar Chavez merged unions in 1966 to create the United Farm Workers of American (UFW). Itliong served as the assistant director and handled worker support efforts throughout the strike and boycott.

Itliong and the Manongs continued to serve the Filipino American Community in the Central Valley by creating plans for the Paolo Agbayani Retirement Village where retired Manongs could live their lives in comfort and dignity. The grape stike issued a negotiation with growers that a percent of a box would support the village. 

In 1970, the end of the Delano Grape strike brought farm workers higher pay, medical insurance and limits on pesticide use. Disagreements in the governance of UFW led to Itliong's resignation in 1971. 

Itliong became a delegate in the 1972 Democratic National Convention led by the ALF-CIO union and the AWOC. In retirement, he served as president of the Filipino American Political Association. Larry Itilong passed away in Delano California at the age of 63 in 1977.


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