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[TIMELINE] Fil-Am Cannery Unionism in Seattle (1940-1959)

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  • madchinaman
    The Local 7/ Local 37 Story: Filipino American Cannery Unionism in Seattle 1940-1959 Micah Ellison http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/local_7.htm The Filipino
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 11, 2007
      The Local 7/ Local 37 Story:
      Filipino American Cannery Unionism in Seattle 1940-1959
      Micah Ellison

      The Filipino American-led cannery workers union has a marked history
      of conflict and tumult, from the assassination of the president
      Virgil Duyungan and secretary Aurelio Simon in the mid-1936[1] to
      another dual assassination of union leaders Silme Domingo and Gene
      Viernes in 1981[2]. Historians have concentrated on the events and
      issues surrounding the two sets of assassinations, providing valuable
      accounts of union building in the 1930s and of the reform efforts
      initiated by Domingo and Viernes forty years later, but we know
      little about the intervening decades. This essay uses union records
      to explore the critical middle period in the history of Seattle's
      Cannery and Farm Labor Union, affiliated in the early 1940s as Local
      7 UCAPAWA and after 1950 as Local 37 ILWU.

      During this period, the union dealt with a myriad of struggles.
      Political strife and leadership shifts dominated the 1940s. As the
      decade waned and the 1950s began, allegations of Communist activity
      took a heavy toll on the union, leading to reorganization under a new
      national and a new name: ILWU Local 37. Recovery from these events
      led to a stability of power that lasted throughout the 1950s but
      ultimately led to a less active union.

      The cannery workers' union was originally founded as the Cannery
      Workers' and Farm Laborers' Union (CWFLU) Local 18257 under the
      American Federation of Labor (AFL). From its birth, it was already
      rocked by conflict; in 1936, two of its leaders, Aurelio Simon and
      Virgil Duyungan, were shot and killed (presumably due to opposition
      from anti-union labor contractors). In 1937 the union left the AFL in
      favor of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) becoming
      United Cannery, Agricultural, Packinghouse, and Allied Workers of
      America (UCAPAWA) Local 7. The local's maturation into a powerful
      bargaining force was characterized by a constantly shifting
      leadership with a wide range of political beliefs. (The early history
      is covered in Crystal Fresco's essay "Cannery Worker's and Farm
      Laborers' Union 1933-39: Their Strength in Unity")

      Wartime Challenges
      The outbreak of World War II provided both opportunities and
      challenges for the young labor union. Membership declined as former
      cannery workers enlisted or took more stable jobs in defense
      industries. Internal disagreements seemed also for a time to threaten
      the union. But a new set of leaders and the intense bonds between the
      union and Filipino communities on the West Coast helped the union
      consolidate its position. By the war's end Local 7 not only
      represented Seattle workers but had become the bargaining agent for
      cannery workers up and down the coast.

      Struggles over leadership dominated the early years of the 1940s. In
      1940 Vincent Navea won the election as President of Local 7. Navea's
      past gave him a tenuous hold on the presidential office: he was
      respected as a hard-working union official (he had previously been
      the union's business agent) and upstanding community member, but he
      had never worked in the canneries. A great deal of conflict and
      intrigue surrounded Navea, as his strong business sense was
      accompanied by constant accusations of being a "company man." These
      accusations were supported by his personal history. He had
      previously worked for the Western Outfitting Company, which appears
      to have been associated with the pre-union labor contractors.[3]

      Navea's successor, Trinidad Rojo, was elected President of Local 7 in
      October 1942. Wordy, intellectual, and often less than humble, he was
      active in union affairs from the 1940s through the 1950s. Rojo
      espoused efficiency and discipline in the union. In a 1975 interview
      he took credit for a series of innovations and reforms, such as
      introducing the time clock to the office, reducing gambling problems
      and concentrating the flow of union money in the offices of the
      treasurer and secretary.[4]

      Like many young Filipino men, Rojo came to the United States in
      search of educational opportunities. In the Philippines high school
      was very expensive and it was not uncommon for a full family to spend
      a large amount of its resources to educate one child.[5] The United
      States – to which Filipinos could immigrate freely until the passing
      of the Tydings-McDuffie Act in 1934 – offered young Filipinos the
      chance to be self-supporting students, taking a great weight off of
      their families. However, many found that after gaining an education
      there were few opportunities for Filipinos in America. This
      frustration led many highly educated individuals to become active in
      labor struggles. Rojo was one of them.

      Rojo had succeeded Navea in 1942 but there was continuing conflict
      between the two men and their allies. In August 1943 an election
      dispute occurred relating to the validity of the nomination of Irineo
      Cabatit for the local's annual presidential election. Membership
      meeting minutes show two distinct groups: one composed of Navea and
      Cabatit, and another led by Rojo and the secretary, Prudencio Mori.
      Cabatit had withdrawn from the election over the phone but still
      wanted to run for president. Arguing that votes should be thrown out
      because he was removed from the ballot, and that it was
      constitutionally required for withdrawals to be submitted in writing
      (and not over the phone), Cabatit was still given a chance to run as
      president for the remainder of the voting period.[6] He did not win
      the presidency.

      Following Cabatit's defeat, Navea attempted to gain control of the
      union membership from the outside by filing a petition to the War
      Labor Board asking that the American Legion post that he headed
      (Rizal Post), be recognized as the sole bargaining agent to the
      Alaska cannery industry.[7] Most of the canneries had been
      consolidated under one umbrella organization during the beginning of
      the war and they relied on the union to seasonally dispatch workers
      to Alaska for the two-month summer canning season. Thus, winning
      representation with the industry was the key to controlling the
      cannery labor base. Navea was unsuccessful and was charged with anti-
      union activities by the union. A small 1944 membership meeting vote
      on the matter revealed how split the membership was at the time: 38
      voted him guilty while 32 voted him not guilty.[8] The leadership was
      much different, however: an 8-1 vote by secret ballot in an executive
      board meeting two days earlier condemned Navea to a ten-year

      One can see by the small vote tally that the union membership
      decreased dramatically during the war. Between the dramatic fall of
      Bataan to the Japanese in April 1942, the draft, and the lure of non-
      seasonal work, the UCAPAWA locals lost over a thousand workers to
      various military services and even more to industries related to
      military production.[10] The labor shortage had a drastic effect on
      the union and the salmon industry in general. The government exempted
      many Filipino workers from the draft because the supply of canned
      food was considered important to the war effort.

      Faced with this challenge, Local 7 looked towards new fronts on which
      to represent workers. Alaska cannery workers shipped out of Portland
      and San Francisco as well as Seattle, and in those ports they were
      represented by affiliated unions: Local 5 in San Francisco and Local
      266 in Portland, both of which dispatched predominantly Filipino
      workers to Alaska under the same agreed-upon contracts. According to
      various oral histories, Local 7 had the most sway with the UCAPAWA
      International. Since the union was in charge of dispatching, it also
      became heavily involved in the process of labor recruiting during the
      war, sending agents to Filipino communities around the west coast to
      get more workers. The Filipino community in Stockton, California was
      one of the most looked-on targets. By the summer of 1944, there was
      talk of setting up a year-round branch in Stockton and Local 7
      President Rojo himself was asked to travel there to drum up more
      support.[11] Even after war, when the labor shortage was dramatically
      ended, Stockton continued to remain an important to Local 7's leaders
      and members, largely because the seasonal nature of Alaska cannery
      work fit well with the asparagus season in California.

      As the union expanded outward in search of new members, it
      consolidated its three locals into the one Seattle-based Local 7
      based on the argument that it was redundant to have three
      organizations negotiating with the single Alaska Salmon Industry
      organization. The level of hostility from the small southern locals
      to consolidation is difficult to gauge, as their own records no
      longer exist. Local 266 in Portland fought not for continued
      existence as a separate local but did demand the continued operation
      of the office. Upon hearing that the two southern locals were going
      to be absorbed by the Seattle one, the Portland local's president
      Ernesto Mangaoang traveled to Seattle to request only that the
      Portland union hall retain some funding, explaining that it was an
      important community center. In the discussion, Rojo spoke up "not as
      president, but as one who has studied the problems of Filipinos in
      the United States" and made Local 266 a branch of Local 7. The
      Seattle local also killed two birds with one stone by mandating that
      the Portland branch officers must spend several months out of the
      year organizing labor in Stockton.[12]

      The intersection of labor interests with Filipino community interests
      was not uncommon in this union. While it did cater to some other
      Asian-American interests (such as establishing a "Farm Committee" to
      aid interned Japanese-American farmers in holding their land for no
      profit[13]), it was becoming more and more a Filipino union. The
      Chinese-American populations in Portland and San Francisco lost power
      from the consolidation of the three locals and the Japanese Americans
      on the west coast lost all representation due to internment.[14]
      While Filipinos had dominated the union since the beginning, the war-
      era dramatically eroded the role of other Asian Americans. .

      By and large, the union and the Filipino community benefited from one
      another. Local 7 was considered the most militant and active Filipino
      union in the United States. Despite a large Filipino population that
      was dispersed throughout both the urban and rural Pacific coast,
      Local 7 was seen as the one place during the summer months where
      Filipinos in America could get a job en masse outside of farm work.
      Perhaps the most memorable photos of the union's history are those of
      Main Street in Seattle, showing a massive crowd of Filipino men
      waiting outside the union hall to be dispatched. It would be
      incorrect to argue that the union was the sole community center.
      Fraternities such as the Caballeros de Dimas Alang and umbrella
      groups like Filipino Community of Seattle, Inc. held massive
      community events as early as the mid-1920s and continued to do so at
      least through the 1950s.[15] However, the union hall was still a
      valuable tool for the Filipino community, between annual dances,
      various social functions, and, of course, the employment it promised.

      Cold War Tensions
      Communists had been involved in the union from its beginnings in the
      1930s. As the Second World War ended and the Cold War began, the
      presence of Communists in the leadership of the union would usher in
      a decade of volatility. However, unlike many unions with Communist
      Party ties, the Cannery Workers Union would not be destroyed or
      severely weakened by outside forces.

      The early postwar years saw continued intra-union political strife
      that led to the creation of a rival union. Immediately following the
      end of the war, the union was characterized by dull union meetings
      and a highly unsuccessful 1946 strike under the presidency of
      Prudencio Mori.[16] Trinidad Rojo had left at the war's end to resume
      his studies but was back by 1947 to witness (though not really
      participate in) a tense split in political differences between "the
      conservatives and the progressive"[17] at Local 7 (now Local 7 of the
      Food, Tobacco, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union of America,
      which replaced UCAPAWA that year). The "progressive" side (including
      Mori) accused some members of the union leadership of being
      associated with the canning industry while allegations of communism
      were already being prepared by the more "conservative" side. In early
      1947, during one of the heated arguments resulting from this
      conflict, Max Gonzales, the vice president of the union and a staunch
      anti-Communist, pulled out a revolver and shot in the "general
      direction" of the more leftist Matias Lagunilla,[18] who would later
      become a secretary at the union. The minutes of that particular
      meeting have disappeared, so it is difficult to ascertain what
      exactly catalyzed the shooting. The political divisions between
      Gonzales and Lagunilla were certainly apparent, however, and would be
      a disruptive issue for some time.

      While Gonzales did not hurt anyone, he still submitted his
      resignation to the Executive Council three days later. It was
      rejected by Mori and the rest of the council on the grounds that
      Gonzales' resignation would signify an undesirable lack of unity
      among the union. The Executive Board minutes also go on to exemplify
      Gonzales' "excellent track record" of service for the union,[19] but
      this added discussion appears to have taken place primarily to make
      the choice appear less political.

      In early March, 1947 the FTA International's president, Donald
      Henderson, came to Seattle and met with Local 7's officers. He was
      not well-received. Stating that members were fearful of going to
      meetings because of Gonzales' actions, Henderson sternly chastised
      the officers:

      This Executive Council has not lifted its finger to condemn such an
      action to protect its members. You are violating your oath and office
      by not acting on this matter. You are giving the C.I.O. a black eye
      for refusing to act on this matter. You are also giving the Filipino
      people a black eye.[20]

      In spite of Henderson's condemnations, the council tabled the motion
      to expel Gonzales. By mid-June, he was still an active member in the
      council and, with the support of fellow officer Cornelio Briones, was
      trying to move Local 7 in the direction of secession from the
      Communist-linked FTA International. Mori was in staunch opposition,
      arguing that the International was vital to the union's success.
      Gonzales was convinced that Local 7's defiance against the
      International would result in Local 7's charter being revoked.[21]
      Local 7 remained intact, however; instead of its dissolution,
      Gonzales was expelled and Briones followed him.

      Gonzales and Briones then formed the independent Seafood Workers
      Union. They filed a suit against Local 7 in an attempt to dissolve it.
      [22] During the court proceedings, the Local 7 leadership was held in
      contempt of court for failing to produce documents relating to
      alleged misuse of $6,000 from the union's burial fund (this fund came
      from annual payments from members and was to be used to pay for a
      funeral in the case of a worker's death).[23] The contempt ruling
      effectively tied up the union's treasury, making it difficult for
      Local 7 to apply its budget towards being effective against the
      cannery industry. However, the majority of the Filipino community and
      the workers remained with Local 7 and the case was decided in its
      favor in what Trinidad Rojo called a "technical knockout." It turned
      out that Gonzales was working as a cannery foreman, thus making his
      Seafood Workers Union a company union and therefore illegal.[24]

      Not long after the Gonzales challenge was resolved, another factional
      divide emerged between newly re-elected President Rojo, who
      positioned himself as a noncommunist moderate, and leftwing activist
      Chris Mensalvas. The issue was not radicalism but how to allocate
      resources and time. In 1949 Mensalvas would defeat Rojo and become
      President of the local, remaining in that office until 1959.
      Mensalvas was a newcomer to Seattle, having been initially involved
      in labor struggles in other areas of the Pacific Coast. He spent most
      of his early years in the United States going to school and working
      on farms, where he was exposed to Communism and involved himself in
      labor activism. He eventually became the business agent of the
      Portland cannery local before the locals merged.[25] Due to his
      resistance against some amalgamation procedures, he resigned largely
      at the bidding of Gonzales and Briones[26] only to resume involvement
      in union affairs upon returning to the Portland branch. After the
      death of his first wife in 1947, he became involved in the Seattle
      local as the publicity director but still had a marked interest in
      California. In late 1948, he left Seattle and moved to Stockton,
      where he served as a publicity director during attempts to organize
      asparagus workers. That effort ended in defeated and costly strike.
      (costly because of the civil and criminal cases that followe).[27]
      Rojo later wrote that Mensalvas and those working with him spent an
      exorbitant amount of money ("The legal fees alone cost over $37,000")
      for the strike despite Rojo's warnings that it would fail.[28] It is
      difficult to ascertain how accurate Rojo's report on Mensalvas is
      since there is little documentary evidence to corroborate it; on the
      contrary, letters from Mensalvas to the Local 7 Seattle headquarters
      in April 1949 indicate that some significant progress was made in
      Stockton.[29] Whatever the case was, Rojo and Mensalvas never
      appeared to be on good terms with one another.

      Confronting the Taft-Hartley Act
      The inter-union strife was further complicated by the effects of the
      Taft-Hartley Act (also known as the Labor-Management Relations Act),
      passed in 1947 to outlaw closed shops and require union leaders to
      file affidavits declaring that they were not members of the Communist
      Party. While the union and its leadership did not publicly declare
      any sort of Communist affiliation, it was well-known within the
      community that Communist Party members had long been active in the
      politics of Local 7. According to Rojo, it was not uncommon for right-
      wing members of the politically diverse Filipino community to report
      alleged Communists to the Bureau of Immigration.[30] With this new
      set of anti-Communist legislation, these reports became a major
      concern for the leftist union leadership.

      The Seafood Workers Union merged with the Alaska Fish Cannery Workers
      (AFCW) of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and made another
      attempt to undermine the union.. This amalgamated organization
      petitioned the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for
      representation elections, which were subsequently approved and set
      for April of 1949. Local 7 was accused of being a Communist union,
      and the election was preceded by a raid from U.S. Immigration
      officials who arrested business agent Ernesto Mangaoang, newly-
      elected president Chris Mensalvas, and several others on accusations
      of being Communist.[31]

      While Local 7 sustained the attacks quite well from an organizational
      standpoint-- winning the representation election in 1949,--the
      specter of Communist involvement haunted the union for the next
      decade. Later that year the FTA International was expelled by the CIO
      because of its ties to the Communist Party. That led to yet another
      attempt by conservative cannery workers to change the course of Local
      7. Several Local 7 officers resigned and formed a "red-free" union,
      Local 77, UPAWA-CIO, under Vincent Navea,[32] who had been president
      of Local 7 ten years earlier.

      Local 7 then gave up its affiliation with the wounded Food, Tobacco,
      Agricultural and Allied Workers Union of America, finding a new
      parent international union in the International Longshoremen and
      Warehousemen Union (ILWU). On March 26, 1950 the cannery workers
      affiliated with the ILWU and became Local 7-C. That summer, it won
      collective bargaining rights in another NLRB representative
      election , defeating Local 77 and the Alaska Fish Cannery Workers'
      Union, SIU-AFL. The following year, Local 7-C signed a four year
      union shop contract with the canning industry and subsequently became
      Local 37 ILWU.[33]

      Why did Local 7 succeed against these competing unions despite the
      constant threat of Communist accusations? One important factor is
      that Local 7 had the power of the union hall. In mid-1948, when
      Gonzales' and Briones' aggression was at its peak and the new Taft-
      Hartley law was in effect, attendance at May membership meetings was
      as high as 560 people.[34] Meetings in 1949 were not as large but
      still reached almost 300 members near the end of May,[35] right
      before the beginning of the dispatching season. This was a
      significant number out of a yearly dispatched force of several
      thousand workers, and it was exposed much more to Local 7's
      leadership than it was to the voice of the opposition. Moreover,
      Local 7's leaders still participated in community activities and were
      allowed to stand their ground and defend themselves in open letters,
      public discussions, and so on. While many community members whispered
      about rumors of Communism among the union leaders, the workers were
      still more familiar with Local 7's leaders and unfalteringly
      supported them in NLRB elections.

      Facing the Threat of Deportation
      After 1950, the threat of breakaway unions and outside
      unions would recede. After affiliating with ILWU and becoming Local
      37 some of the turmoil diminished, but the union and its leaders
      faced a new set of problems. On November 17, 1949 Ernesto Mangaoang
      was arrested and held for deportion under the order of District
      Director John P. Boyd (who would antagonize the union over this issue
      for some time) . He was released eleven days later under a ruling
      by the District Court that Boyd's action was an abuse of discretion,
      but Mangaoang's problems and the union's problems were far from over.
      Deportation orders and court cases would dominate the next several

      In 1950, Congress passed the McCarran Internal Security Act),
      requiring communists and communist front organizations to register
      with the Attorney General and allowing immigration officials to make
      a case to deport "subversive" aliens. Under this act, Mangaoang and
      some thirty other Filipinos were placed in jail. Mangaoang's
      attorneys were not notified so he was not allowed to cross-examine
      his witnesses. After 83 days jail, he was released, and a deportation
      order soon followed. The case worked its way up to the Supreme Court
      in 1953 and was concluded by an issue brought up by the famous
      defense attorney John Caughlan, who argued that Mangaoang never
      technically "entered" America as an alien because he traveled from
      the Philippines while it was still an American territory.[37] This
      landmark ruling established residency rights for the thousands of
      Filipino Americans that had arrived before the Philippines
      established its independence in the mid-1930s.

      It can be argued that the intensity and strife created by the
      controversy over Communism and the hearings actually contributed to
      the union's power and activity. Up until the mid-1950s, leaflets and
      publications by the union convey a strong sense of urgency to be
      involved and stand up for the union. During the initial arrests in
      1949, Matias Lagunilla formed the Local 7 Defense Committee and
      released a large flier (click here) with pictures of five leaders
      facing deportation (including Mensalvas and Mangaoang). It proclaimed
      in bold text, "THEY TRY TO KILL OUR UNION", juxtaposing the Communist
      trials with the murders of Duyungan and Simon in 1936. The first page
      ends with "YOU'RE NEXT, UNLESS…" followed by the top of the second
      page: "...YOU HALT THIS DRIVE AGAINST OUR UNIONS."[38] These
      sentiments were also exemplified in Local 37's 1952 yearbook, wrought
      with powerful language. Headlines implore workers to "Know Your
      Rights" while various articles by the union leadership espouse a very
      victorious and tenacious approach to the union's recent history,
      especially in relation to the deportation issues.[39]

      The union also actively lobbied against deportation legislation and
      anything related to it. In early 1953, Local 37 filed for an
      injunction on the Walter-McCarran Act with strong support of the
      membership.[40] The local also educated its members on the effects of
      the immigration laws through news bulletins.[41] The International
      also provided some assistance by meeting with immigration officials,
      [42] but the record provides little evidence of monetary assistance.

      The newly renamed Local 37 found itself identifying strongly with the
      ILWU International. As the ILWU president Harry Bridges faced
      deportation and prison, parallels were drawn between him and Local
      37's own Ernesto Mangaoang. The local donated money out of its
      general budget for Bridges' defense, promoted his cause in its
      publications, and even sold "Harry Bridges Defense Stamps" to raise
      money.[43] However, there was little the ILWU could do for Local 37,
      and many of the members felt that they were not getting what they
      deserved from the International. One issue of particular importance
      to the executive council was that five months of dues had to be paid
      to the International per year despite the fact that Local 37's
      members only worked a two month season. Although leaders of other
      locals involved in seasonal work were brought in to explain why they
      were willing to pay the same amount of dues, it remained a sore spot
      for Local 37.[44]

      Dissention in the Board
      Throughout the 1940s and early 1950s, Ernesto Mangaoang
      was a hero to the union. Respected as an incredibly shrewd
      negotiator, he was defended by the union all the way up to the
      Supreme Court. Yet in the fall of 1954, not long after winning his
      case, Mangaoang was ousted from the union. The events that lead to
      this political intrigue resulted from a general dissatisfaction in
      the leadership of Mensalvas and Lagunilla and the involvement of the
      well-known Filipino author and activist, Carlos Bulosan.

      Bulosan came to the United States at the onset of the
      Great Depression to look for opportunities outside of his agrarian
      community. He wrote the best-selling pseudo-autobiographical novel
      America is in the Heart and published it as World War II began. He
      was well recognized as the premier Filipino-American writer and
      befriended Chris Mensalvas while Mensalvas was attempting to organize
      labor in California. In 1952, Mensalvas invited Bulosan up to Seattle
      to edit Local 37's yearbook, which remains one of the most coveted
      pieces of the local's history from this time period, and would have a
      profoundly inspirational effect on the activist student unionists in
      the 1970s[45]. The yearbook (which is reprinted in its entirety on
      this site) was significant not only because of Bulosan's involvement,
      but also because it was published at a turning point in the union's
      history: after the inter-union competition had been quelled and a
      string of victories had been won against government forces despite
      the Taft-Hartley and Walter-McCarran acts. As liberal organizations
      around the nation were disappearing or morphing into something more
      conservative, ILWU Local 37 celebrated its leftist commitments
      unabashedly in this yearbook, promoting strong positions against the
      Korean War, the "fascist" Walter-McCarran Act, and the "stooges" in
      the less liberal AFL.

      However, behind this celebration of the union's
      militancy was a growing discontent among the more moderate members.
      Trinidad Rojo, who was still active in the council as a trustee,
      attacked Mensalvas in August 1953 for improperly using union money as
      president instead of confining all monetary transfers to the office
      of the treasurer. Mensalvas had loaned union money to Bulosan and had
      not been paid back. Bulosan had chronic health issues and was
      hospitalized at the time. Defending him with Mensalvas was Matias
      Lagunilla, who stated that "an injury to one is an injury to all."
      Mangaoang, still Business Agent, also came to his side, trying to use
      a technicality to show that Bulosan owed nothing. Rojo responded in
      his usually analogical manner by arguing "that is like stretching a
      fly to cover an elephant."[46] Between the costs of all the legal
      defenses, the strain the local had undergone fighting other unions
      and the lack of support from the ILWU International, Local 37 was
      very low on money and every dollar became an issue.

      Rojo pinned the budget problems on the leftist leadership. In
      November, he wrote a resolution to call in the ILWU International to
      investigate and audit Local 37's leadership. In a board meeting,
      Mensalvas stated that "with all its good intentions, the resolution
      will confuse the membership; and it will make a wedge for them to
      come and again inject dissension." The executive board promptly
      condemned the resolution. Mangaoang, however, disagreed, arguing that
      it is dangerous for the officers of a democratic union to refuse to
      be publicly investigated. Lagunilla countered with his belief that
      the resolution had ulterior motives and was a "dirty way of
      eliminating officers that they cannot eliminate in the election."[47]

      By 1954, Mangaoang was in open disagreement with the other Local 37
      officers. In a February membership meeting, he tried to read a speech
      on his stance and was promptly denied the floor by Mensalvas, who
      said that the reading of a minority opinion at a membership meeting
      was unprecedented (which was most certainly untrue).[48] Mangaoang
      prepared a leaflet stating his problems with the union leadership
      (mainly with their lack of activity and proper budgeting) and was
      challenged by the executive council at the April meeting. The
      conflict is exemplified in the meeting's minutes, prepared by the
      argumentative secretary Matt Lagunilla:

      Lagunilla said that the Business Agent is like the monkey
      who said to the turtle that his tail is very long; yet the Business
      Agent failed to look back and see if he has any tail at all. He said
      that we have nothing to do here all winter, but getting drunk and
      solving the crossword puzzle. What is wrong with solving the puzzle
      if there is nothing to do. Drinking after office hours is not the
      business of anybody, much less the Business Agent he said. He fails
      to include in his leaflet that he stayed in the Casino all winter
      playing rummy, coming only to the office to claim his weekly check.
      No wonder the Business Agent has so many claims not settled. Now the
      Business Agent resort to arbitration which means the expenditure of a
      lot of money.[49]

      The next day, Mangaoang finally had the chance to speak in a
      membership meeting on the topic, probably because his leaflet had
      already been well-circulated among the membership. The same arguments
      were expressed and hashed out. Directly following that Mensalvas
      called for the nomination of officers for the upcoming election.
      Mangaoang's name did not appear in any category.[50]

      A trial committee was formed among the membership to address the
      allegations about both Mangaoang (for creating dissension) and the
      other officers of Local 37. At the June meeting as the committee
      began presenting findings and resolutions, matters became so heated
      that members were shouting at one another and came close to
      exchanging blows..[51]

      The International was ultimately kept out of Local 37 affairs,
      however, and Mangaoang was gone by autumn of that year. In the
      following January, the Trial Committee presented its findings, with
      Mangaoang found guilty and all other cases dropped.[52] The Mensalvas
      faction had won out entirely.

      Financial Problems
      Regardless of whether Mensalvas and his cohorts were guilty of
      acting irresponsibly with the budget, the union was still having
      financial difficulties. It was constantly digging into the burial
      fund, taking out loans of five or six thousand dollars at a time. At
      the July 1954 meeting it was announced that the budget had a deficit
      of around $15,000.[53] The union also received notice from the office
      of John Caughlan, who had represented Mensalvas and Mangaoang when
      they were under threat of deportation, that Mensalvas' $5,000 bail
      had finally been refunded to the attorneys but would not be returned
      to the union until the attorneys themselves were paid by the union. A
      resolution was passed in a February membership meeting stating that
      the local did not make any commitment to pay and the money should be
      returned in full.[54] By March, the executive council was mortgaging
      the union building because it was still in the red despite having
      already borrowed $15,000 from the burial fund.[55] The conflict with
      Caughlan was drawn out for the next few years as the union continued
      to borrow money. Another eighteen thousand dollars was borrowed from
      the burial fund in December 1956 as Mensalvas reported that only $700
      of his $5000 bail had been refunded.[56] Caughlan's case against the
      union eventually reached the state Supreme Court in 1958, which
      affirmed that the union still owed money to the lawyers.[57]

      Local 37's records from 1957 are missing, and records from 1958 are
      very spotty; however, the records that remain point to some
      resolution, or at least a leveling out, of the budget crisis. The
      minutes that remain of the executive board meetings focus more on
      union involvement in community events than on the financial issues
      that dominated the mid-50s discussions.

      While membership meeting records are spotty throughout the 1950s, a
      look at the member attendance for various 1955 meetings reveals only
      134 members attending before the peak of the dispatching for the
      season.[58] While there may be other factors involved (perhaps the
      dispatching became more staggered that year), the numbers still point
      to a less active membership.

      A New Conservative Era
      In 1959, Mensalvas went to Canada to meet with the Soviets at a labor
      conference. On the way back, the Department of Immigration challenged
      his return to the country, arguing that he lacked U.S. citizenship.
      He somehow made it to Seattle with the aid of his attorney, but then
      quickly left to Hawaii and stayed there for several years. The
      details of his departure are unclear. Years later when interviewed
      for an oral history, Mensalvas briefly touched on this part of his
      life, saying that the "political question" in Seattle affected his
      decision to go to Hawaii.[59] What he meant by "political question"
      is not clear though this time was marked by a distinct change in
      organizational structure, which may have been what Mensalvas was
      referring to. The union had moved to consolidate the offices of the
      president and the business agent into one. Gene Navarro, who had been
      the business agent since Mangaoang's departure, had become president
      by Mensalvas' return to Seattle in 1963. Navarro would remain in
      office with a more moderate, or even conservative, ideology that
      would last until the 1980s.

      Why Navarro and not Lagunilla or another individual closer to the
      political orientation of Mensalvas? Why, after years of staving off
      anticommunist assaults, did the union chose a more conservative
      leadership so late, in 1960? The records do not provide a clear
      answer. Perhaps Gene Navarro was simply in the right place at the
      right time to maneuver for a more powerful position. What few records
      of meetings or elections in 1960 remain discuss little more than day-
      to-day business, so it is difficult to tell.

      Whatever the case, the Mensalvas era ended with this single event.
      Mensalvas would continue to play an advisory role to the union until
      his death in 1978[60], but he did not make significant direct
      contributions to union activity after 1959.

      The Question of Stability
      It is difficult to ascertain why Mensalvas was able to remain
      president of the local throughout the entirety of the 1950s. It is
      not uncommon to draw connections in labor history between Communist
      elements of a union and heightened participation among rank and file
      members. But once Mensalvas had established his power, the
      membership became less active, not more. This lack of activity may
      have kept him in power, but may have ultimately undermined the
      support he needed to sustain his progressive leadership agenda.

      One might also argue that the stability of Mensalvas' power lay in
      the fact that the union's conflicts were less glamorous in the 1950s
      than in the 1940s. All CIO locals had to deal with the Taft-Hartley
      law and there was a sense that everyone was in it together. Moreover,
      Mensalvas was able to use the dissent caused by fighting with the
      Gonzales/Briones faction and, later, the "red-free" Navea faction, to
      portray himself as a hero who used his skilled oratory to stand up
      against the "AFL stooges." The conflicts of the 1950s were dirty, and
      generated political controversy over Communist allegations and the
      heated personal dissension between old friends like Mensalvas and
      Mangaoang. Following 1952, union survival was no longer in doubt,
      and these struggles lost their life-and-death tone.

      Local 37 was not a massive union, nor was it a very well-known union
      outside of the Filipino community at this time. ILWU histories pay
      little attention to it in comparison to other locals and its
      successes during this era are generally not celebrated in labor
      history. However, it was extremely significant to Filipino Americans
      in an era when discrimination prevented them access to most other
      jobs. Equal opportunity employment would not become government policy
      until the 1960s, but the labor union prevailed as a source of
      employment for the disenfranchised Filipino Americans for decades
      before that, The cannery union also played a very important role in
      the economics, politics, and social dynamics of the Seattle Filipino
      community, and beyond that the Filipino American community as a
      whole. The tone of its struggles, from the manner in which it settled
      infighting to its unique successes against Communist allegations,
      reveals a union solidified by ethnic identity. In contrast to the
      rest of American society, one's status as Filipino American was an
      advantage in this organization, and it fostered a Filipino American
      identity that would be celebrated for decades to come in both
      Filipino American and labor history.

      (c) Micah Ellison 2005
      (HIST 498, Fall 2004)

      [1] See Crystal Fresco, Cannery Workers' and Farm Laborer's Union:
      Their Strength in Unity, Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History
      Project website, also, Dorothy Fujita-Rony, American Workers,
      Colonial Power: Philippine Seattle and the Transpacific West, 1919-
      1941 and Chris Friday, Organizing Asian American Labor: The Pacific
      Coast Canned-Salmon Industry, 1870-1942.

      [2] See Bulosan.org, The Reform Movement of Local 37: The Work of
      Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes,
      http://www.bulosan.org/html/local_37.html; also, Han et al, Unknown
      Heroes, http://www.arc.org/C_Lines/CLArchive/story_web01_02.html

      [3] "Filipinos in the Labor Front", The Philippine Yearbook: 1941,
      Vincent Navea Folder at FANHS, Seattle, WA.

      [4] Trinidad A. Rojo, interview by Carolina Koslosky, FIL-KNG75-17ck,
      18 & 19 February 1975, Filipino American National Historical Society
      (FANHS), Seattle, WA, p. 22.

      [5] Many interviews from the Demonstration Project for Asian
      Americans (DPAA) reflect on this theme and can be found at the
      National Pinoy Archives at the Filipino American National Historical
      Society (FANHS), Seattle, WA.

      [6] Minutes of Membership Meeting, Cannery Workers and Farm Laborers
      Union, Local 7, 19 August 1943, UW Special Collections, Accession
      #3927-1, Box 3, Folder 8. (All membership and board meeting minutes
      are located in this collection)

      [7] George A. Valdez, "A Brief History of Local 37," 1952 Yearbook,
      ILWU Local 37, Chris D. Mensalvas Papers, UW Special Collections,
      Accession #2361-1, Box 1, Folder 14, p. 12.

      [8] Minutes of Membership Meeting, 5 June 1944, Box 3, Folder 9.

      [9] Minutes of Executive Board Meeting, 3 June 1944, Box 2, Folder 7.

      [10] Friday, p. 188.

      [11] Minutes of Membership Meeting, 29 June 1944, Box 3, Folder 9.

      [12] Minutes of Executive Board Meeting, 27 March 1944, Box 2, Folder

      [13] Minutes of Membership Meeting, March 1942, Box 2, Folder 4.

      [14] Friday, pp. 186-188.

      [15] Cordova, 175-183.

      [16] Ernesto Mangaoang, Report of the Business Agent, 1952 Yearbook,
      ILWU Local 37, p. 7.

      [17] Rojo, 21.

      [18] "Unionist Says He Shot To Scare," Seattle Post-Intelligencer,
      1947. A photocopy of this news clipping was found in the Ernesto
      Mangaoang folder at FANHS. Only the year was recorded on the copy, so
      the exact date is not known. I have tried to find the minutes of the
      membership meeting during which this particular event took place (in
      February 9) but they do not seem to exist.

      [19] Minutes of Executive Council Meeting, 12 Feb 1947, Box 3, Folder

      [20] Minutes of Executive Council Meeting, 2 March 1947, Box 3,
      Folder 11.

      [21] Minutes of Executive Council Meeting, 18 June 1947, Box 3,
      Folder 11.

      [22] Cannery Workers and Farm Laborers Union (CWFLU) Local 7, "Matias
      Lagunilla Again a Martyr," 1948, Local 7 UCAWAPA-CIO file, FANHS,
      Seattle, WA

      [23] "Arrest Asked for 10 Cannery Union Aids," Seattle Post-
      Intelligencer 1947. A photocopy of this news clipping is on the same
      sheet as the previous article mentioned in the Ernesto Mangaoang
      folder at FANHS in Seattle, with the same lack of information as to
      the exact date. However, the article mentions a future court
      appearance scheduled for April 2, so it must have been published
      early in the year.

      [24] Trinidad Rojo, "Food Tobacco and Allied Workers of America, CIO
      Local 7, Now, International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union (ILWU),
      Local 37," unpublished, no date (though it was written after the
      murders of 1981 and before Rojo's death in the early 1990s), Cannery
      Workers Union Local 7, CIO folder at FANHS, Seattle, WA

      [25] Chris D. Mensalvas and Jesse Yambao, interview by Carolina
      Koslosky, FIL-KNG75-1ck, 10 & 11 February 1975, FANHS, p. 31.

      [26] See Minutes of Executive Council Meeting, CWFLU Local 7, 4 Feb,
      4-5 Mar, 1946, Box 3, Folder 10. Some of the headings on these
      records are incorrectly labeled as 1947: they were transcribed from
      audio recordings in 1947 but their content and structure clearly show
      that they took place in 1946.

      [27] Two letters from the Chris D. Mensalvas Papers, Accession #2361-
      1, University of Washington Special Collections.

      [28] Rojo, p. 13.

      [29] See UW Special Collections, CWFLU Local 7, Acc #3927, Box 21,
      Folder 80.

      [30] Rojo, p. 11.

      [31] University of Washington Libraries Manuscripts and University
      Archives Division, Inventory: Cannery Workers' and Farm Laborers'
      Union, Local 7, Accession #3927, Seattle, WA, 1989.

      [32] University of Washington Libraries Manuscripts and University
      Archives Division, Inventory: Cannery Workers' and Farm Laborers'
      Union, Local 7, Accession #3927, Seattle, WA, 1989.

      [33] Valdez, 12.

      [34] Membership Meetings, Box 4, Folder 4.

      [35] Membership Meetings, Box 4, Folder 7.

      [36] Juana Mana'o (de Mangaoang), Seattle: the McCarthy Era: the
      Chronology, 12 June 1999, http://www.capriotti.com/lawprof/ (Accessed
      17 November 2004).

      [37] Mana'o.

      [38] Ernesto Mangaoang folder, FANHS, Seattle, WA.

      [39] The 1952 yearbook can be found both in the Chris Mensalvas
      Papers (Box 1, Folder 14) of the Special Collections division of the
      University of Washington Libraries and at FANHS.

      [40] Executive Board Meetings, Box 4, Folder 8.

      [41] See Chris D. Mensalvas Papers, UW Special Collections, Accession
      #2361-1, Box 1, Folder 10.

      [42] See Chris D. Mensalvas Papers, Box 1, Folder 3.

      [43] Chris Mensalvas, Local 7-C ILWU Newsletter, 7 August 1951, UW
      Special Collections, CWFLU Local 7, Acc #3927, Box 24, Folder 41.

      [44] Executive Board Meetings, 26 February 1953, Box 4, Folder 8.

      [45] See Bulosan.org, The Reform Movement of Local 37: The Work of
      Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes,

      [46] Executive Board Meeting, 7 August 1953, Box 4, Folder 8.

      [47] Executive Board Meeting, 5 November 1953, Box 4, Folder 8.

      [48] Membership Meeting, 24 February 1954, Box 5, Folder 14.

      [49] Executive Board Meeting, 27 April 1954, Box 4, Folder 9.

      [50] Membership Meeting, 28 April, 1954, Box 5, Folder 14.

      [51] Membership Meeting, 30 June, 1954, Box 5, Folder 14.

      [52] Membership Meeting, 5 January 1955, Box 5, Folder 15.

      [53] Executive Board Meeting, 21 July 1954, Box 4, Folder 9.

      [54] Membership Meeting, 9 February 1955, Box 5, Folder 15.

      [55] Executive Board Meeting, 2 March 1955, Box 4, Folder 10.

      [56] Executive Board Meeting, 11 December 1956, Box 4, Folder 10.

      [57] 52 Wn.2d 656, John Caughlan, Respondent, v. International
      Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, Local No. 37-C, Appellant,
      Supreme Court, July 31, 1958.

      [58] Membership Meeting, 17 May 1955, Box 5, Folder 15.

      [59] Chris D. Mensalvas and Jesse Yambao, p. 57-58.

      [60] For a fascinating reflection of the next generation of young
      cannery labor activists in the 1970s, see Gene Viernes'
      article "Chris Mensalvas: daring to dream" in the May 1978 issue of
      the International Examiner, p. 6, available in UW Special
      Collections, #3927, Box 36, Folder 17.
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