Larry Itliong: Filipino American Labor Leader


As a Filipino American labor leader, Larry Itliong fought for farm workers’ rights. He became notable for being at the forefront of the Delano grape strike which was due to the poor work conditions that agricultural workers had to experience along with small pay. Larry also joined forces with labor leaders such as Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta in the fight for the rights of farm workers.

Born at Pangasinan province in the Philippines, Modesto “Larry” Dulay Itliong is one of the 6 children of Aretemio Itliong and Francesca-Dulay-Itliong. He desired to be a lawyer at a young age to help in fighting for the fights of people. Larry was among the first major wave of Filipino immigrants in the United States somewhere in between the 1900s and the 1930s.


Photo Courtesy of Filipina Women's Network

It was the year 1929 when Larry immigrated to the United States at 14 years old. He immediately worked as a farm laborer. Encountering poverty and racism, he found his ambition of being an attorney a challenge in having the education he needs. Unfortunately, he didn’t become an attorney but nonetheless, he has become a Filipino-American labor leader who led labor organizations in Alaska and all over the West Coast.


Photo Courtesy of FLPNO

By 1930, Larry experienced joining his first strike. In that same year, he was able to co-fund the Alaska Canneries Workers Union. Eventually, he was able to build his reputation and was seen as a leading figure. He can speak in 9 Philippine languages. Not only that, he also became fluent in other languages such as Japanese, Spanish and Cantonese.

Apart from being involved in labor movements, Larry served in the U.S. Army for 7 years (1936 -1943). By serving in the second World War, he acquired his U.S. citizenship in 1944. After some time, he became the founder of the Filipino Farm Labor Union when he moved to Stockton, California as well as the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee.

Larry led a strike in 1965 by the vineyards of Coachella, California together with Filipino farm workers. The outcome was a victory that resulted in empowerment among farm workers all over California’s Central Valley in doing protests against the low wages and poor working conditions.


Photo Courtesy of NBC News

The Delano grape strike is probably the most memorable strike of them all as Mexican American farm workers joined together with Filipinos on a strike. It went on for 5 years and was considered a pivotal labor movement in United States history.

References:
History
Smithsonian Mag

Written by Jan Marbella

Jan Marbella is a Digital Marketing Intern of PS Media Enterprise and a 4th year Bachelor of Arts in Communication student of De La Salle University Dasmariñas.

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OBRAA.org: Larry Itliong: Filipino American Labor Leader
Larry Itliong: Filipino American Labor Leader
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