No history, no self. Know history, know self.
Roughly, 1 in 3 students in the New Haven Unified School District are Filipino, and 1 in 5 people in Union City are Filipino. Changing the name of Alvarado Middle School would serve multiple purposes. One being that we can honor forgotten Filipino heroes Philip Vera Cruz and Larry Itliong, and their important roles in the fight for farm labor rights and civil liberties, work that reached the fields of Union City. Another reason is that we can potentially instill a great sense of pride and empower our large Filipino population, while also shining a light upon the past solidarity work of Filipino and Mexican people. It would be beneficial for all staff, parents, students and residents. Let's make history!
Who are Philip Vera Cruz and Larry Itliong?
Philip Vera Cruz and Larry Itliong are important figures in Filipino and American history. They are the rarely celebrated, much often forgotten leaders in the battle for farm workers rights and the movement for civil liberties. Vera Cruz was a labor leader. In the 1960s, he was an organizer with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), which later merged with Cesar Chavez’s National Farm Workers Association (NFWA to form the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC)- giving respect to both unions.
Vera Cruz went on to serve as a vice president with the United Farm Workers (UFW) union.
Itliong, founded the Farm Laborer's Union (FLU) in Stockton, and became the President of AWOC before the heralded strike and boycott of 1965. He was a self-taught labor leader who organized protests in California and Alaska. Along with Vera Cruz, he convinced Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta’s predominantly Mexican/Latino NFWA to join the Grape Strike and Boycott of 1965 demanding better pay and benefits. Together, as UFWOC, Filipinos and Mexicans along with many workers of other ethnic backgrounds dug in for a long, hard fought battle. Itliong served as assistant director during his tenure with UFWOC. Eventually, the efforts of UFWOC brought an end to several unfair labor practices, and they also organized and participated in a 300 mile pilgrimage from Delano to Sacramento. After coming out victorious, the leadership of UFWOC changed its name to what it is now recognized as, the United Farm Workers (UFW) union.
These men and their dedication to the movement for worker and civil rights must be recognized and their legacy passed on.
Recognize our history!
Honor Our Heroes!
Support the renaming!
Long Live Inter-ethnic Solidarity!
*The AWOC was founded in Stockton in 1959. In fact, he did not join until around the time of the 1965 Grape Strike. Larry Itliong was a radical farm labor organizer beginning in the early 1930s, and became a VP of the radical union, Local 7, United Cannery and Agricultural and Packing and Allied Workers in the 1940s, and helped lead the 1948 asparagus strike in Stockton. He was hired by the AWOC in 1960 in Stockton, where he lived, and was sent to Delano in 1962 to organize the grape workers there. On Sept. 8, 1965, under the leadership of Itliong, the AWOC voted to go on strike. Itliong approached Chavez and broached the idea of the alliance that became the UFW. Itliong became the assistant director of the UFW from 1966-1971 and was the leader of the Grape Boycott. Itliong was disappointed in the ways Filipinos were treated in the union and in vehement philosophical and political disagreement with Chavez and resigned in 1971. He died in 1977. Vera Cruz became VP of the UFW in 1971 and resigned in 1977 over disagreements with Chavez and the UFW board over a number of issues, including recent firings and Chavez's decision to go to the Philippines.
References: Philip Vera Cruz: A Personal History of Filipino Immigrants and the Farmworkers Movement; Sam Kushner, _Long Road to Delano_, and Matt Garcia, _From the Jaws of Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement.
**Thank you to Dawn Mabalon, for the added information and insight.