The state of California has proclaimed that Oct. 25 is Larry Itliong Day to honor and reflect the work of the Filipino American trailblazer who helped advance social justice for laborers before and after World War II.
Eleni Kounalakis, who is serving as California’s acting governor while Gavin Newsom is visiting China
, proclaimed on Wednesday that Oct. 25 will be celebrated as Larry Itliong Day. Kounalakis announced
the proclamation amid Filipino American Heritage Month
, which is celebrated every October.
“Today, on the 110th anniversary of his birth, we reflect on Larry Itliong’s incredible work to change the history of farm labor and advance social justice,” Kounalakis wrote in the announcement.
Itliong’s U.S. arrival:
Born in the municipality of San Nicolas in the province of Pangasinan, Philippines, in 1913, Itliong immigrated to the United States
in 1929 as a teen on a packed ship bound for Seattle along with other young Filipinos.
He described the ship’s passengers as having had
“no fresh air to breathe” and the ship’s smell as being so bad that those on board got sick, with “a few” allegedly dying due to the stench.
Itliong joined his first strike in 1930 when he reportedly stood alongside striking lettuce pickers in Washington
. He then went on to cofound the Alaska
Cannery Workers Union and, through the union’s efforts, helped workers receive a contract that gave them an eight-hour workday with overtime, the proclamation detailed.
Becoming a citizen:
Itliong earned his citizenship after serving in the U.S. Army
. After the war, he reportedly settled in Stockton, California
Filipino Farm Labor Union: While in California, Itliong founded the Filipino Farm Labor Union in 1956 and the multi-ethnic Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) in 1959.
Itliong was recognized as a Filipino American
leader of the “manongs
,” an Ilokano term that refers to an older man or an older male member of a family.
Itliong led two successful strikes in 1965, with the first being in the vineyards of Coachella
, California, in May followed by another in Delano, California, on Sept. 16, 1965, where National Farm Workers Association-led Mexican American farm workers joined the AWOC and Filipino American farm workers in a walkout strike.
The Delano strike, later known as the Delano Grape Strike, lasted for five years and left its mark on U.S. history as a pivotal labor movement.
The two organizations later merged to become United Farm Workers, where Itliong served as assistant director.
California Hall of Fame:
Itliong, who died on Feb. 8, 1977, was inducted into the California Hall of Fame
on Oct. 12, 2021.