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Larry Itliong

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Larry Itliong
Larry Itliong.jpg
Born25 October 1913
Died8 February 1977(1977-02-08) (aged 63), disputed [1][2]
Delano, California, United States[2]
Resting placeNorth Kern Cemetery, Delano, California
Other namesSeven Fingers
OccupationLabor organizer, farmworker

Larry Dulay Itliong (25 October 1913 – 8 February 1977), also known as "Seven Fingers",[3] was a Filipino-American labor organizer. He organized West Coast agricultural workers starting in the 1930s, and rose to national prominence in 1965, when he, Philip Vera Cruz, Benjamin Gines and Pete Velasco, walked off the farms of area table-grape growers, demanding wages equal to the federal minimum wage, that became known as the Delano grape strike.[4][5][6] He has been described as "one of the fathers of the West Coast labor movement."[7] He is regarded as a key figure of the Asian American Movement.


Itliong was a native of Pangasinan Province in the Philippines.[8] One of six children of Artemio and Francesca Itliong, Itliong only had a sixth grade education.[1] He immigrated to the United States in 1929 and joined his first strike in 1930;[9] Itliong was only 14 when he came to the United States.[10] Itliong was an excellent card player, and avid cigar smoker, who spoke multiple Filipino languages, Spanish, Cantonese, Japanese, and taught himself about law.[3] Itliong married six times,[3] had seven children,[11] and raised his family in the Delano area [1] and in the Little Manila community of Stockton, California.[12]

As a farmworker Itliong worked in Alaska, where he organized cannery and agricultural unions, Washington, and up and down California;[3] he also worked in Montana and South Dakota.[1] While living in Alaska, he helped found the Alaska Cannery Workers Union (which later became Local 7 of the United Cannery and Packing and Allied Workers Union, then Local 7 of the International Longshoreman's and Warehouse Workers Union). He lost three fingers in an accident in an Alaskan cannery, which earned him the nickname, "Seven Fingers."[12]

Some of the labor organizers whom Itliong met in his early days had ties to the Communist Party.[13] Filipinos in California led the way in unionization efforts among farmworkers in the 1930s and 40s.[14] During World War II, Itliong served on a U.S. Army transport ship as a messman.[12] After the war, he settled in the city of Stockton in California's Central Valley.[12] In 1948, Itliong (along with Rudy Delvo, Chris Mensalvas, Philip Vera Cruz, and Ernesto Mangaoang) became involved in the 1948 asparagus strike,[15] which was the first major agriculture strike after World War II.[16] Itliong served as the first shop steward of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 37,[1] in Seattle,[17] and was elected its vice-president in 1953.[1] He served as secretary of the Filipino Community of Stockton from 1954 to 1956.[12] In 1956, Itliong founded the Filipino Farm Labor Union[2] in Stockton.[12] In 1957, he was elected president of the Filipino Voters League in Stockton.[12] By 1965, Itliong was leading the AFL–CIO union Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee;[18] the majority of members of the committee were Filipinos who had in the 1930s arrived in the United States.[19]

A vote was held on 3 May 1965 in which the committee voted to strike against Coachella Valley grape growers. Although the strikers weren't able to negotiate a contract with the growers, they did succeed in winning higher wages.[18] Following the success in Southern California, on 8 September 1965 the Agriculture Workers Organizing Committee voted to strike against grape growers in Delano, California, where the grape season starts in September.[18] This strike became the first time Mexican workers, due to the decision of Cesar Chavez, did not break a strike of Filipinos;[3] later, on 16 September 1965, Chavez's National Farm Workers Association joined the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee on the picket lines.[20] These strikes occurred around the same time when younger Filipino Americans began a period of political self-reflection and awakening.[21]

The Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee and National Farm Workers Association merged to form the United Farm Workers;[22] Itliong was skeptical of the merger, as he believed that Mexicans would become dominant over the Filipinos when the organizations merged, and that improving work conditions would come at the expense of Filipino farmworkers, but Itliong kept those feelings to himself at the time.[23] In 1966, the California Rural Legal Assistance was founded as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty,[24] with Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and Itliong sitting on the founding board.[25] Itliong served as assistant director of the United Farm Workers under Cesar Chavez,[26] and in 1970 he was appointed the United Farm Workers' national boycott coordinator.[27] In 1971, Itliong resigned from the United Farm Workers because of disagreements about the governance of the union;[26] another reason for resigning from the United Farm Workers, was that Itliong felt that the union was not willing to support aging Filipinos.[28][29] Alex Fabros, a doctoral candidate at University of California, Santa Barbara, called the merger "devastating for the Filipinos who participated in the UFW.".[22]

After leaving the United Farm Workers, Itliong assisted retired Filipino farmworkers in Delano, and was a delegate at the 1972 Democratic National Convention.[2] Together with Vera Cruz, Itliong worked towards building a retirement facility for UFW workers, known as Agbayani Village.[28][30] Although no longer in the United Farm Workers, Itliong continued to support others in the organized labor movement, such as helping others plan a strike against Safeway supermarkets in 1974.[31] Itliong also served as President of the Filipino American Political Association,[2] a bipartisan lobbying organization.[28] He died in 1977 at the age of 63 in Delano of Lou Gehrig's disease.[2][9]


Most history books mention Chavez and the United Farm Workers, but do not include a mention of Itliong or other Filipinos.[32][33] Speaking about Chavez and his father, Johnny Itliong said, "Larry was militant. Cesar was non-violent. Cesar had handlers. Cesar had lawyers. Cesar was a dictator."[32]

The first public art memorial honoring Filipino American farmworkers was unveiled on 24 June 1995 in LA's Historic Filipinotown with Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz as its most prominent historical figures.[34] Itliong was posthumously honored in 2010 by inclusion in a mural at California State University, Dominguez Hills.[35] In 2011, Los Angeles County recognized Itliong with Larry Itliong Day on 25 October;[32] this follows the City of Carson which became the first city in the United States to recognize Larry Itliong Day in the United States in 2010.[36] In mid-April 2013, the New Haven Unified School District renamed Alvarado Middle School Itliong-Vera Cruz Middle School in honor of Vera Cruz and Larry Itliong; this school is the first school in the United States to be named for Filipino Americans.[37] There was a vocal opposition to the name change, some of whom waved Mexican flags, who said that the name changing disrupts the neighborhood's tradition.[38] The middle school was originally named for Juan Bautista Alvarado, and the name change will not take effect until 2015.[39] This occurred after a 13-year effort to rename a school for the Filipino American leaders, after several other schools had been named to reflect the city's diverse population, including Cesar Chavez Middle School, where 20% of the population is Filipino American.[40] In late April 2013, a Filipino business and a Filipino Community Center were targeted with graffiti vandalism; the graffiti was investigated as a hate crime.[41] In 2014, an overpass over the Filipino American Highway was designated as the "Itliong-Vera Cruz Memorial Bridge".[42]

A documentary titled The Delano Manongs: Forgotten Heroes of the UFW was made to highlight the role of Filipinos in the farm labor movement, including Itliong;[43] the documentary was released in 2013. Itliong was portrayed by Darion Basco in the 2014 film about Cesar Chavez; the film will not include other Filipino American farm labor leaders such as Vera Cruz.[10][44] In 2018, a children's book was published which highlighted Itliong's life and his role in the agriculture labor movement.[45]

The Filipino Hall in Delano, California houses a collection of memorabilia.[46] The Larry Itliong Papers are housed at the Walter Reuther Library at Wayne State University in Detroit.[47]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Cordova, Dorothy (1999). Kim, Hyung-Chan (ed.). Distinguished Asian Americans: a biographical dictionary. Ethnographic Reference Bks. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 138–139. ISBN 978-0-313-28902-6. Retrieved 7 May 2013. Larry Itliong died 1977.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Hamilton, Neil A. (2002). American Social Leaders and Activists. American biographies. Infobase Publishing. p. 213. ISBN 978-1-4381-0808-7. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e Patricia Leigh Brown (18 October 2012). "Forgotten Hero of Labor Fight; His Son's Lonely Quest". New York Times. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
  4. ^ Hurt, R. Douglas. American Agriculture: A Brief History. Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 2002. ISBN 1-55753-281-8
  5. ^ Weber, Devra. Dark Sweat, White Gold: California Farm Workers, Cotton, and the New Deal. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1996. ISBN 0-520-20710-6
  6. ^ Feriss, Susan; Sandoval, Ricardo; and Hembree, Diana. The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Movement. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1998. ISBN 0-15-600598-0
  7. ^ Stephen Magagnini (19 May 1996). "Out From the Shadows – Filipino Americans Replanting Roots". Sacramento Bee.
  8. ^ Harvey I. Barkin (22 March 2013). "Calif. city puts off naming school for Fil-Am heroes". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  9. ^ a b Stephen Magagnini (28 December 1996). "New Light Shed on Pioneering Filipino American". Sacramento Bee.
  10. ^ a b "UFW, ALRB, Unions". Rural Migration News. University of California, Davis. January 2013. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  11. ^ Lisa Ko (10 September 2009). "Old News: Larry Itliong and the Delano Grape Strike". Hyphen: Asian America Unabridged. Hyphen Magazine. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Mabalon, Dawn (2013). Little Manila is in the Heart. Durham and London: Duke University Press. p. 259. ISBN 978-0-8223-5339-3.
  13. ^ García, Matt (2012). From the Jaws of Victory. University of California Press. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-520-25930-0. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  14. ^ Juan Jr., E. San (1996). The Philippine Temptation: Dialectics of Philippines—U.S. Literary Relations. Asian American History and Culture Series. Temple University Press. p. 81. ISBN 978-1-56639-418-5.
  15. ^ Mabalon, Dawn Bochulano; Reyes, Rico (2008). Filipinos in Stockton. Images of America Series. Filipino American National Historical So, Little Manila Foundation. Arcadia Publishing. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-7385-5624-6. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  16. ^ "Filipino Labor Leaders" (PDF). Labor Archives and Research Center. San Francisco State University (17): 1. 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 December 2013. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  17. ^ Micah Ellison (2004). "The Local 7/ Local 37 Story: Filipino American Cannery Unionism in Seattle 1940–1959". Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project. University of Washington. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  18. ^ a b c Leezel Tanglao (4 September 2005). "'65 strike set stage for farm labor cause". The Press-Enterprise.
  19. ^ RIck Tejada-Flores (2004). "Cesar Chavez & the UFW". The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers' Struggle. Paradigm Productions and Independent Television Service (ITVS). Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  20. ^ Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz; Enrique Delacruz (26 February 2011). "The birthplace of labor rights becomes a historic landmark". Asian Journal. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  21. ^ Juan Jr., E. San (1996). The Philippine Temptation: Dialectics of Philippines—U.S. Literary Relations. Asian American History and Culture Series. Temple University Press. pp. 129–130. ISBN 978-1-56639-418-5. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  22. ^ a b Rodel Rodis (23 September 2005). "40th Anniversary of Historic Farm Workers Strike". Asian Week. Archived from the original on 7 March 2013. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  23. ^ Scharlin, Craig; Villanueva, Lilia V (2000). Philip Vera Cruz: A Personal History of Filipino Immigrants and the Farmworkers Movement. University of Washington Press. p. 48. ISBN 978-0-295-80295-4. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  24. ^ Madrick, Jeff (2011). Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present. Random House Digital, Inc. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-307-59671-0. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  25. ^ "Guide to the California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. records M0750". Online Archive of California. The Regents of The University of California. 2009. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  26. ^ a b Ross Courtney (27 April 2006). "Wapato man honors a forgotten hero". Yakima Herald-Republic.
  27. ^ "Yee Honors Late UFW Co-founder and Filipino Farm Labor Organizer". Senator Leland Yee, PhD. California State Senate. 31 March 2006. Archived from the original on 27 March 2014. Retrieved 8 May 2013. In January of 1970, he was appointed as National Boycott Coordinator of the UFWOC.
  28. ^ a b c García, Matt (2012). From the Jaws of Victory. University of California Press. p. 120. ISBN 978-0-520-25930-0. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  29. ^ Guillermo, Emil (8 September 2015). "Eclipsed by Cesar Chavez, Larry Itliong's Story Now Emerges". NBC News. Retrieved 25 February 2020.
  30. ^ Rast, Raymond W.; Gail L. Dubrow; Brian Casserly (February 2007). "National Historic Landmark Nomination: The Forty Acres" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  31. ^ Mabalon, Dawn Bochulano; Reyes, Rico (2008). Filipinos in Stockton. Images of America Series. Filipino American National Historical So, Little Manila Foundation. Arcadia Publishing. p. 40. ISBN 978-0-7385-5624-6. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  32. ^ a b c Lounn Lota (25 December 2012). "Obama honors Cesar Chavez but not Delano Manong". Asian Journal. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  33. ^ Joseph Pimentel (26 October 2012). "Fil-Ams lack awareness on Itliong, 'manongs' of the farm worker movement". Asian Journal. Retrieved 7 May 2013. Unfortunately, when speaking or reading about the farm worker movement, Larry Itliong's name and other Filipinos have mostly vanished in mainstream history books. Even the UFW's website, says the union was created by Cesar Chavez.
  34. ^ Fuentes, Ed (10 October 2013). "10 Monumental Murals of LA". KCET. Retrieved 21 April 2015. "The mural is the first memorial to honor the 1,500 Filipino American farmworkers that ignited the 1965 Delano Grape Strike, who converged with César E. Chávez to form the UFW," says the artist, Eliseo Art Silva.
  35. ^ "CSU Dominguez Hills to unveil mural during celebration – Mural celebrates diversity, historical social accomplishments". The Compton Bulletin. 8 September 2010.
  36. ^ Steve Angeles (7 October 2010). "Who is Larry Itliong?". ABS-CBN News. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  37. ^ Chris De Benedetti (19 April 2013). "Union City school is nation's first named after Filipino-Americans, but acrimony over decision remains". Mercury News. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
  38. ^ Chris De Benedetti (29 March 2013). "Opposition to renaming Union City school growing more vocal". Contra Costa Times. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  39. ^ "Union City police investigate racist graffiti as hate crime". KTVU. 30 April 2013. Archived from the original on 6 December 2013. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  40. ^ Chris De Benedetti (9 March 2013). "Plan to rename Union City school sparks controversy". Mercury News. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  41. ^ Natalie Neysa Alund (1 May 2013). "Union City: Graffiti scrawled on Filipino businesses investigated as hate crime". Contra Costa Times. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  42. ^ "ACR-156 Itliong-Vera Cruz Memorial Bridge". California Legislative Information. State of California. 2 September 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  43. ^ Leslie Berestein Rojas (1 April 2011). "The forgotten history of the Filipino laborers who worked with Cesar Chavez". KPCC. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  44. ^ Ruben V. Nepales (13 October 2012). "Actor talks about playing Fil-Am labor leader in Diego Luna film". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  45. ^ Mejia, Paula (17 May 2018). "The Forgotten Filipino American Activist Behind the Delano Grape Strike". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  46. ^ Morehouse, Lisa (15 September 2015). "Grapes Of Wrath: The Forgotten Filipinos Who Led A Farmworker Revolution". The Salt - Weekend Edition Saturday - NPR. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  47. ^ "Larry Itliong Collection" (PDF). Walter P. Reuther Library. Wayne State University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 April 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2013.

External links[edit]