Philip Vera Cruz

Philip Vera Cruz (December 25 1904 – June 12 1994) was a Filipino American labor leader, farmworker, and leader in the Asian American civil rights movement. He was a co-founder of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, which later merged with the National Farm Workers Association to become the United Farm Workers. As the union's long-time vice president, he worked to improve the working conditions for migrant workers.cite news | last = Lyons | first = Richard D. | title = Philip Vera Cruz, 89; Helped to Found Farm Worker Union | pages = B9 | publisher = New York Times | date = June 16 1994]

Early life

Vera Cruz was born in Saoag, Ilocos Sur, the Philippines on December 25 1904. As he grew older, he undertook some farm work there, which he described as much easier than the work he would do in California.cite book |last=Scharlin |first=Craig |coauthors=Lilia Villanueva |title=Philip Vera Cruz: A Personal History of Filipino Immigrants and the Farmworkers Movement |publisher=University of Washington Press |date=2000 |location=Seattle, Washington |pages=5 |id=ISBN 0-295-97984-4] In 1926, Vera Cruz moved to the United States, where he performed a wide variety of jobs, including working in an Alaskan cannery, a restaurant, and a box factory.cite book |last=Saito |first=Leland T. |title=Race and Politics: Asian Americans, Latinos, and Whites in a Los Angeles Suburb publisher=University of Illinois Press |date=1998 |location=Champaign, Illinois |pages=130 |id=ISBN 0-252-06720-7] He was briefly a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. [cite book |last=Le Blanc |first=Paul |title=A Short History of the U.S. Working Class: From Colonial Times to the Twenty-First Century publisher=Humanity Books |date=1999 |location=Amherst, New York |pages=64 |id=ISBN 1-573-92664-7]

Labor activities

Vera Cruz eventually settled in California, where he became a farmworker. He joined the AFL-CIO-affiliated union, the National Farm Labor Union, in the 1950s. His union local, based in Delano, California, had an Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC). The prime focus of AWOC was to add members to the National Farm Labor Union. AWOC was composed primarily of Filipino American farmworker organizers, although it did hire Dolores Huerta. Huerta eventually quit the AWOC to join the National Farm Workers of America, which had a primarily Mexican American membership.cite book |last=Scharlin |first=Craig |coauthors=Lilia Villanueva |title=The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Movement |publisher=Harvest/HBJ Books |date=1998 |pages=203 |id=ISBN 0-295-97984-4]

Philip Vera Cruz, a former UFW Vice President, described the start of the Great Delano Grape Strike. "On September 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 on strike or to accept the reduced wages proposed by the growers. The decision was 'to strike" and it became on 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… It was this strike that eventually made the UFW, the farmworkers movement, and Cesar Chavez famous worldwide."

On September 8 1965, the Delano local voted to strike against the grape growers. Following the strike call, the growers attempted to bring in Mexican American workers, some of whom were affiliated with the National Farm Workers of America. Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and other leaders of the National Farm Workers of America met with several National Farm Labor Union organizers, including Vera Cruz, Larry Itliong and Pete Velasco. Together, they decided that both unions would strike against the grape growers, an action which eventually led to both unions joining to become the United Farm Workers. [ [ Article Index - ] ] The new union debuted in August 1966, and continued the strike into 1970.cite book |last=Shen Wu |first=Jean Yu-wen |coauthors=Min Song |title=Asian American Studies: A Reader|publisher=Rutgers University Press |date=2000 |location=New Brunswick, New Jersey |pages=190 |id=ISBN 0-813-52726-0]

In the new union, Vera Cruz served as second vice president and on the managing board.

Leaving the UFW and later life

Vera Cruz resigned from the UFW in 1977. That year, Cesar Chavez traveled to the Philippines to meet with Ferdinand Marcos, who Vera Cruz saw as a brutal dictator. [cite book |last=Ferriss |first=Susan |coauthors=Ricardo Sandoval |title= The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Movement |publisher=Harvest Books/HBJ |date=2000 |location=Orlando, Florida |pages=203 |id=ISBN 0-156-00598-0] Vera Cruz continued to live in the San Joaquin Valley of California after his resignation, and remained active in union and social justice issues for the rest of his life. Vera Cruz received the Ninoy M. Aquino Award in 1987, traveling to the Philippines for the first time in fifty years to accept it. [cite book |last=Sinnott |first=Susan |title=Extraordinary Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders |publisher=Children's Press |date=2003 |location=New York, New York |pages=74 |id=ISBN 0-516-29355-9] In 1992, the AFL-CIO's Asia Pacific American Labor Committee honored Vera Cruz at its founding convention. [cite book |last=Aguilar-San Juan |first=Karen |title=The State of Asian America: activism and resistance in the 1990s |publisher=South End Press |date=1994 |location=Cambridge, Massachusetts |pages=348 |id=]


External links

* [ Philip Vera Cruz]

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