SACRAMENTO, California—A bill requiring California public schools to instruct students on the contributions of Filipino Americans to the farm labor movement unanimously passed the Assembly Education Committee on March 20.
Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), the bill’s sponsor, noted that Filipino Americans are the largest Asian population in California and continues to grow, yet the story of Filipinos’ “contributions to the farm labor movement is an untold part of California history.”
The goal of AB 123 is to supplement California’s public school instruction on its “rich farm worker history,” explained Bonta, who is the first Filipino American to be elected to the State Legislature.
Latino farm worker icon Dolores Huerta, who was inducted into the California Hall of Fame, stated that although she rarely had time to testify in support of legislation, she did not want to miss this historic opportunity to support AB 123.
“The students of California need to learn that the sacrifices made by both the Filipino and Latino workers benefited all Californians,” she said. “AB 123 will ensure that the history is taught accurately.”
Influential leaders such as Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, are synonymous with California’s farm labor movement. Not well known is the historical fact that the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee–composed of first-generation Filipinos—led the 1965 Delano Grape Strike that would lead to the formation of the United Farm Workers union.
After a week of the AWOC strike, the National Farm Workers Association, led by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, joined in and by the fall of 1966, the number of strikers grew to approximately 2,000—almost entirely Filipino and Mexican workers. They had formed the UFW and drew thousands of supporters from the labor and civil rights movements. The combined forces grew the movement to approximately 10,000 by 1970.
“AB 123 would give students a more complete account” of California’s farm labor movement and ensure that important leaders, such Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz are duly honored and remembered, Bonta explained.
The bill is particularly important to Bonta because he was raised as a child in La Paz, the United Farm Workers’ headquarters, where his parents organized Filipino American and Mexican American workers. His mother, Cynthia, is Fil-Am.