This Day in History

Sept. 8, 1965: Delano Grape Strike Began

Time Periods: People’s Movement: 1961 - 1974
Themes: Food, Asian American, Labor, Organizing
The famous Delano grape strike began on Sept. 8, 1965. Ask your students who organized it — then ask again. They probably don’t know that the organizers were Filipino American labor leaders Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee.

Mural in Los Angeles depicting Philip Vera Cruz and Larry Itliong.

On September 8, 1965, Larry Itliong, a member of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, called a strike against the Delano, California, grape growers in order to demand salaries equivalent to the federal minimum wage and the right to form their own union.

Sept. 8, 1965, at the Filipino Hall at 1457 Glenwood St. in Delano, the Filipino members of AWOC held a mass meeting to discuss and decide whether to strike or to accept the reduced wages proposed by the growers. The decision was ‘to strike” and it became one of the most significant and famous decisions ever made in the entire history of the farmworkers struggles in California. It was like an incendiary bomb, exploding out the strike message to the workers in the vineyards, telling them to have sit-ins in the labor camps, and set up picket lines at every grower’s ranch… — Philip Vera Cruz 

More than one thousand Filipino workers walked out of their grape farms to picket, however, farmers replaced them with Mexican workers. As fellow striker Andy Imutan recalls,

There was no unity between the Mexicans and the Filipinos. The growers were very successful in dividing us and creating conflict between the two races. Larry Itliong and I decided to take action by seeing Cesar Chavez, the leader of the National Farm Workers Association. We met to come up with a plan that would be beneficial for everyone, including the Mexican workers.

A week after the strike, they were joined by the Mexican-dominated National Farm Workers led by Cesar Chavez. The two groups merged together to create the United Farm Workers Union, with Cesar Chavez as director and Larry Itliong as assistant director. This strike would be known as the Delano Grape Strike of 1965 and would last five years. [Source FilipiKnow biography and the United Farm Workers.]

Learn More

Films

Delano Manongs: The Forgotten Heroes of the UFW

Directed by Marissa Aroy. Produced by Niall McKay.

AAPI Civil Rights Heroes –  Asian Americans Advancing Justice

Books and Articles

Journey for Justice: The Life of Larry Itliong by Dawn Bohulano Mabalon and Gayle Romasanta

Cesar Chavez Day and the Forgotten Asian Americans

Asian Americans and Moments in People’s History

The Delano Manongs

Grapes of Wrath: The Forgotten Filipinos Who Led a Farmworker Revolution

Also, see more resources for teaching labor history, outside the textbook.