||What happened when Mexicans and Filipinos joined
|From: 40th anniversary of Delano Grape Srrike two-day
reunion in Delano, September 2005
Andy Imutan is one of the original
strikers from the 1965 walkouts who started it all.
He was a leader of AWOC and later a vice president of
the United Farm Workers, formed by the merger of the
largely Filipino AWOC and the mostly Latino NFWA. Imutan
was also in charge of the Baltimore and New York boycotts,
and was UFW director in Stockton and Delano.
|My name is Andy Imutan and I am one
of the original Filipino workers who went on strike in 1965.
I am now only one of two living Filipino workers from that era
as most of my brothers have passed away. The one thing that
does remain is their legacy and their fight for a just cause.
The whole movement began in Coachella that same summer [of
1965]. That's when a group of Filipino workers went on strike
demanding that their wages be increased from $1.10 an hour
as well as better living conditions. Finally, after 10 days
of picketing we finally accomplished what we had set out to
do-we increased our wages by 30¡Ë an hour. The
victory was more grandiose, not so much for the wage increase
but for its significance at defeating the growers. We knew
then that we could accomplish a lot more.
As I look back, I don't think we could have accomplished
such victory in Coachella had it not been for the leadership
of our brothers Ben Gines, Pete Manuel and Larry Itliong,
who were all instrumental in that victory.
After a successful first strike we did it again, this time
in Delano where wages were also starting out at $1.10 an hour.
However, the struggle became a lot harder when Mexican workers
started crossing our picketlines. 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.
Although we tried to discourage and reason with the Mexicans
that this was just hurting everyone, we weren't able to convince
So 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. However, Chavez said his organization wasn't ready
to go on a strike. It took several discussions and a lot of faith,
but finally the Filipinos and Mexicans joined as one on September
16, to picket the Delano growers. On March 17, 1966 we set out on
a march from Delano to Sacramento that initially only had 70 farm
workers and volunteers. But by April 11, as we climbed the steps of
the state Capitol, there were 10,000 supporters who had joined us
in the cause.
A few months later our union, AWOC, and the NFWA joined as a single
union. Out of this union the United Farm Workers was born. It was
a very exciting time as we knew the potential when we joined together
not as competitors but as true brothers joined in a very legitimate