Galedo (Lillian) Oral History Interview
Filipino American migrant agricultural laborers [lcsh]
Delano, Calif. [lcna]
Grape Strike, Calif., 1965-1970 [lcsh]
Labor union welfare funds [lcsh]
United Farm Workers [lcna]
United Farm Workers Organizing Committee [lcna]
Place of birth in 1948 - birthplace of parents - father’s life as an overseas worker, especially in the U.S. when the Philippines was still colonized by the U.S. - father met mother in the Philippines - eldest sister was born in the Philippines, her and her siblings were born in the U.S. - family settled in Stockton - father began candy store, but unsuccessful - segregation of Stockton
[9:39 - 19:52]
Father’s candy store failed, went back to farm work - entire family worked in the field (helping their father) - educational life (elementary to college) - joined campus group in UC Davis - no Filipino group at UC Davis at the time
[19:52 - 29:95]
Third World Strike at San Francisco then to Davis - Filipino involvement in the strike - strike sparked her interest in activism - got involved on starting an Asian American Studies (ASA) at UC Davis - talked about difficulties of starting ASA and a project with Isao Fujimoto - mentioned Dr. Dawn Mabalon - spoke about political activism and involvement in the iHotel movement
[29:95 - 38:54]
Involvement in creating ASA at UC Davis with - further discussion of involvement with the iHotel movement - involvement with a research project about farmworkers - how the farmworker movement related to student activist group - got involved in building the Agbayani Village - talked about Filipino leaders, Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz
[38:54 - 48:39]
Talked about the KDP and the NCLDLP (sp?) - got involved with the KDP in the late 70s - where she learned about the UFW was the EOP program at UC Davis - community involvement, the logic of it and how it has changed over the years - father was not involved in the strike
[48:49 - 59:37]
Described reasons why her father and other Filipinos didn’t support or join the union - mentioned the contract system that existed in farm work - Filipino contractors - inter-racial dynamics within the union - husband worker for the UFW - Mexican Americans embraced the UFW - not until Filipinos began to protest that their history was heard - Filipino community didn’t really support to protect their interests - talked about Philip Vera Cruz’s legacy - need to educate - further discussion of husband’s involvement with the UFW - UFW boycott tactic was very successful
[59:37 - 1:11:51]
Tensions within the UFW - the grape strike, when and how she learned about it - the impact of the grape strike - described how she supported the strike (boycotting and picketing) -described her experience and feeling when she boycotted/picketed - mentioned another activist movement she was involved in, the Free South Africa Movement - experience working with Pete Velasco - how she felt when she heard about the 1970 contract signing - described the Teamsters
[1:11:51 - 1:14:50]
Welga! Filipino American Farmworker Oral History Project
Oral History Interview
June 5, 2015
By Alaina Kyra Cagalingan and Miggy Cruz
Welga! Filipino American Labor Archives
UC Davis Asian American Studies Department
[June 5, 2015]
[Begin Audio File]
CRUZ: Starting now is the interview for the oral history of Ms. Lillian Galedo. I’m Miggy Cruz.
CAGALINGAN: I’m Alaina [Cagalingan].
GALEDO: I am Lillian Galedo.
CRUZ: Can you tell us where and when were you born?
GALEDO: I was born in Stockton California in 1948 so I was a post world war 2 baby, part of the baby boom.
CRUZ: Can you tell us where were your parents born?
GALEDO: Both my parents are from Bohol. They are from a town by the name of Garcia-Hernandez, Bohol, which are two priests. The city was named after a priest. Well, it’s more like a village. My father first left in about 1922 to look for work.
He ended up on the West Coast of United States, and was sort of a migrant farmworker like most Filipinos were at the time. Because the Philippines was a colony of the US, they were considered nationals of the US. And so they could travel back and forth without any problems. He continued to work in the US until about 1939.
He went back to the Philippines to find somebody to marry because there were anti-miscegenation laws here in the United States that prevented Filipinos from marrying outside of their race. He was introduced to my mom. She was 16 years younger than him. So I think when he left, she probably, was she even born? [laughs] Anyway, they got married and she got pregnant pretty much right away. So he left to come back to the United States to get ready for her and the baby. Because the plan was she was going to have the baby and at a point go take a boat. Because the boat took over a month, and join him. But World War II broke out and nobody was allowed to leave the Philippines because it was very dangerous. They didn’t get back together until 1947, and my sister was already 6 years old. Then the rest of us was born one after the other. I was born ‘48, my sister was ’49, and my brother was born in 1950. But by that time, my father was 50 years old already. Because by the time he got married, he was 40, I think.
CAGALINGAN: And so, your father stayed here all throughout the war separated from your mom, and after the war, she came to the US. So the rest of your siblings were born here?
GALEDO: Yes, so except for my sister, we were all born here in the United States. All in Stockton California, where he had pretty much settled and plan to raise his family there.
CRUZ: Is there a specific reason why Stockton?
GALEDO: Well, it’s an agriculture place. You can almost find work year round in Stockton. Because during winter, you can get a job at pruning, which is something he was able to do. He got pretty good at pruning and so he got employment in the winter, and then the rest of the year is some kind of crop was growing or needed to be harvested.
He actually tried not to be a farmworker and tried to get out of farm working because it was hard and also he was already 50 years old. He had worked since about 22 as a farm worker, so he tried different things. When my mother arrived, he had a what was called candy store. And, we moved into a house right across the street, and this is kind of in downtown Stockton, which was sort of an extension of Chinatown. So, Chinatown and Manilatown were pretty much the same place [laughs]. And he had this candy store, but he didn’t make much money in this candy store.
[5:09 – 9:39]
GALEDO: We thought of it as our neighborhood, but it was considered by the city as a [inaudible] neighborhood, ‘skidro” [inaudible], that kind of stuff. One of the things he did is he had people who sometimes stayed at the back of restaurant or the soda fountain candy store, which is what it's called. Maybe to make a little bit of money but also just to sort of give guys who were looking for work and sort of migrating down up and down the west coast a place to stay for a little while until they found some work. But we move out of there fairly soon after he lost the store.
We moved to what was the unincorporated part of Stockton. It’s just on the outskirts of Stockton before you cross a bridge into what’s called the Delta. So we were right out the edge of the Delta, living in an unincorporated part of Stockton. During my life in Stockton, that part of town finally got incorporated. But at the time we were living there didn’t have sidewalks and didn’t hook up to [the] city’s sewer systems so we had a septic tank in the back. And it was still so rural-like. But it was a like a quarter acre. He had a quarter acre of land so his idea was to build like a big garden. We have a huge garden in the backyard and a very little house.
It was a very racially mixed neighborhood. Well I shouldn’t say that because there were very few white people there. But a lot of Filipinos and especially Filipino mixed families: Filipino-Mexicans, Filipino-white; and mainly farm workers or people working in the agricultural industries, so as cannery workers. So I always went to school at places, well not just me but my whole family went to schools that were very integrated schools because south Stockton were pretty much one of the areas where people of color lived.
There was sort south and east Stockton. And Stockton was still somewhat segregated. North of main street was mainly white with some Asians. Then south of main street was Asian, Latinos, black and some white people. Especially white people in mixed marriages. It wasn’t ‘til I went to community college that I even went to north Stockton because that was where the community college is at. We grew up in a very mixed-raced kind of environment. Mainly, low income people.
CAGALINGAN: Its interesting because one of our required reading is Dawn Mabalon’s book and she talked about segregation of Stockton as a city. As you’ve mentioned earlier, there was that line. I believe it was the railroad that segregated the white from the people of color.
GALLEDO: Yes that was one of the benchmarks. There is a canal, which is near the main street. When you pass downtown, the city starts to become more and more white. And then housing development was happening more in north side of town. And eventually Asians, in particular, started moving out to north of Stockton. But now it's very mixed. People are everywhere. South and East Stockton are pretty much in low income people.
CAGALINGAN: Do you remember your experiences before your father left farm working?
[9:39 – 14:51]
GALEDO: His business failed, and so he went back to being a farmworker. He was a farmworker ‘til he was 75 years old, which was when he finally stopped working. So most of his life, he was a farm worker. Most of what we saw him do was farm work. As teenagers we also did farm work just to make money. We’d pick berries or tomatoes during the summer season to earn money for our school clothes or things like that. But when we were smaller, we’d also help our dad harvest sweet potatoes because he would have a contract with a particular grower. So the whole family would go early in the morning and start putting sweet potatoes and boxes. I think we did that for 3 or 4 years as kids.
There was couple of times when we also worked at the asparagus packing shed. So the workers would bring asparagus to the shed and then it would be put on to a conveyer belt, and we would pack it on boxes. But we have to be there at 6 o’clock in the morning because by the time it was 3 o’clock in the afternoon, it was too hot. So you have to work earlier.
CRUZ: So after your dad left farm working at 75, and you said, the candy shop..
GALEDO: Yes, the candy shop was something he tried during that time when my mom was still in the Philippines. He had this idea of getting the business going and when she came she could help with the business. They did that for a little while, but the business didn’t take off so he had to go back to farm working.
CRUZ: Can you talk about your educational life from when you learned about activist groups and how you got involved with that.
GALEDO: Okay, so I went to high school. And all my elementary, junior high school, which is what we used to call what is now middle school. In high school in South Stockton, and then I went directly to the community college which was in north Stockton, which is now delta. Junior college is what they call it then. It was there while I was at junior college that I got recruited to go to UC Davis. I had already been accepted to go to San Jose State.
My older sister who was born in the Philippines, she was 7 years older than me, she had already gone to San Jose state. She was already married and had kids by the time that I was getting ready to go to college. I decided to go to the same college as she did. I had really very few ambitions. I didn’t know what to do with myself so I just following her path.
Now, this recruiter came to Delta Junior College, that was what it was called at the time. This recruiter, an African American guy, came to our councilors and scheduled some appointments with some folks for him to talk to about going to UC Davis. I didn’t know it at the time, but Davis was embarking on it first major expansion of educational opportunity program. So his mission was to recruit about a hundred kids, minority students or low income, which is what we were called at the time to go to Davis.
I didn’t know what I was doing when I went to that appointment. Interestingly enough, I didn’t even know UC Davis existed. And if you have seen a map, Stockton and UC Davis are actually pretty close but we never got anywhere. I have never gone to Sacramento and that kind of, we have a very small university that we operate. The farthest side we’ve went is Livingston because my parents had a sort of a town organization that they belong to –The Sons and Daughters of Hernandez. They would meet periodically in Livingston at this farm.
[14:51 – 19:52]
GALEDO: Anyways, I didn’t know where Davis was and he had to tell me where Davis was. I was very skeptical because I had never heard about the place. But what was intriguing about it is that our education is going to be totally free. And that was EOP in the very beginning. Everything was going to be covered. And I was like “myehh, really?” He said, “Well come in and look at it first.” They hauled a bunch of us down there and luckily I knew some of the other people who were going. There was Laurena Cabanero who was a year younger than me but also from Edison high school. There was probably about 10 of us who went to Edison high school.
It was a rather intimidating experience because there was hardly any people of color. It was all white and the prospect of living in a dorm with all this white people was not something that I had planned on in my life. But you know, it was going to be free. It was hard to argue with that. I signed. My mom was skeptical about signing the papers because she says something must be wrong here. This doesn’t happen. I think she didn’t wanna sign it and so I think I faked her signature. But we went and they took pretty good care of us because they realize that it was going to be a difficult adjustment. There were support groups and tutoring.There weren’t really student organization that we were interested in or knew about or geared toward student of color. They made it possible for us to kind of band together.
They started talking to us about the issues of the day. This was 1968, and the UFW had already been created. And so, one of the issues that they were talking about were the farmworkers and how the UFW was created. They talked mainly about the Mexican farmworkers. But you know, one of the councilors, she’s half Filipina and Mexican. She pointed out the Filipinos. But there were no Filipino organizations on campus.
I did join a campus group. It was a Mexican Student Association because I identified with Mexican kids. I grew up around Mexican kids and Mexican farm workers. And that was the only group that was organized. I joined that and I think I was a member of it until Asian Americans started getting themselves together. But it was also because that organization was folded into a kind of a statewide organization of Mexican students, whose name I forgot now. But now you’d have to be Mexican to be part of it. And so I couldn’t be part of it anymore. It still exists. God, what is the name of that organization. Do you know of any Mexican or Latino organization on campus?
CRUZ: I’m not sure.
GALEDO: Its acronym had been blotted out of my mind and replaced by a gazillion other acronyms. But it was the birth the Chicano movement. And so, it was actually kind of an expression of the nationalism of the time where groups were organizing on narrow nationalism. And so, it wasn’t possible to a member of this organization anymore. So I gravitated towards Asian Americans. There was no Filipino group yet there either. But there were beginnings of Asian American studies. This is 1968, and this is the big year of student activism. I was very conservative, apolitical, and I just sort of walked into it. It happened around me and sort of just swept me up.
[19:52 – 24:42]
GALEDO: So in 1968 was the 3rd World Strike at SF state, and Filipinos were involved in that and I was like wow! They came to Davis to talk about the 3rd world strike. “Ohh these guys are so cool”, and they seemed that way. The student body president was half Filipino and very much identified as Filipino. He is Filipino Guamanian. He was part of a Filipino organization called PASE, which I think is still there. They made it a point talking to students of other campuses about the strike and getting support for the strike. So of course, you know, we supported the strike.
And then, 6 months later, the 3rd world strike at UC Berkeley happened. Because when I met with these guys in San Francisco state, the strike was coming to close. Then UC Berkeley happened [referring back to its 3rd world strike] where Asian Americans were part of a third world leadership of the strike. They were not only activist to starting ethnic studies but they were also anti-war activists. They also made a point of going to other campuses to talk about this and inviting us to go to their campus. I went with a bunch of students to UC Berkeley to soak in the political atmosphere.
It was very intoxicating. I was like, “ Oh I wanna be one of these people.” I remember Jing Huan (sp?), who is the recent past mayor of Oakland, coming to UC Davis to talk about the war. That girl was so informed and she must have been 18 years old. She was rattling on about the statistics of the war and the impact of the war. I was like, “Wow! I want to be like that!” So yes it was very contagious becoming a political person and being a part of the political organization. With the end of the 3rd world strike at Berkeley, the kind of movement to start ethnic studies program on campuses all over the country was going on.
At Davis, I got involved with the students who intent on starting Asian American Studies as part of the larger ethnic studies but we were rather [inaudible] we were looking at just Asian American studies. There were Chicano students are looking at Chicano studies, and black students looking at Black studies. It was in the process of starting these ethnic programs that people got very politicized.
For one thing, you started learning about your history. You started getting critical about the education system for not giving you the opportunity about learning about it till now. There was nothing written so we really had to dig hard to find anything. I was fortunate to be part of a research project that [inaudible] Isao Fujimoto , who is still there and somebody who I think of as my mentor, was instrumental in getting a grant. So he got a grant from the Ford Foundation. It wasn’t just him. Bryan Tom who was a little bit older than some of us, but in law school at the time help write the proposal. And they got this grant for students, undergraduates, to do community research. Because Isao Fujimoto was very big on community research and community empowerment especially in small communities along the Delta and the river communities. And so, we got this little grant to get work study positions to go out and research their own communities. Some of the Japanese students researched about rice growers in northern California.
[24:42 – 29:95]
GALEDO: Some of the Chinese students researched about China towns. What was the history of China towns. Me and my girlfriend from Stockton went to Stockton to research the development of the Filipino Center because that was kind of the big thing. But in the course of that, [we] were trying to learn about the history of the Filipinos from Stockton. It was hard for this student groups to finish this projects. Our project was one of the few that finally made it to the end and actually published a paper on it, which is something that inspired Dawn [Mabalon]. [The paper] was called Roadblocks of to Community Development. It was sort of the documentation of the struggle that the [inaudible] community who had wanted to do housing development with no background fought to get the what is now the Filipino Center.
CRUZ: Do you mean Ms. Dawn Mabalon?
GALEDO: Yes. So she read later on. Dawn is the daughter of somebody who graduated with me, Christine (sp?). We were in the same class and so Dawn is her daughter. Christine got married fairly soon after high school. We were like “What?! You are going to get married?” [laughs] And so she started her family pretty early. So Dawn is the product of that. She ended up very interested in Filipino history and wanting to know more. So Dawn ran across this paper that we wrote called Roadblocks to Community Development, which inspired Dawn to know more about the history of Filipinos and Stockton and their struggles. So, what was the question? [laughs]
CRUZ: Oh, it’s your political activism
GALEDO: Oh, my political activism. It was something that was really a product of the times. There was so much of it happening. You could get involved in multiple things at the same time. One of the big things at the time was the war in Vietnam. Almost everybody who got involved in any kind of organizing as a student were also part of the anti-war movement. So we went to demonstrations in San Francisco. Asians were trying to assert themselves in that because this is a war in Asia after all. So we would get recruited to go to the Asian delegation of these major mobilizations in San Francisco.
I should say that the other thing that was a big political issue was iHotel. And so, we got recruited from Davis to go do work at this these work parties to fix the walls, repaint, and resurface to bring the iHotel up to code so it would not be demolished, which in the end we lost. But it was a huge politicizing experience. So much so that when I graduate, I wanted to be in San Francisco. That was where I wanted to be. I took a federal job and worked for the federal government in an employment program, processing invoices, and got myself into a house on commercial street, which is in San Francisco Chinatown and 2 blocks away from the iHotel. I worked there for a little while.
CRUZ: You mentioned that there were very little organizations for minorities at UC Davis.
GALEDO: None, I think [laughs]
CRUZ: Well through the years, you said the 3rd world movement happened, were you part of any organization that created and can you mention the name of those organizations?
[29:25 – 34:39]
GALEDO: Well we helped create Asian American Studies. We had to research what there was already published on Asian Americans. One of the by products of that research project we worked on was the bibliography of research on most Asian Americans. Most of those research was doctoral thesis or master's papers or things like that that were on the archives of Bancroft library. There was nothing at UC Davis. There were only some at the Bancroft library.
We created some of the early primary resource material upon which Asian American Studies would be built, upon which the Filipino curriculum would be built. There was nothing to begin with. I was only there [Davis] for two years because I came after junior college. And so, I graduated on time even though I had a D in… What was that D in? Because I boycotted classes for the invasion of Cambodia and stuff like that, so I didn’t learn anything from this class. I tried to talk to him [referring to her professor] in giving me a C but he still gave me a D, which meant I still passed and get my degree.
Actually, a lot of students had dropped out of school. They have decided they wanted to get involved in the movement and didn’t finish. I, at least, decided to finish college and get my degree even though I knew absolutely nothing what to do afterwards, except go to San Francisco and get involved.
And so, when I got to San Francisco, I got involved in the iHotel, which was really a student-run. It was students from state and Berkeley who made up these work teams and organized the tenants. [They] tried to address all these concerns that the city had about it being out of code. They had to learn a lot about housing development. People really did a lot from scratch, absolute scratch.
iHotel turned out to be one of the premier community housing development issues of the day of which other examples would happen, like in Stockton, the Filipino Center was a similar thing; in Seattle and Little Tokyo in L.A., that kind of stuff. People were learning from the iHotel and were getting involved in other cities around low-income housing.
But I only hung around, when you’re a young person, you don’t hang out very long in any one place. I was in San Francisco for only about 2 years. And then, I had to go back to Davis to finish my report, to write-up the report and to actually have a product for the research that we did. And so, I did that.
Then I got hired to a research project about farmworkers. I wanted to do that because my own farm working history. The premise of that is can the next generation of farmworker families get out of farm work, or do they continue to become farm workers. And so, we interviewed people at random and there were lots of people, including white people, who had been a farmworker sometime in their life that had successfully got out of their farm work. But of course there were some people, like Mexicans, who stayed in farm work, but maybe the next generation got out of farm work. It was a federal project to do door-to-door interviews with people.
CRUZ: Yes, that’s actually a good lead into the next question. You said that a lot of things happened in the 1960’s: the creation of the American Studies at UC Davis, the 3rd World Strike that lead to the creation. UFW is also created at 1965, can you talk about how the farmworker related to your student activist group?
[34:39 – 38:54]
GALEDO: In 1965, I was a high school student at Edison high school. I knew absolutely nothing about the formation of the UFW. I didn’t learn about the UFW until I went to Davis, which was already 1968. People who were involved in EOP and student recruitment were very inspired by the formation of the UFW and basically the Chicano movement because they were very closely related. While I was in my Mexican-American mode [laughs], I learned a lot about it, but through the lens of Cesar Chavez because the Mexican organizations were very focused in Cesar Chavez.
When I was already a college graduate and I had gone back to Stockton to work on this research project, I got involved in one of UFW’s campaigns, which was Prop 14. Now I don’t remember what Prop 14 was about anymore, but it was something that would strengthen the union. Then I met Pete Velasco. So Pete Velasco was assigned to Stockton. But I think he was actually the head of the Stockton office of the UFW to recruit people in the community to work on Prop 14.
And so, I learned more about the union and its struggles to exist and to stay alive. The growers had a lot of power and they constantly try to weaken the union through the legislation, undermining the agriculture relations board. Well actually, I don’t think the Agriculture board did not even existed till later that decade. So this was one measure [referring to prop 14] that they were trying to defeat or win? [laughs] I have to go back in history. But I got to learn more about the union through that campaign.
And, simultaneously around that time was Agbayani village. Agbayani Village was sort of a [inaudible] for Filipinos in particular. Asians, in particular, sent work teams to Agbayani Village to help build the place. I went a couple of times, but this was not as a student but already in my post graduate life, more of a community person. [I] came to support the union that way. It was also around that time when the tension between Filipinos and Mexican leadership was at the tipping point. I forget exactly when Philip [Vera Cruz] left. Then eventually, Larry [Itliong] would leave. But Pete remained [inaudible] member of the UFW until his death. We actually did a memorial for Pete. We did a memorial for Philip as well, but I think Larry died before Philip. Then Pete died after Philip. I also joined late in 1970s the KDP.
[38:54 - 43:26]
CRUZ: What is the KDP?
GALEDO: The KDP stood for Katipunan ng Demokratikong Pilipino. And it was an organization that started in the early 70s, I wasn't a member of it then, partly in reaction to martial law in the Philippines. I think that the formation of the KDP and the anti-martial law movement, especially the left wing of the anti-martial law movement, happened right around the same time, I think even in the same year because martial law was declared in 1972. And, there was an initial formation called, NCLP (sp?), National Coalition for the Restoration of Democracy in the Philippines, or something like that, which I was not a part of but it would become, sort of the seeds, of the KDP. Because the NCLDLP (sp?) was formed by, kind of exiled from martial law in the United States, particularly young people, particularly students whose parents forced them to leave the country because they were afraid they were going to get arrested or jailed by Marcos, who were in New York, in San Francisco, places like that who found each other here in the United States around the issue of martial law. They began hooking up with Filipinos who self-identified as leftists and were involved in things like the iHotel and support for the farm workers, and that kind of stuff. They formed, together, the KDP, which was an organization of U.S. Filipinos as well as Philippine Nationals. Half of their work was around bringing down the Marcos dictatorship and the other half of their work was around civil rights issues here in the United States.
My sister got involved in it fairly soon after it started but I didn't get involved in it 'til I returned to the Bay Area because I was working for a while in Santa Barbara at a program that helped minority students. I came back to the Bay Area in the mid-1970s and that's where I got involved in this education task force and then I got involved in the iHotel again, and started working at UC Berkeley, running their Asian American Studies Library and met all the Asian left at UC Berkeley [laughs], which just propelled by leftist development because they were all over you, and eventually got recruited into the KDP in the late 70s.
CRUZ: You said earlier that you [did] two years at UC Davis and that's when you learned about, just going back to the strike, that's when you learned more about [the] UFW and what they were.
GALEDO: I think EOP taught me about UFW because the UFW in 1968 was the main struggle in the Mexican-American community, that was off-campus because a lot of the other stuff was happening on campus like the anti-war movement was happening on campus and the fight for ethnic studies was an on-campus thing, but the UFW was a community issue. The UFW and the iHotel and things like that were community issues that students got involved with at the time.
[43:26 - 48:39]
GALEDO: And the other thing about it was the whole logic and the theory of change upon which ethnic studies was founded was that there be a direct link between campus and community. That the reason why people of color in particular were even in the University was that so they could create social change in the communities where they were from, particularly in minority communities. There were classes that encouraged you and even gave you credit for getting involved in the community. There were, for instance at UC Berkeley, community classes where you could do work at the iHotel, or you could do a volunteer health program. Here in Oakland, there's a handful of organizations that started as a result of student activism in the community. So, our organization [Filipino Advocates for Justice] was started by a collaboration between UC Berkeley students and Filipino community leaders. Asian health services, Asian community mental health services, Asian Law Caucus, and a little bit further down the line the Korean community center of the East Bay. They were all started by student activists bringing their knowledge to the community to set up services and begin doing more scientific advocacy for the community through grassroots community organizations.
Personally, I think the ethnic studies programs lost that over the last, say ten, fifteen years, but it was really very ingrained, and if you look at the documents from the Third World Strike, it's all about community. That's why some of the students left school and didn't finish their degrees. They just went into the communities to do their political work. Over the years, I don't know if UC Berkeley even has community courses anymore where they give students credit to do volunteer work in the community.
CAGALINGAN: I was wondering was your father part of the strike?
GALEDO: No. I mean I think that in general Filipinos didn't support the unionization, in terms of the vast majority of Filipino farm workers. It was the leadership that really brought the vision of farm workers like Larry Itliong, Philip Vera Cruz, and Pete Velasco that bring Filipinos into the formation. Well, Filipinos started, they already had a union [referring to AWOC]. Chavez's group wasn't a union, it was an association.
Larry Itliong comes from a history of unionization. Larry Itliong was kind of embedded in the decades long history of organizing and farm workers. He already had this unionization consciousness, and Filipinos did have strikes, Filipinos participated off and on in unions but they were also lots of Filipinos who didn't and my father was one of them.
My father was over 50 years old and he was afraid he was going to lose his job. As an older man there were very, very few options for somebody like him. We never ever talked about it because he never told us, when I was still at home, that this organize was going on. He might have participated in strikes before because Stockton had a number of strikes. But he never ever told us that history. It was something that he never spoke about. Actually I had uncles who were farm workers and their friends, a lot of them, I think, were never ever formally members of the union.
[48:39 - 53:00]
GALEDO: Part of that was the contract system that existed in farm work where there were Filipino contractors who had these crews that the contractor would bring to certain fields to do the work. I think that that's another reason why Filipinos, in mass, didn't necessarily initially join the UFW because there were still contractors, Filipino contractors, in place that the better of them served in some way as the negotiator for these workers, so they would, in some respects attempt to replicate what a union would do for this set of people that they represented, which is not to say that it was a good thing because the contracting system was very exploitative in itself and contractors made the kind of money that the farm workers never did. But I think that in terms of what the landscape looked like at the time, that was a barrier for lots of Filipinos to get recruited in mass.
Not to mention the tension that became apparent, relatively early on, with the kind of inter-racial dynamics within the union. I think part of that is because the developing, growing Mexican-American movement and Chicano movement really embraced the UFW and made it their main national campaign. Plus it attracted all kinds of people who volunteered to be part of the movement for the organization of farm workers. I mean, my husband eventually went to work for the UFW, and so it became a possibility that lots of people went to support. People like, my husband is white, there were a lot of white activists who went to support the UFW. If you study the history of the UFW, it has spawned tons and tons and tons of people who went on to be labor activists, or consumer activists, environmental activists, all of whom, at one point, went through the UFW. They went through the UFW without really recognizing what was happening between the Filipinos and the Mexicans in the UFW. They were getting indoctrinated around this sort of revisionist history of how the union started.
It wasn't until later, when the Filipino community starts protesting that and forcing that history on them that some of it begins to filter out to this huge network of activists that still see their politicization as having originated with the UFW. It's pretty amazing. But there's a lot of self-destructive things happening within the union that people also have really bad experiences about, but it is what it is. It was kind of the phenomena you have to deal with when you're trying to build an institution. you're trying to create a union that's going to have some level of sustainability when it's being attacked by all forces around it.
[53:00 - 59:37]
GALEDO: I think to our discredit, Filipino community people didn't necessarily jump in there and protect the interests of the Filipinos that were there. I know that Philip [Vera Cruz] spent a lot of time, after he left the UFW, educating young people about labor organizing, about the broader movement, the left movement, all [of] that because I think he recognized that there wasn't that base in the Filipino community at the time to have helped that leadership when they were struggling within the union to try to have equality and get recognition there. But a lot of that is in hindsight, I mean, I didn't recognize it really at the time myself, and there were all these different things that you could be a part of in the UFW.
I think that if we really examine the UFW, to wring out from it, all these institution building lessons, I think that's what our job is now. It's not like we want to bring down the UFW, we have to have unions and unions, [who] are totally under attack, but I think that we have to look at something like the UFW to learn how to build institutions that are multiracial, in an environment where legislatively, growers associations, and trade agreements, and undocumented, and all those issues bisect the UFW. It's a very complicate situation, so rather than write it off, I think we should study it, and learn from it because it's not like that's going to reproduce itself in multiple other forms and I think that there's a lot to learn about it… Maybe when I retire I’ll [laughs] some attention.
CRUZ: When you said that your husband actually took part of the UFW, and you said earlier that there were different sections within the UFW, what did he work in specifically?
GALEDO: Well one of the amazing things that the UFW did which was use the tactic of boycotts. Through the boycotts they built this huge network and in some ways, international network, of boycott volunteers. I remember I supported the boycott too, I would picket, in my tiny little piece of whatever. But, there were people who organized the boycott [for example] in England, or organized the boycott operation in Berkeley, or ran the boycott operation in San Francisco, L.A., New York, whatever, and they used that boycott tactic, I think, better than anybody ever did before and after. Through that network they met tons of committed people, white people, African American people, Asian people, they had some way that they could contribute to the building of the UFW and they were loyal and they are still loyal to the UFW to this day.
My husband got involved in the boycott, and you might also want to talk to Vangie Buell, she's Filipino, and she was very, very instrumental in the boycott here in the Berkeley area because she was on the board of the co-op, Berkeley once had a food co-op, which is also another amazing institution, but they closed at some point. She [Buell] can tell you what it took to run the boycott. But it politicized her and brought her into the movement. He [her husband] was very active in the boycott and he went to Cuba, and that's another story where you get your international inspiration, and then he came back from Cuba and got a job working as an organizer for the UFW.
The UFW, in a lot of ways, because of Cesar, was run like a church. I mean he expected people to basically volunteer their time for very little monetary compensation, and so the wage, he was probably violating all kinds of waging hour laws [laughs], the wage was five dollars a week and you [the worker] were working for the union, you’re getting paid five dollars a week. But you developed these stone dedicated people to the cause. I swear to god. And they [the UFW] asked a lot from you, you got up early in the morning, you visited workers at their homes, you wed yourselves to the union and that was the culture of the union, and they burn people out left and right, but they had so much attention on the union that the union got somewhat paranoid about all these people and how to control all these people, and to not allow some of these people to take control of some of these parts in the union and what not.
[59:37 - 1:05:11]
GALEDO: There was a certain about of red bading (sp?) that went on within the union, and people had to really watch their P's and Q's (sp?) in terms of who else they were associated with. He [her husband] stuck it out there for quite a few years and he met people that he's life-long friends with, all over the country now because, like I said, they went off to do other things. They went off to work for the unions, they learned a lot about union organizing at the UFW and took that and went to work in unions whose membership also began to be very Mexican, Central American, and what not, as migration continued into the Unites States. These people are very instrumental organizers these days in some of these unions. Like the SEIU [laughs].
CRUZ: The what?
GALEDO: The Service Employees International Union. There's a lot of folks that at one point in their lives did something for the UFW who went on to be other organizers for other unions like the SEIU.
CAGALINGAN: I was wondering have you heard of the grape strike when you were at Davis? Oh no, since it was in 1965 you were in high school, but had you heard...
GALEDO: Well the grape strike went on for many, many years, and yes I had hear about it, I promoted it. I think it was two decades before I ever bought any grapes again. My husband still has trouble buying grapes, we'll only buy grapes at the farmer's market or something like that. It was ingrained in us, anybody who was progressive at the time, “don't buy table grapes.” Everybody I knew was participating, at least in the boycott, not necessarily organizing the boycott but popularizing the boycott and made you feel bad if there were grapes at an event, “where did these grapes come from?” “let's look at the box, is there a union label on the box?” But like I said, that boycott, that model was so successful that I'm like one of millions of people who supported the grape boycott.
CAGALINGAN: Would you mind describing how you were able to support it, what were the ways you did that?
GALEDO: Well, the main way was not to buy grapes and to talk it up among your friends and to picket at places that were selling nonunion grapes. The union would organize the picket and random supporters would just come and do their one hour walking around the line holding a sign, “don't buy nonunion grapes.” It was a broadly supported tactic, and one that people became very committed to, to the point where they look at the boxes before they’ll buy any grapes at stores.
CRUZ: Can you recall that experience that you felt though when you were boycotting or picketing, aside [from] “yes I'm doing this for the UFW, for the union,” can you just describe your own experience and feeling when you went and saw the other people doing it?
GALEDO: It's like the feeling you have with like a lot of issues that you're not personally organizing, but you're a supporter and you go an do your duty, basically, to contribute some small amount of time by volunteering to be on the picket line for awhile. It would be something that you learn and you use in other movements, and you get accustomed to it. You don't feel self conscious after awhile, you don't feel like you're going to get in trouble. It sort of neutralizes that intimidation that you might have felt like if you’re on the outside looking in at a group of people picketing at some place. It becomes sort of normal and natural, and you learn not to cross the picket line. So you approach something and there's a picket line and you go, “Oh, I'm not going to go to that place because I don't even know what those people are picketing about.” I wouldn't want anybody to cross the picket line when I was walking down the picket line. It transfers to all kinds of other struggles.
[1:05:11 - 1:11:51]
GALEDO: We picketed through the Free South Africa Movement over at the building on Grand Avenue where the owners of these major shipping lines had their offices. The campaign was to stop business from South Africa by making it really shameful and hard on these cargo companies to do their business, and so there was a weekly picket at the Maritime office building on Grand Avenue during the Free South Africa Movement. I would just go and do my lunch time circling for an hour there. It's something that you learn and you appreciate, and you understand can benefit if everybody puts in some time, and eventually a part tide was defeated in South Africa [chuckles]. You participate in things like that. We participated in pass burning, because in South Africa you had to carry some sort of internal passport to move from one part of the country to the other, which was really aimed at preventing blacks from going very far. We would have these symbolic pass burning demonstrations where lines of people would come and they set fire to this piece of paper and throw it into this garbage can and everybody would cheer [laughs], and it does something to emotionally cement your commitment to the movement.
CRUZ: Did you work with any older Filipino strikers during the time?
GALEDO: When we were working on Prop 14, Pete Velasco was the head of the office in Stockton, which was where I happened to be when we were working on that, and the grape boycott was still going on, and so you would do your campaigning about the boycott as well as Prop 14. They would just sort of mix these things all together.
CRUZ: When you finally heard about the 1970 contract signing, how did you feel that the UFW finally got the growers to recognize the UFW as a union?
GALEDO: I don't remember feeling anything at the time. But the struggle of the union was not over, so it began a whole set of other kinds of attacks against the union and on the whole concept of that contract. Even if you might win that one contract, you have to get a contract with every other grower, and so it was one after the other, after the other. The picketing never stopped, the campaigns never stopped, and so it would be the modus operandi of the union where you’re constantly going after the next contract and then trying to defend the contract that you had before because the growers would try to decertify that contract. Then, there were other problems where the teamsters came in and tried organizing farm workers, and so then you were at odds with the Teamsters, getting to the point where it was so complicated the you move onto other things. But it was a victory and I think that that's what cemented the Chicano movement, that they could win something like that. But I think people realized soon after that victories are not permanent and you have to constantly fight to protect your victories as your expanding them.
CRUZ: Can you describe who the teamsters were and what they did?
GALEDO: Oh dear, that means going into the whole labor movement [laughs].
CRUZ: Briefly [laughs].
GALEDO: The Teamsters were a kind of bad-a** union. A lot of the time, the Teamsters, were the reflection of the leadership of that era. The Teamsters were representing truck drivers. A lot of the truck drivers were people who transported agricultural products, so they decided they were going to start organizing on that end too, on the farm workers. So, that just created all these tension in the UFW, who was trying to expand to get more and more contracts, only to find that the Teamsters were trying to get contracts [inaudible]. It was a scandal within the labor movement, but the Teamsters was a very powerful organization, and in some circles, corrupt organization, but that, I think, was a barrier for the UFW in terms of growth because it had to spend so much time fending off the Teamsters and they were not situations where you sat down and negotiated. It was really very ugly in a lot of ways. I think it got to a point where they eventually could talk and organize, but many years were spent fighting among each other.
[1:11:51 - 1:14:50]
CRUZ: If you can just, for our closing, what can you say about what students can do now
GALEDO: With respect to the UFW in particular or…
CRUZ: In general, and then with respect to the UFW.
GALEDO: I think that the UFW in my life as well as most people who were my age was a sort of point of inspiration, like the civil rights movement of the 50's and early 60's. You actually take that inspiration and you apply it [to] all kinds of places; for me, anti-martial law. I think that we have to continue educating Filipinos, not only about the accurate history, but the role that this plays in movement building. Like my own development, moves into that arena of movement building. It's a way that, “yeah this is a great experience for me as a young person, and then now I'm going into my career and raise my family,” it really sort of opens the door to looking at the larger system and what needs to change, so that eventually you come to the conclusion, “well we have to have an alternative to capitalism,” “we have to build what seems like it should be socialism, and what is socialism?” It's a gateway, things like the struggle of farm workers, it's a gateway to a larger analysis of what's going on in the country, and what's going on in the world, and how they're connected.
CRUZ: That’s all the questions we have, I think. Some of the questions were answered when you were telling the story. Thank you Ms. Lillian for the interview
GALEDO: You’re welcome.
- Date Added
- August 11, 2015
- Filipino American Experiences Oral History Project
- Item Type
- Oral History
- “Galedo (Lillian) Oral History Interview,” Welga Project, Filipino American Digital Archive and Repository, accessed July 18, 2018, https://welgadigitalarchive.omeka.net/items/show/178.