Filipino American History – Legacy of the Delano Grape Strike
Do you know much about Filipino American history and heritage? Have you heard about the Filipino farmworkers’ role in the great grape strike of 1965 in Delano, California?
If not, then check out the story below! Filipino immigrants to the United States have a unique history that not many have had the opportunity to learn.
Filipino workers who immigrated to the U.S. had an immense amount of adaptability, resilience, and perseverance. These characteristics became most evident when they formed community organizing groups in the fight for civil and economic rights.
Their efforts have added significant contributions to the farmworker labor movement and their stories offer us inspiration and pride in the history of Filipinos in America.
Celebrate Filipino American History Month this coming October! You might like these articles to learn more about Filipino history and heritage:
What was the Delano Grape Strike?
Of the many challenges Filipinos fought against for better working conditions and pay, the Delano grape strike is the most famous.
In Delano, California, 1965, unrest was growing in the area, known for its numerous grape vineyards. Migrant farm workers expressed discontent and frustration over the low wages offered to grape pickers.
Larry Itliong, a Filipino leader from Stockton, had been organizing Filipino workers to get more involved in civil rights and fight for fair working conditions. He began organizing Filipino workers to conduct a grape strike and urged community members to support the farm laborers in their fight for better conditions.
On September 7, 1965, Filipino workers gathered at Filipino Hall and voted to go on strike. The very next day they set down their tools and walked out of the fields.
Itliong then approached Cesar Chavez, a well-known leader in the farmworker movement, to convince him that the Mexican union needed to join the Filipino union in order for the strike to be successful. After some deliberation, Chavez agreed, knowing that it would be better to join forces than ignore the strike.
With both Filipino and Mexican workers collaborating together, they formed what is now known as the United Farm Workers (UFW).
What Finally Happened?
The strike attracted a lot of attention and support from activists, human rights groups, other unions, and students.
Then the UFW managed to institute a national grape boycott, which meant that growers would be unable to sell their products. After five long years of the grape boycott, growers finally gave into the demands of the UFW and signed the new contracts.
The Important Role of the Filipino Farmworkers
Filipino farm workers played a pivotal role in the labor movement and paved the way for future generations of Filipinos.
Without the courage of Filipinos to fight for their rights and working conditions, the Delano grape strike and the ensuing victory might never have taken place.
It is interesting that the history of Larry Itliong and the Filipino workers of Delano are not well known, even to most young Filipino Americans.
Larry Itliong Day – October 25
Fortunately, recent efforts have been made to share that history and spread awareness of the story of Filipino immigration. In fact, the governor of California has now signed legislation that requires public schools to teach the history of Filipino workers and their role in the grape strike. Governor Brown also signed a bill that recognizes October 25 as Larry Itliong Day.
How cool is that? Have you heard about the Filipino farmworkers? Are you planning on doing anything to celebrate Larry Itliong Day this October 25th? Share your comments below!
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