Story: Filipino labor leader honored
ABC30 profiles Larry Itliong during this Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The Filipino labor leader helped form the United Farmworkers of America. The man known as "Seven Fingers" was a cigar- chomping advocate of fair wages and working conditions for Filipino farmworkers.
Itliong was the push behind the Delano grape strike. At the Filipino Hall downtown Filipino laborers voted to strike on September 7, 1965. The next day 1500 workers walked out of vineyards. Itliong headed the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee while Cesar Chavez led the National Farmworkers Association.
Itliong urged Chavez to merge the groups. Chavez later agreed to join forces and the United Farmworkers was formed. San Francisco State history professor Dawn Mabalon said Itliong unified farmworkers during a time they were often pitted against each other.
Mabalon said, "I think his larger goal was better working conditions for all workers regardless of background and that's the real impact of the Delano grape strike - it was Filipinos and Mexicans coming together."
Itliong marched and stood alongside Chavez and Dolores Huerta. The strikers demand for a decent wage, water and bathrooms was eventually met by growers. Gadiano said of Itliong, "He needs to be noted for standing out and saying hey, this is an injustice."
Larry Itliong died in 1977 but his impact won't be forgotten. Assemblyman Rob Bonta(D-Oakland) authored a bill to make October 25th "Larry Itliong Day." It is now law in California.