Delano Grape Strike

Harvesting Grapes

After the War my dad returned to California to prepare to bring my mother over from the Philippines.Work was still hard to come by especially after the war as all the soldiers were coming back starting a new life.

My dad went back to the only work he knew best, farm working. Agriculture was booming in California and the agricultural industry was considered to be the new California Gold Rush.
The picture above is one of my favorite photos, the instruments include a slack key and a ukulele. These grape pickers migrated from Hawaii. They were Sakadas. The picture to the right is a friend of my dad and a fellow grape picker with his son. You can see all the grapes on the ground and if look closely at his hand you can see the small sickle like grapevine cutter. These grape pickers didn't even make minimum wage. The arduous work weighed heavily on the minds of the workers and they began to complained. The thought of the very produce they harvested they couldn't even afford to buy in the grocery stores.

Then on September 8, 1965 the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) led by Larry Itliong, Phillip Vera Cruz and Pete Velasco united the Filipinos to go on strike in Delano against the grape growers demanding a living wages and better working conditions.The strike lasted five years. Within those years Caesar Chavez and Mexican strikers joined the Filipinos and the United Farm Workers Union was formed. With a nationwide boycott the strike won recognition and eventually ended in victory achieving a contract agreement with the growers to meet the strikers demands. More recognition went to Ceasar Chavez, as Larry Itliong, Philip Vera Cruz, and Pete Velasco were the unsung heroes in the background even though they were the ones who initiated the grape strike in the first place.

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I'm not sure how involved my father was with the labor movement and grape strike in Delano. I knew that he did pick grapes there but that was before the Grape strike led by Larry Itliong and Phillip Vera Cruz had begun. My dad attended many meetings with his LDT fraternity in Stockton during the Delano Grape Strike and I'm sure the strike was a main topic of discussion. There were members in his fraternity involved with the grape strike and were friends with my dad from the California Filipino Infantry Regiments.

Legionarios Del Trabajo

Both my parents were members of the Legionarios Del Trabajo. My father was a member before he brought my mother to America. I often wondered what the purpose was of this group and after researching the events of those times during the Great Depression I realized how much an organization of this kind was needed.

First originating in the Philippines the fraternity was established in San Francisco California in 1924. More Filipinos were allowed to come to the U.S, to work in the agricultural industries. Politically, they were committed to improving relations between the U.S. and the Philippines especially at a time when there was a lot of animosity growing towards Filipino men.

Filipinos could congregate and give support to each other when needed. The feeling of brotherhood and unity was the bond that gave them the strength to cope with unfair labor conditions and discrimination. From these meetings they networked and discussed current events involving Filipinos and whether to decide to join the strikes or find other solutions.

The Legionarios provided benefits to its members such as health, hospitalization, mortuary, and legal assistance. In 1991 the Legionarios had numbered 1,200 members with 43 local lodges in California and Washington.
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During the turmoil in Delano my father was a LDT member and would attend meeting regularly. Even though our family had recently moved away from central California and settled in San Jose my dad still attended those meetings to stay current with the events that plagued the Filipino community.