Oral History Interview With Wilfredo Nunez


Oral History Interview With Wilfredo Nunez


Oral History Interview With Wilfredo Nunez




The Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies and the UC Davis Asian American Studies department holds intellectual control of these recordings. Usage is restricted for educational, non-commercial purposes only. For other uses, please contact archivist Jason Sarmiento at ajsarmiento@ucdavis.edu






Maryjo Santos Nunez


Wilfredo Marcel Nunez


Filipino Immigrant Oral History Project

Oral History Interview With
Wilfredo Nunez

May 24, 2019

South San Francisco

By Maryjo Nunez

UC Davis Asian American Studies Department

[Session 1]
[Audio Link: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qPITVkQ9xf0 (Part 1) https://m.youtube. com/watch?v=3FA8xzkCUOg (Part 2)]
[Begin Audio File]

M. NUNEZ: Today is May 24, 2019. Right now, it is 3:17pm. My name is Maryjo Nunez interviewing Wilfredo Nunez for the Oral History Project.

M. NUNEZ: When did you first immigrate to America?

W. NUNEZ: March, 1980.

M. NUNEZ: Did you have any family that came before you coming to America?

W. NUNEZ: Yes.

M. NUNEZ: That was Mommy Let [older sister of W. NUNEZ] and Daddy Vic [brother-in-law of W. NUNEZ], right?

W. NUNEZ: and your Lolo [father of W. NUNEZ] and Lola [mother of W. NUNEZ]. They are the ones who petitioned us.

M. NUNEZ: What year did they come to America?

W. NUNEZ: That was March, 1980 too.

M. NUNEZ: So, did you all come to San Francisco together? . When you all came to America, was San Francisco your first stop?

W. NUNEZ: I think Hawaii.

M. NUNEZ: Do you remember what part of Hawaii?
W. NUNEZ: Honolulu.That's the point of entry.

M. NUNEZ: So, what did you all think about the U.S. [United States] when you first came? Were there lots of other Filipinos when you immigrated?

W. NUNEZ: Yes.

M. NUNEZ: Did you have any ideas of what America would be like before you immigrated?

W. NUNEZ: Just a little bit. no. not really.

M. NUNEZ: When did you decide to move to Alaska?

W. NUNEZ: Sometime in May, 1980.

M. NUNEZ: How long did you live in Alaska?

W. NUNEZ: Actually, it is only seasonal jobs.so only a couple of months. The first time I came [inaudible] June, July, and August. It was more than two months for that season, and then after that I come back next season in 1981. So, I did that every seasonal job.

M. NUNEZ: How many years did you do that for?

W. NUNEZ: I think, about five years, maybe six. Actually, 1980-1985.

M. NUNEZ: What was it like working in Alaska? Were there lots of other Filipinos?

W. NUNEZ: Yes, they have a lot of Filipinos, especially in our union. It's a unionized job. So, it is almost all Filipino in that union.

M. NUNEZ: What was the name of your union?

W. NUNEZ: I think they have a local number. I think thirty-seven then the.Let me see if I remember the union [inaudible] International Warehousemen Union, something like that with the local number thirty-seven, something like that.

M. NUNEZ: Did you work with other unions in Alaska?

W. NUNEZ: No, that is the only union that I applied for and then the union is going to look for some company to send you to, so you have to be first of all a union member. Then they're going to look for job for you, like a job placement. So that's why we have to stay in Seattle. That is the main office of the union, in Seattle, Washington.


W. NUNEZ: So, after that, after they send you, they are the ones negotiating the price and how much you are going to get paid. So, we are doing that every year for every season. The hardest part is the first time to be a union member because you have to wait there [Seattle] and get some place to stay in Seattle unless you have some friend to stay with. Like us, we came here to California so we have to spend some time in the hotel temporarily. [Inaudible] that our first time, we stay in Seattle for almost, I think, two weeks. You run out of money, so I think I called your Tito Vic. We asked him to send us money because we are stranded in Seattle. I go with the brother of Tito Vic, so they send us money [laughs]. But after that year, the second year is more easy because you don't have to stay more in Seattle because they will send you a letter that says on that date you have to come here because they have a job for you-not like the first time. You are waiting there every day. The only bad thing that happened I think is the second year. They got some murders in the union-that was 1981. So that's how everything was messed up. Actually, we wanted to work in a longer season, more than two months so we can get more money but for some reason if you are new, they will send you in a short season like one month only. Actually, there's a guaranteed pay for one month even though.the season. It takes fifteen days for the basic pay. And the food there, once you get to Alaska, everything is free-the food, the accommodations there, even the bedding we don't wash the bedding; we only wash our own clothes. So, it is like a hotel, and for the food, you have to go to the place where you can eat, like we eat four times in the day. If we work until midnight, then we get midnight lunch or

midnight snack, something like that. But during the morning, sometimes we have to wake up five o'clock and it is when they start the season. But they paid overtime. more than eight hours, you will get paid overtime. Even Saturday and Sunday, they paid for that.

M. NUNEZ: What was work in the canneries like? What exactly did you have to do?

W. NUNEZ: There are different assignments. If you are assigned in the processing the fish or something, then you are in the packaging of the salmon eggs. They are processing it to bring it to Japan-so, we have to work.I used to be assigned there in the egg area-they are sending it to Japan. But if you are assigned in the canning, in the machine, sometimes you have to work twenty-four hours [laughs].

M. NUNEZ: Do you get overtime for that?

W. NUNEZ: Yes, yes because once you start at five o'clock.even lunchtime, some people they don't clock out. They tell you not to clock out.


W. NUNEZ: So, they give only fifteen minutes to eat your lunch, but your time is continuous until you are in midnight. That's why you have some people who say, "oh, I work twenty-four hours" [laughs]. Because once they start processing, they don't finish until they process the whole thing, the whole fish, but this doesn't happen everyday because you cannot work twenty- four hours every day. And the weather is like you can see in the night time because at five o'clock in the morning, the sun is already rise and then even at twelve midnight, the sun is still in there.

M. NUNEZ: Was it hard adjusting to the weather in Alaska, coming from the Philippines?

W. NUNEZ: Actually, it's not much because during that time it was the summer time, but it was still cold because you see they still have ice in the mountain.

M. NUNEZ: Do you think that your employers treated you or other union members differently because you were Filipino?

W. NUNEZ: No, because I think they like Filipinos because most of the workers there are Filipino and in the union. You cannot work there without the union. If you go directly to the company that's in Alaska, it's different, maybe they pay you higher but you have to find your own place to stay. In our case, we are paid lower but everything is free. They like Filipinos. Bu t in the food, we are separate from those who are from the management people, but the food is still ok because if you want Filipino food, they will give it to you because some of the cooks are Filipino.

M. NUNEZ: So.you mentioned in 1981, the second year you worked in the cannery, there were murders? Do you mind talking about it?

W. NUNEZ: Yes, they are union. I think the union officials, something like that.

M. NUNEZ: Do you remember their names?

W. NUNEZ: No. I think Shilme Domingo (sp?) and [inaudible]. I think . They got some Filipinos involved in that case because in Alaska, there was gambling or something like that.

M. NUNEZ: Were you in Alaska when the two men were murdered or in Seattle?

W. NUNEZ: I think I was in Seattle.

M. NUNEZ: How did you hear about the murders then?

W. NUNEZ: Oh, we don't ask anybody because we don't talk about it. Especially us because we are from a different place and in Seattle, they had these gangs, and so we cannot talk to others about that. We just have to keep quiet [laughs] about what's going on.

M. NUNEZ: Was there anything different with the union after that year [1981]?


W. NUNEZ: Yes.

M. NUNEZ: Do you remember any of the changes?

W. NUNEZ: No. I don't remember.

M. NUNEZ: So, you spent five years in Alaska adjusting and was difficult you would say. How was the other three years, was it similar or different in any way?

W. NUNEZ: No. It was still ok, because the longer you work there, you have people there, the same people, and most of them are from here in California, like from Stockton because some of them work in only the summer. They work in the summer because people there are working in the field, so it is very hot, and instead they prepare to work in Alaska.

M. NUNEZ: Did you have to go to any union meetings as a union member?

W. NUNEZ: No, I didn't.

M. NUNEZ: Were meetings then only reserved for union officials?

W. NUNEZ: Yes, I think so but we could never talk to them. They are in the always in the office. We didn't talk to them.

M. NUNEZ: What were some of the benefits that the union brought to Filipinos?

W. NUNEZ: One thing I noticed is the health insurance. Once you are a member, they dispatch you. Even though you work only two months, you get health insurance for one year and that's for one year, so you can use it even here in California. Maybe, they got some limited amount,

like for the dental. They have a limit, fifty dollars for the dental but I can use it even in the Philippines and they paid it. Before, I didn't know that they had a free health benefit for the whole year. That's why one time I got a problem in the eye, with my eye, so I just went to the provincial-or, I mean the country hospital and said I don't have any work and I want to treat my eye. I didn't know my health insurance could work for that. I think the union; they are the ones negotiating about the salary every year because they increase the salary ten percent every year. So, when it is your first time, maybe a little bit lower but the second time you come back there, it will be based on the year, so they are going to increase you. But it doesn't matter even though you work for five years, you will still get paid by the same level but not like in the other company where every year they have increase. But in Alaska, only the difference from the first time and the second time but after is the same pay.
M. NUNEZ: Were there any strikes or boycotts to try and increase the pay?

W. NUNEZ: No, there wasn't.

M. NUNEZ: Were a lot of your co-workers complaining about the pay and how it didn't increase

W. NUNEZ: No, they didn't complain. Except that sometimes they have some position, maybe they work harder and they have a little higher pay, around twenty-five cents an hour.


W. NUNEZ: But for that kind of job, I think it's the same thing. Once you clock in, everybody's in there.

M. NUNEZ: You mentioned Tito Victor.did we have anyone else in our family who worked in Alaska or in the fields or in Hawaii, or was everyone just in San Francisco?

W. NUNEZ: Most of them worked in California. They came here to California and in Washington. Because those people in Washington, they can easily go to the union because they are close to the union in Seattle. A lot of them that I know, a lot of them were students looking for summer job. So, they apply there and work for the short season, around two months or less than that. They go there in June, July.

M. NUNEZ: Ok, that has been all the questions. Thank you. Again, this has been an interview with Wilfredo Nunez for the Oral History Project.

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Date Added
February 9, 2021
Filipino Immigrant Oral History Project
Item Type
Oral History
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“Oral History Interview With Wilfredo Nunez,” Welga Archive - Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies, accessed July 7, 2022, https://welgadigitalarchive.omeka.net/items/show/721.