Scope and Content
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Founded in 1933 as the Cannery Workers and Farm Laborers Union, Local 18257 of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), it represented Alaska salmon cannery workers and farm workers. In 1937, the union became Cannery Workers and Farm Laborers Union, Local 7 of the United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing, and Allied Workers of America of the Congress of Industrial Organziations (CIO). In 1945, Local 7 became affiliated with the Food, Tobacco, and Agricultural Workers of America (CIO). In 1951 the union became Local 37 of International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, and ca. 1987 it became Region 37 of IBU/ILWU. The membership historically was Filipino American cannery workers.
The Cannery Workers' and Farm Laborers' Union was organized June 19, 1933 in Seattle to represent the primarily Filipino-American laborers who worked in the Alaska salmon canneries. Filipino Alaskeros first appeared in the canneries around 1911. In the 1920s as exclusionary immigration laws went into effect, they replaced the Japanese, who had replaced the Chinese in the canneries. Workers were recruited through labor contractors who were paid to provide a work crew for the summer canning season. The contractor paid workers wages and other expenses. This system led to many abuses and harsh working conditions from which grew the movement toward unionization.
The CWFLU, under the leadership of its first President, Virgil Duyungan, was chartered as Local 19257 by the American Federation of Labor in 1933. On December 1, 1936 an agent of a labor contractor murdered Duyungan and Secretary Aurelio Simon. Despite this setback, the union was able to win a hiring hall and end the contract labor system in 1937. After Duyungan's death, Conrad Espe, A Norwegian-American labor organizer, took the leading role in the union. Under the leadership of Duyungan and Espe, the CWFLU made numerous attempts to organize farm workers during the winter months. Farm Division organizers attempted to organize workers in Yakima, Kent, Everett, Bainbridge Island and the White River area, but were often met with harsh opposition from local officials and vigilantes.
Local 18257 came into conflict with the AFL, in 1937 when the parent body, attempting to separate the union along racial lines, recognized a Japanese local organized by Clarence Arai. Local 18257 successfully retained negotiation rights and dispatched its workers in 1937 despite pickets set up by the rival group. Bitterness toward the AFL resulted from the incidents and led to a November 4 vote by the Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco locals to affiliate with the newly formed United Cannery, Agricultural, Packinghouse and Allied Workers of America-CIO (UCAPAWA). In Seattle, Local 18257 became UCAPAWA, Local 7and in San Francisco and Portland Cannery Workers unions also joined UCAPAWA Opponents of reaffiliation, led by John Ayamo and called the "defeated candidates party," received the old 18257 charter and challenged Local 7 for the right to represent cannery workers. On May 4, 1938 the issue was settled in Local 7's favor in a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) supervised election. The industry representative, Canned Salmon Industry Inc., subsequently recognized the victorious union. Ayamo later formed another AFL union, the Alaska Fish Cannery Workers, under the jurisdiction of the Seafarers International Union. In 1937 also, the CWFLU merged with a rival, the Filipino Protective Association. I.R. Cabatit was president of the union during the period of rivalry with the AFL. When he was succeeded by Trinidad Rojo in 1939, the CWFLU, Local 7 was on the verge of bankruptcy. It was discovered that officers had been selling membership cards, misappropriating funds and neglecting their duties. Rojo cut expenses and returned the union to a sound financial footing.
The years of World War II depleted the union's ranks and brought government-imposed emergency controls, including a ban on strikes and a wage freeze. Although union members returned after the war, the union entered one of its most turbulent decades, one marked by internal struggle and external pressure.
The canning industry trend since the 1930s had been to move company headquarters to Seattle in order to cut down on transportation costs to Alaska. In response, Local 5 of San Francisco and Local 226 of Portland merged with Local 7 in 1943. In the same period, the industry also consolidated into a permanent organization, the Alaska Salmon Industry Inc., which functioned as principal party in contract negotiations.
During the war, the Caballeros de Dimas Alang, a Filipino fraternal organization, emerged as a powerful faction that came to control many positions within the union. Corruption and neglect in the union led disgruntled members to found the Rank and File Committee in 1946. The tension in the union erupted into conflict on February 9, 1947 when union Vice President, Max Gonzales, pulled a gun and shot at, but missed, one of the reformers, Matias Lagunilla. This incident precipitated an investigation by the new International, the Food, Tobacco, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union of America, which had succeeded UCAPAWA earlier that year. The international expelled Gonzales, suspended the other officers and set up an administrative board with Trinidad Rojo as administrative President. The ousted officers formed the Seafood Workers Union and launched a membership drive. The SFWU attempted unsuccessfully to use the courts to dissolve Local 7 and to take over its funds. In 1948, however, after the NLRB declared it to be a company union, the SFWU merged with the Alaska Fish Cannery Workers Union (AFL), a holdover from the dual union battle of 1938, and petitioned the NLRB for representation elections. The NLRB denied representation to Local 7, ruling that the FTA International had not filed non-Communist affidavits, and set an election for April 1949. The campaign was bitter, with Local 7 accused of being a Communist union by the opposition. Before the election, U.S. Immigration officials arrested Local 7's business agent, Ernesto Mangaoang and charged him with being a Communist. Chris Mensalvas, elected to the presidency of Local 7 in 1949, was also arrested. After the CIO, fearing charges of Communism, expelled the FTA International, some Local 7 officers resigned and disassociated themselves from the union. In 1950 a group of these officers, "defeated candidates", and other cannery workers joined to form another union, ostensibly "red-free" Local 77, UPAWA-CIO, with Vincent Navea as its president. Meanwhile, in 1950, Local 7 affiliated with the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU) and became Local 7-C. In a NLRB representation election in 1950, Local 7-C finally won collective bargaining rights, defeating Local 77 and the AFCWU. In 1951 the union signed a four-year closed shop contract with the canning industry. Local 7-C subsequently became ILWU, Local 37 .
Charges of Communist infiltration continued to haunt Local 37 in the 1950s and Ernesto Mangaoang barely escaped deportation. From the late 1950s to 1977, Local 37 was led by President Gene Navarro. Navarro ran the union on the "compadre" system, a cultural system of personal obligations, allegiances and favors. During the 1970s the cannery work force experienced an influx of new laborers - recently arrived Filipino immigrants, young FilipinoAmericans and non-Filipino men and women. The new and younger workers were dissatisfied with work conditions and lack of support by the Navarro leadership. As a result, some members including Silme and Nemesio Domingo and Gene Viernes, formed a new organization outside the union: the Alaska Cannery Workers Association (ACWA). Their purpose was to pursue their grievances through legal channels. In 1974, numerous candidates who belonged to ACWA confronted the union after failing to win election and were expelled. After Gene Navarro died in 1976 and was replaced by Tony Baruso, the young reform workers regained their membership. Upon their return, they formed the Rank and File Committee of Local 37. In the 1978 elections, they won 9 positions on the Executive Council, and subsequently won delegate positions and posts on the grievance committee. In 1979, reform forces succeeded in the recall of SecretaryTreasurer Ponce Torres. In the fall of 1980, the reform group gained control of the union with Silme Domingo winning the post of Secretary-Treasurer and Gene Viernes the job of dispatcher. On June 1, 1981, Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes were shot and killed in the union hall. Two young Filipinos, Pompeyo Benito Guloy and Jimmy Bulosan Ramil, were subsequently convicted of the crime. Local 37 president, Tony Baruso was also a suspect in the crime, and was eventually charged, tried, and, in 1991, convicted of planning the murders. Before Baruso's arrest, an internal union investigation looked into his involvement in the crime and also into charges of election fraud. The Rank and File Committee led a successful campaign to oust Baruso after he was found guilty of election fraud. In 1982, the union overwhelmingly elected a reform slate of candidates, including Terri Mast, widow of Silme Domingo, as President. In the 1980s, the union changed its name again to IBU/ILWU, Region 37 reflecting a merger of the Longshoremen's Union with the Inlandboatmen's Union of the Pacific.
For additional historical background on the Cannery Workers Union, see a series of articles by Gene Viernes in the International Examiner in 1977.
Scope and Content
The bulk of the local's records are dated 1933 to 1982 and measure 46.3 cubic feet. Of this volume, 31.3 cubic feet have been processed. Membership, dispatching and financial records measuring 15 cubic feet are unprocessed.
The local's entire history through 1981 is documented well, but to varying extents, by minutes, correspondence, case files, court papers and other record series. The files of Local 7 (Parts III and IV) are the most extensive portions of the papers.. The earliest years of the union are better documented than the period of Local 37, the longest era. Little correspondence ofLocal37's presidents or other leader is present. Records for the 1960's and 1970's are especially sparse.
Contrary to expectations, no records of Local 5 and 226 in San Francisco and Portland were found. These locals were ordered to send their records to Seattle when they were amalgamated with Local 7 in 1943. Local 7's records do include numerous copies of minutes and correspondence of these locals, which were sent to Seattle from time to time and also extensive files of correspondence with other locals.
Major personal correspondents include: Tony Baruso, Ireneo Cabatit, Virgil Duyungan, A.E. Harding, Donald Henderson, Chris D. Mensalvas, Prudencio P. Mori, Vincente Navea, Gene Navarro, Frank T. Patterson, Trinidad A. Rojo, Victorio A. Velasco, and Gene Viernes. Major corporate correspondents include Maritime Federation of the Pacific Coast, Washington Commonwealth Federation, Pacific Coast Fisheries Organization and Coordinating Committee, Washington Industrial Union Council, Seattle Industrial Union Council, Alaska Cannery Workers Association, Alaska Salmon Industry Inc., New England Fish Company, Pacific American Fisheries, United Cannery Agricultural, Packinghouse and Allied Workers of America, Food Tobacco, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union of America, Nakat Packing Corporation, International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, Alaska Council.
The records of the Cannery Union were in poor order when transferred to the Libraries from the union's former hall. There was no consistent filing system through the years and much was unfiled. The records had been stored in the open and had accumulated much dust. What file headings existed have been incorporated into the current arrangement. The accession was divided into segments corresponding to the union's various names and affiliations in order to expedite processing of the records. Certain series, such as minutes, were excepted from this division and were instead kept together in a single sequence (Part I). Membership, financial, and dispatching records have been separated, placed last on the inventory, but not processed.
In their original state, most of the files could not be identified as those of a single officer. They included records primarily of the union's secretary, in mixture with correspondence of the president, other officers and other records. There were, however, some segments, which were distinct files accumulated by a single individual. These papers have been kept intact as subgroups within the appropriate chronological division. In Part IV, for instance, there are subgroups for the Regional Director/International Organizers Robert Kinney and Wendal Phillips and the Oregon State Director/International Organizer, Frank T. Patterson. These men were not elected officials but worked for the union. The papers in their subgroups were separately and uniformly labeled files.
Several cartons of papers received from the union labeled, "Gene's Research" were papers generated or collected by Gene Viernes. Those which were original records of the union, pre dating Viernes' involvement, were re-integrated into the main body of the records in the appropriate section. The remaining papers in the Viernes subgroup consist of papers collected or copied by Viernes in his research on the history of the union and papers generated or accumulated by Viernes as an active member of the union. The photocopied union records in Viernes' subgroup may be duplicates of records elsewhere in the accession.
A small subgroup was created for papers of Victoria Velasco which were found in various places throughout the records. These papers primarily reflect Velasco's involvement with other unions and a small amount related to non-union activities. A more substantial amount of Velasco's papers was given to the Libraries by his widow in 1970 and accessioned as Victoria Velasco ace. Acc. # 1435-003.
Subgroups were created within each part for the union's committees and other organizational units. Another group of subgroups consists of records reflecting the union's participation in various external organizations, such as the Maritime Federation of the Pacific, various CIO bodies, and Filipino organizations.
Within each part of the records, a filing system was devised for the union's correspondence. First, a division was made between correspondence within the union and external correspondence. Internal correspondence was divided between members correspondence (usually separate in the original order), correspondence among officers, correspondence with branches, delegates and the parent international. Member's correspondence is arranged by year, all other correspondence is arranged alphabetically The outgoing letters series consists of flyers and other mailings sent mainly to members.
Subject Series are files with the original subject headings. The elections series includes ballots, correspondence, ephemera, tallies and related material. They are arranged by year. The negotiations, contracts and agreements series are also arranged by year. Although the minutes of the union were consolidated in Part I, minutes of other organizations are found in other parts of the arrangement.
Restrictions on Use
Creator's literary rights transferred to the University of Washington Libraries.
Restrictions on Access
Open to all users.
Photographs were removed from collection and became Special Collections Photograph Collection 1044.
Donated by Region 37 IBU/ILWU, 12/1/1987.
Other Finding Aids
Cordova, Fred. Filipinos: Forgotten Asian Americans, A Pictorial Essay/1763-circa-1963. United States of America: Demonstration Project for Asian Americans, 1983.
Filipino Cannery Unionism Across Three Generations 1930s-1980s, Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project <http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/Cannery_intro.htm>
Friday, Chris. Organizing Asian American Labor: The Pacific Coast Canned-Salmon Industry, 1870-1942. Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1994.
|Last modified: February 27, 2013|