Fil-Am labor leader Larry Itliong inducted into California Hall of Fame

Larry Itliong as photographed by Jon Lewis | Courtesy of Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University

FILIPINO American labor activist Larry Itliong is among the six notable individuals posthumously inducted into the California Hall of Fame.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom on Tuesday, October 12, announced the honorees for the California Hall of Fame 14th class through a webcast streamed by the California Museum.

“Sometimes the Hall of Fame gives us the opportunity to bring outstanding Californians out of the shadows when their contributions to society have been largely overlooked in history books,” said Siebel. “And there is no better example of that than Larry Itliong.”

Newsom added, “We all benefit from Larry’s leadership and unapologetic advocacy.”

Itliong, according to his description on California Museum’s website, was one of the most important civil rights leaders of the 20th century and a father of the West Coast labor movement.

He was born in the Philippines and migrated to the United States in 1929, working in the Alaskan fish canneries and along the West Coast as a farm laborer.

After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, Itliong became a U.S. citizen in 1954 and settled in Stockton, where he organized for the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC).

“He was so good at recruiting new members that union leaders asked him to move to Delano to organize Filipino grape workers,” noted the California Museum. “It was there that he helped change the history of farm labor.”

Among Itliong’s achievements include uniting with the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) and starting the Delano Grape Strike and Boycott, which is one of the most important social justice and labor movements in American history.

Itliong also formed the United Farm Workers (UFW) with César Chávez, with the latter as director and the former as assistant director.

In addition, Itliong successfully secured funding for the construction of the Paulo Agbayani Retirement Village in Delano, which has provided housing and support for retired Filipino farmworkers since 1974.

Aside from Itliong, LGBTQ advocates Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, artist Ruth Asawa, singer-songwriter and guitarist Jerry Garcia, and rock music icon Ritchie Valens were inducted into the California Hall of Fame.

“Jennifer and I are pleased to induct this group of extraordinary Californians into the Hall of Fame,” said Newsom.

“There is no doubt their lives and legacies have helped make California synonymous around the world with innovation, imagination and progress,” he added.

The new inductees joined 134 other Californians recognized for embodying the state’s “innovative spirit.”

“These luminaries represent the best of California,” said Siebel. “Each one has left their own indelible mark on history and reminds us of the creativity, ingenuity and courage that lives inside all of us.”

The California Hall of Fame was established in 2006 at the California Museum by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver.

Inductees are selected from all walks of life and have made distinguished achievements across a variety of fields, including the arts, education, business and labor, science, sports, philanthropy and public service.

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