The rights and benefits working Americans enjoy today were not easily gained; they had to be won. It took generations of courageous men and women, fighting to secure decent working conditions, organizing to demand fair pay, and sometimes risking their lives. Some, like Larry Dulay Itliong, made it the cause of their lives.
Larry Itliong organized West Coast agricultural workers starting in the 1930s. Filipinos in California led the way in unionization efforts among farmworkers in the 1930s and 40s. At the time farmworkers were deeply impoverished and frequently exploited, exposed to very hazardous working conditions.
After serving on a United States Army transport ship during World War II, he settled in the city of Stockton and continued his campaign for civil rights and social justice, becoming involved in the 1948 asparagus strike. By 1965, he was leading the AFL-CIO union Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, and was instrumental in the walk-off of 1,500 Filipino laborers, demanding wages equal to the federal union wages, in what became known as the Delano grape strike of 1965. The Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee and National Farm Workers Association merged to form the United Farm Workers of America, and launched a series of boycotts and marches that eventually led to agreements for better wages and protections of farm workers in the 1970s.
In 1970, Larry Itliong founded and became the president of the Filipino American Political Association. Few Americans have led this charge so tirelessly and for so many.
The Governing Board of the Anaheim Elementary School District encourages all schools and teachers to observe Larry Itliong Day on October 25, 2020, or the days surrounding it, and conduct exercises commemorating the life of Larry Itliong and recognize his legacy as a Filipino American labor organizer and civil rights leader, who promoted and fought for the well-being of all of California’s Farm Workers.