Larry Itliong

Larry Itliong

Larry Itliong (with sunglasses) sits during the UFWOC presentation, Delano, August 28, 1966. Photo by John Kouns.

Larry Itliong was one of the most important Filipino labor leaders of the Agricultural Worker Organizing Committee (AWOC), together with Ben Gines and Philip Vera Cruz. Itliong migrated, at age 15, to the United States in the 1920s. He worked in Alaskan fish canneries and the harvest fields of Washington and California. In 1956, he founded the Filipino Farm Labor Union in California. When the AFL-CIO formed the farm workers union called AWOC, Itliong became a leading organizer.

In 1965, he and Ben Gines led the strike in Stockton against asparagus and table grape growers. AWOC organized Filipino workers while maintaining communication with Dolores Huerta and the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA). On September 8, 1965, Itliong and Gines pulled Filipino workers out of the vineyards in Delano, initiating the grape strike, forcing Chávez and the NFWA to join it later that month. Both organizations would merge later into the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC). Itliong remained in the union until October 15, 1971, when he resigned because of disagreements with the union governance. He continued helping the Filipino community and later he became president of the Filipino American Political Alliance. He died in February 1977.

Larry Itliong, Bill Kircher, and César Chávez hold the UFWOC charter, Delano, August 28, 1966. Photo by John Kouns.

At the Pius X Youth Center of Our Lady of Guadalupe, César Chávez is addressing the audience through a microphone while Larry Itliong stands by his side holding the UFWOC charter. The two of them are on stage during an event where Bill Kircher, the national AFL-CIO director, presented the UFWOC charter to Chávez, Itliong, and the farm workers in the audience.</p>
<p>En el Centro Juvenil Pío X de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, César Chávez se dirige al público por medio de un micrófono mientras Larry Itliong está a su lado sosteniendo el acta constitutiva del Comité Organizador de la Unión Campesina (UFWOC en inglés). Los dos están en el escenario durante un evento en el que Bill Kircher, el director nacional de AFL-CIO, presentó el acta constitutiva del Comité Organizador de la Unión Campesina (UFWOC en inglés) a Chávez, Itliong y los campesinos presentes.

Larry Itliong and César Chávez standing on stage during the UFWOC charter presentation, Delano, August 28, 1966

At the Pius X Youth Center of Our Lady of Guadalupe, César Chávez and Larry Itliong address the audience using a microphone while Itliong holds the UFWOC charter. The National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) and the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) merged to form, under the AFL-CIO, the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC) on August 22, 1966. This affiliation was facilitated by William Kircher, director of organizing at the AFL-CIO, who after visiting the pilgrimage to Sacramento in April had transferred AWOC funds and headquarters to Delano, under the direction of Larry Itliong, and recognized NFWA’s claim to represent DiGiorgio workers pulling out AWOC from the ballot. Fearing to lose their autonomy, NFWA leaders were skeptical of the merger, but the need to preserve unity during the DiGiorgio election campaign persuaded them to affiliate. When UFWOC was officially chartered, César Chávez became director and Larry Itliong assistant director. Besides Chávez and Itliong, the UFWOC’s executive board included leaders from both NFWA and AWOC: Gilbert Padilla, Philip Vera Cruz, Dolores Huerta, Tony Orendáin, Andy Imutan, Julio Hernández, Manuel Vásquez, and DeWitt Tannehill. UFWOC won unprecedented autonomy from the AFL-CIO and as an organizing committee, it was entitled to a monthly subsidy. The new union faced challenges as some members of AWOC quit due to economic or ideological differences. AWOC organizers were asked to give up their weekly pay of $125 and saw their work as a trade dispute rather than a social justice movement. One AWOC organizer, Ben Gines, joined the Teamsters instead of the new union. UFWOC was busy from the start, tackling multiple campaigns including the Perelli-Minetti and Sons national boycott and various election campaigns at the DiGiorgio and Goldberg ranches.

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