California commemorates Fil-Am Labor Leader Larry Itliong
Joining his friend Cesar Chavez in the pantheon of celebrated leaders in the United States is Pangasinan-born American labor leader Larry Itliong. Just recently, the first Larry Itliong Day in the entirety of the State of California was celebrated on October 25, 2015, coinciding with the Filipino-American History Month of October.
Quezon City-born Rob Bonta, incumbently a Democrat representing the Central East Bay of California in the California State Assembly, introduced the bill earlier this year to further propagate the works of Larry Itliong towards helping immigrants of all ethnicities in the aspect of labor and migrant rights.
“I’m excited, proud, and happy for our Filipino-American community. I’m very happy for the family of Larry Itliong and happy for all Californians to learn more about this great California leader, American leader, Filipino-American leader and his inspiring story of courage, sacrifice, and struggle, and how he fought for what was right, and his (contribution) to the process of changing the world,” Bonta said in an interview during an event to commemorate Itliong.
He added that the commemoration of Larry Itliong during October 25th will create a deeper sense of pride, inspiration, and commitment within our community. He hopes that it would inspire Filipinos throughout the state and the whole nation to fight for the change that they want to see in our communities, by being active, joining the struggle, and the fight for change in our communities.
Citing the very strong Filipino-American community – largest Asian-American division in the state, fastest-growing, 1.5 million people strong, 4% of the state population, still, Bonta, who is the first Filipino elected into the California legislature, sees more room for growth.
“We haven’t reached our potential yet. There’s more to do, so, I hope Larry Itliong Day will help us get inspired to meet our full potential,” he added.
Larry Itliong, along with Filipino-Americans Philip Vera Cruz, Benjamin Gines, and Pete Velasco, and other prominent labor leaders, fought for their labor rights when they were working as grape-growers in California during the 1930s. This caused the West Coast labor movement to come into picture and it has came into national prominence in the 1960s, with Itliong leading the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. Most Americans are familiar of Cesar Chavez but not much is written about Larry Itliong who is also considered by historians as one if not Chavez’ greatest contemporary during the era.
Itliong is also memorialized in Historic Filipinotown in Los Angeles through a public art; a mural in California State University Dominugez Hills, a junior high school named after him and Philip Vera Cruz in the San Francisco Bay Area, and a memorial bridge in Southern California.