Happy Pilipino-American History Month!
Philip Vera Cruz and Larry Itliong were the forgotten Pilipino heroes of the United Farm Workers (UFW) Union. They were both leaders in the battle for farm workers rights.
When you open a textbook on U.S. History, the 1960’s was the decade of change. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. walked for Civil Rights and the banning of Segregation for the betterment of society. Cesar Chavez led the United Farm Workers Chicano Movement, which fought for workers rights. But, where do the names Philip Vera Cruz and Larry Itliong fit in? People think that the Farm Workers movement was only a chicano/latino movement that made it to the history books. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know that it was also a movement lead by Pilipinos.
Philip Vera Cruz
Philip Vera Cruz was a Pilipino-American labor leader; he was a farm worker and a leader/Activist for the Asian American civil rights movement. Vera Cruz was one of the founders of the Agriculture Worker Organizing Committee (AWOC), which later merged with Cesar Chavez’s NationalFarm Workers Association (NFWA) and gave birth to the United Farm Worker (UFW). Philip Vera Cruz was long-time vice president of the UFW.
Larry Itliong was a Pilipino labor leader that founded the Filipino Farm Labor Union (FFLU) and was the President of AWOC. Larry was a self-taught labor leader who handled protests in California and Alaska. Along With Philip Vera Cruz, he convinced Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta’s predominantly Mexican/Latino National Farm Workers Association to join the Grape Strike and Boycott of 1965 demanding better pay and benefits. Together the Pilipinos and Mexicans formed the United Farm Workers. Larry Itliong became a high ranking member of the UFW, becoming the second vice president.
Philip Vera Cruz and Larry Itliong, along with other Pilipino-American farmers, were the people who started the 1965 Grape Strike and Boycott. One week later Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and Richard Chavez joined the strike that eventually brought an end to the unfair wages and benefits with a 300 mile pilgrimage from Delano to Sacramento.
During this year's Pilipino-American History Month, let us continue to honor Philip Vera Cruz and Larry Itliong for playing their important roles in the fight for farm labor rights.