FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --On Tuesday, California will commemorate the life of a Filipino-American leader who spearheaded the Farm Labor Movement along with Cesar Chavez.
In 1966, Larry Itliong convinced Cesar Chavez to merge unions and form the United Farm Workers. Dolores Huerta was a UFS co-founder. She fought alongside Itliong for better wages and working conditions including water and bathroom breaks.
"So, Larry and I have always been very, very close," Huerta said. "He was a strong leader."
Itliong headed the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee while Chavez formed the National Farmworkers Association. The plan was to organize for a few more years.
"But Larry with AWOC went ahead and struck ahead of time so he kind of changed the whole momentum and the history but those things happen for a reason and we ended up winning in the long run and ended up forming a strong bond and relationship," Huerta said.
Filipino workers started the Delano Grape Strike of 1965. Chavez's group joined eight days later. Itliong died in 1977, but the role he played was not lost on Fresno State student Clarrisa Baldoz, who grew up in Delano.
"My mom was like, 'You should be proud that you are Filipino and for the fact that he did that for us. We wouldn't have a job right now and helping you go to school,'" she said.
Larry Itliong Day was first recognized last year. Assembly member Rob Bonta felt it was important to honor a man whose contributions were forgotten.
"I wanted him, Larry Itliong, to be remembered for what he stood for and what he accomplished and fought for," Bonta said. "It was a collaborative movement. It was Latinos standing side by side with Filipinos."
Bonta also passed a state law ensuring the stories of Filipino leaders like Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz will be included when the Farm Labor Movement is taught in schools.