Filipino farm laborers honored in new California law

Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and labor leader Dolores Huerta discuss AB 123 in honor of Filipino farm workers.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta and labor leader Dolores Huerta speak before community leaders on the signing of a bill honoring Filipino farm workers in California.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta and labor leader Dolores Huerta speak before community leaders on the signing of a bill honoring Filipino farm workers in California.

By Bert Eljera

A new California law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown Friday will honor the contributions of Filipino farm workers in the growth of the labor movement in the Golden State.

Sponsored by Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), the only Filipino-American in the California Legislature, AB 123 will require the state curriculum to include studies on the Filipino labor movement.

“The goal… is to supplement California’s rich farm worker history with the contributions of the Filipino-American community,” said Bonta. “The story of Filipinos and their crucial efforts to the farm labor movement is an untold part of California history.”

Bonta cited the work of César Chávez and Dolores Huerta, and that “generations of people who follow their stories have benefited from their commitment to social and economic justice in innumerable ways.”

However, largely forgotten are the Delano Grape Strike of 1965, led by the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), made up of first-generation Filipino leaders Philip Vera Cruz and Larry Itliong.

The National Farm Workers Association was the product of the collaboration between Chavez, Huerta, Vera Cruz and Itliong, Bonta said.

In 1966, they staged the grape workers strike that brought together Filipino and Mexican farm workers.

In signing the bill, Gov. Brown has given California students a more complete account of the farm labor movement, Bonta said.

The bill signing served as highlight of the observance of October as Filipino-American Heritage month in California.

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