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ᜉᜒᜎᜒ ᜊᜒᜇ ᜃᜓᜇᜓ - Philip Vera Cruz Tee

ᜉᜒᜎᜒ ᜊᜒᜇ ᜃᜓᜇᜓ - Philip Vera Cruz Tee

Philip Vera Cruz (December 25, 1904 – June 12, 1994) was a Filipino American labor leader, farmworker, and leader in the Asian American movement. He helped found the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), which later merged with the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) to become the United Farm Workers (UFW). As the union's long-time second vice president, he worked to improve the working conditions of migrant workers.

 

Early life

Vera Cruz was born in Saoang , Ilocos Sur, Philippines on December 25, 1904. As a small boy, he tended to water buffalo (carabaos) for his father, which he described as much easier than the work he would do in California. 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. He was briefly a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. For a year, beginning in 1931, Vera Cruz studied at Gonzaga University. In 1942, he was drafted into the United States Army, but was later discharged due to age.

 

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.

 

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 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… 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, Benjamin Gines 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. The new union debuted in August 1966, and continued the strike into 1970.

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

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