Filipino American labor hero Larry Itliong honored in California Hall of Fame

Larry Itliong California Hall of Fame
Larry Itliong photo by Jon Lewis. Courtesy of Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University

Filipino-American farm labor hero and activist Larry Itliong has been honored by the California Hall of Fame.

Itliong, the father of the West Coast labor movement and one of the most important civil rights leaders of the 20th century, joined the 14th class of Californian inductees recognized posthumously during a webcast streamed by the California Museum on October 12, 2021.

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The Fil-Am labor leader was a pivotal figure in the labor movement in California, serving an instrumental role in the Delano Grape Strike of the 1960s, which helped farm laborers.

Born in San Nicolas, Pangasinan in the Philippines in 1913, Larry Itliong moved to the United States when he was fifteen years old. He was a farmworker who became a prominent Filipino-American labor leader and organizer, leading labor organizations in Alaska and throughout the West Coast.

Following his service in the U.S. Army during World War II, Itliong became a U.S citizen and in 1954 moved to Stockton’s Little Manila, where he organized for the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC).

“He was so good at recruiting new members that union leaders asked him to move to Delano to organize Filipino grape workers. It was there that he helped change the history of farm labor,” the California Museum website says about Larry Itliong’s historic labor rights movement.

On September 8, 1965, Itliong led more than 1,500 Filipino farmworkers to go on a labor strike to push for higher wages and better working conditions. The movement became known as the Delano Grape Strike, which lasted for five years and resulted in a victory for farmworkers.

Itliong co-founded the United Farm Workers (UFW) union with Latino activist Cesar Chavez. He would go on to continue his work for fellow Filipino Americans until his death in 1977 at age 63.

Among Itliong’s major successes was “securing funding for the construction of the Paulo Agbayani Retirement Village in Delano, which has provided housing and support for retired Filipino farmworkers since 1974,” the California Museum website adds.

In 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared October 25 in the State of California as “Larry Itliong Day” to honor the World War II veteran and labor rights activist.

Itliong, along with the new inductees announced this year, joins 134 other inspirational Californians previously inducted for embodying the state’s innovative spirit.

The Fil-Am activist is celebrated in a new California Hall of Fame website featuring online exhibitions and tribute videos of the lives and legacies of the latest inductees.

Union City’s Alvarado Middle School was earlier renamed Itliong-Vera Cruz Middle School to honor Filipino-American labor leaders Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz who worked with Chavez in the 1960s.

A new park in Delano, California, U.S.A. will be named after Larry Itliong.

SEND CHEERS in the comments below to Filipino-American farm labor hero and activist Larry Itliong for being inducted into the California Hall of Fame!

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Margo is a voracious reader - some might even say she reads too much for her own good. She majored in BS Psychology and hopes to become a forensic psychologist one day. She’s also an aspiring writer, mental health advocate, and a staunch believer of equality.