- Filipino American Farmworkers Fight for Their Rights
Grade: 1-6Subject: English Language Arts, Social Studies, U.S. History
Number of Activities: 2
For Filipino-American farm workers in California, working and living conditions were very poor. They were paid extremely low wages, discrimination prevented many workers from having families, and they were not protected if they became hurt or sick on the job. By the 1960s, worsening conditions encouraged Filipino farm workers to participate in social activism in order to demand greater justice. Led by Larry Itliong, Filipino workers partnered with Cesar Chavez and Mexican-American workers to overcome unfair treatment. Together they formed the United Farm Workers Movement that ultimately improved working conditions for all farm workers.
Learning Objectives:
Students will be able to:
Topic/Background Essay:
During the 1960s, Asian Americans sought justice against discrimination and negative treatment in the United States through social activism. Through protests, Asian Americans worked together with people from different racial and ethnic groups towards a common purpose. An important example of Asian American activism and coalition building was Filipinos’ leadership and participation in the farmworkers’ movement.
The Filipino farmworkers were mostly men and known as “manongs,” which is a term of respect for elderly Filipino men. Filipinos had been discriminated against since they first immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900s. For example, they were not allowed to live in most neighborhoods or marry white women. Filipino farmworkers had been laboring under terrible conditions for decades before the farmworkers movement. They worked long hours in dusty fields that made it hard for them to breathe and caused health problems. Health benefits were not provided, and they were paid little money with very few breaks. They did not have a union to help them demand for better conditions and rights. The manongs wanted increased wages and better treatment, but were ignored.
Larry Itliong, a central leader of the farmworkers movement, was a Filipino farmworker who had been organizing laborers for years throughout the west coast. In the summer of 1965 in Delano, California , he saw a great opportunity to fight for better working conditions and organized the manongs to strike against the farm owners. This meant that they would stop working until the owners listened to their demands for more rights. While they were on strike, Mexican American farmworkers were laboring on these same farms under terrible treatment. Separately, they organized under the leadership of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, and were not planning to go on strike as the Filipinos did. Itliong recognized that if Filipinos did not work in solidarity with Mexican Americans, all farmworkers would not be able to gain better wages and more fair treatment. He saw the importance of working together across racial differences to achieve common goals. Thus, Itliong persuaded Cesar Chavez to form a coalition to strike for better working conditions. Together, they created the United Farm Workers Union and led a grape boycott that spread nationwide. Many Americans around the U.S. and the world heard about the boycott and joined in to show solidarity with the farmworkers. In the end, this coalition of Filipinos and Mexican Americans achieved better conditions for all farmworkers.The joint effort of these activists is a reminder of the justice and progress that is possible when people can come together to take action.
Discussion Questions:
Activity 1: Analyzing Causes and Effects
Have students work in pairs. Give each pair a sheet of paper and title it “Analyzing Causes and Effects.” Then have them create a T-chart and title the left column “Causes” and the right column “Effects.”
Explain how all actions have causes and effects and that they will learn about this concept by using the information they learned about the Filipino farmworkers.
Have students complete their T-chart by answering the following questions. They may write as many different answers to the questions as they like.
CAUSE: In the Cause column, have students answer:
EFFECT: In the Effect column, have students answer:
Convene as a whole group and facilitate a discussion by reviewing the questions that were posed.
Activity 2: Activism Role Play
Divide students up into groups of four.
Have each group research or think about a social problem that needs to be solved or fixed. It can be a local or global issue. You may provide some examples or facilitate a classroom discussion to brainstorm ideas for consideration.
Instruct small groups to brainstorm a plan to get the problem solved and write their ideas on a sheet of paper.
Each group will demonstrate their ideas by presenting them to the class or acting them out in front of the whole class.
Facilitate a discussion by asking them these questions:
Further Information: