Even the success of the staged Marcos trial, building solidarity for the Philippine revolution in the ILWU Local 37 and the Seattle community was going to be difficult. Tony Buruso, the ILWU Local 37 president during the time of the murders of Domingo and Viernes was an adamant supporter Marcos regime, as was the president that Buruso replaced in 1975, Gene Navarro.24 However, what united cannery workers to the Philippine Revolution was the struggle for a working class justice. At the center the of the KDP‘s solidarity work done with the ILWU Local 37 was building connections between exploited cannery workers in Alaska and how Marcos‘ martial law regime exploited the working people of the Philippines.
Injustice in the Philippines The exploitation of the Philippine working class during the Marcos regime can be seen from the context of how US imperial history in the Philippines manifested into a new form of imperialism. This imperialism created a relationship where the US government monetarily supported the Marcos regime in return for the Philippines‘ support of US business and military interests. In a time of Cold War politics, Marcos, as a voracious anti-communist, was tolerable to the US as an ally.
However, the support of dictators that were voraciously anti-communist needs to be seen outside of a solely political framework. Supporting dictatorship served the purpose of making sure third world countries participated in the global system of free-market capitalism. In the system of free-market capitalism, markets would go to highest bidder. In E. San Juan‘s book Crisis in the Philippines: The Making of a Revolution, San Juan described how the Marcos regime functioned as a political force that sought to ensure the Philippines stayed integrated in free-market capitalism. ―One of the first institutions to proclaim zealous support of Schwartz, Kraig. (2003). The Civil Rights Revolution, Political Empowerment and Murder: Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes and the Remaking of the Cannery Workers Union. Pacific Northwest Labor History Conference. Eugene, Oregon.
Fighting for Transnational Justice the Marcos regime, after the US Chamber of Commerce and the US Ambassador, was the World Bank (WB) which, from 1972 to the Aquino assassination in 1983, provided Marcos with $3.5 billion in aid.‖25 San Juan goes on to say, ―The WB-IMF scheme of export-oriented industrialization based on intensified exploitation of labor and periodic devaluation of currency has tightly integrated the Philippines into the capitalist world economy by forcing the investments, and export markets beyond its control.‖26 It is through the WB‘s and IMF‘s investments, Rosario Torres-Yu comments in her book Welgang Bayan: Empowering Labor Unions Against Poverty and Repression, which are ―deceptively called development funds,‖ that the Philippine national economy was directed toward a free-market open to any transnational corporation.27 KDP members participated in the production of a study that looked specifically at how the WB and the IMF functioned in the Philippines, Development Debacle: The World Bank in the Philippines.
In Development Debacle the authors, Walden Bello, David Kinley, and concluded that ―Marcos‘ export-oriented Elaine Elinson, industrialization, by gearing production to the markets of advanced industrialization and repressing the masses, has led to the severe impoverishment of workers, the massive deficits in the balance of payments ($3.3 billion by 1983) and a phenomenal $27 billion debt (a conservative estimate; up from $2.1 billion in 1970).‖28 Bello went on to describe the deteriorating conditions of workers through the WB‘s on statistics.
Between 1972 and 1978 the wages of skilled workers declined by close to 25% and those of unskilled workers by over 30%. Meanwhile, the productivity of labor rose by 13%. The number of rural families living below the poverty line increased from 48% in 1971 to 55% in
1975. And according to the government itself, the San Juan, Jr. E. (1986). Crisis in the Philippines: The Making of a Revolution. Massaschusetts: Bergin and Garvey.
Torres-Yu, Rosario. (2003). Welgang Bayan: Empowering Labor Unions Against Poverty and Repression. Manila: De La Salle University.
Bello, Walden, et al. (1982). Development Debacle: The World Bank in the Philippines. San Francisco: Institute for Food and Development Policy and Philippine Solidarity Network.MCNAIR SCHOLARS JOURNAL
income of rice farmers declined by an astonishing 53% between 1976 and 1979 alone.29
It is in these statistics that exemplify working class oppression that KDP member used to tie cannery workers and workers in the Philippines, such as the rice farmers that Bello described. In addition to poverty and wages decreasing, martial law stripped workers of the right to strike.
Through the rhetoric of the right of every worker to organize and fight for a livable wage, KDP members sought to build connections between ILWU and an anti-Marcos trade union coalition, the Kilusang Mayo Uno [May First Movement] (KMU). 30 Returning to a Tradition of International Solidarity As KDP members in Seattle thought of ways to practice solidarity for the National Democratic movement, they knew the ILWU Local 37 was the place to center their efforts. The ILWU had a long history of international solidarity. The ILWU was the first union in the United States to oppose the system of apartheid in South African in
1948. Similarly, the ILWU joined an international boycott of cargo bound to the US supported dictatorship of Pinochet in Chile.31 KDP members within the ILWU Local 37 understood their union‘s history of international solidarity and knew pushing a movement for solidarity with the revolutionary movement in the Philippines within the ILWU was a necessary site of their struggle.
It is with the history of the ILWU in mind KDP members pushed the passage of a resolution at the 1981 ILWU convention in Hawaii condemning the Marcos Dictatorship for its abuses of workers‘ rights.
Domingo introduced the resolution by explaining how the Marcos regime‘s police and military force crushed strikes. Also, outspoken labor leaders were jailed without chance of parole. During the debate over the Ibid.
Taylor, Turning to the Working Class: The New Left, Black Liberation, and the U.S. Labor Movement, pp. 228.
Taylor discussed a trip made my Gene Viernes to the Philippines where he meet leaders of the KMU to both gage the condition of workers rights in the Philippines as well as how the ILWU could support the KMU.
ILWU Local 19. (2008). ILWU Story: International Solidarity.
Retrived April 10, 2008 from ILWU Local 19.
http://www.ilwu19.com/history/the_ilwu_story/international_solidarity.h tm Fighting for Transnational Justice resolution Viernes stepped up to the podium and reminded the delegation of the ILWU‘s historical links to ―liberation movements and progressive trade unionism in the Philippines.‖32 Viernes also discussed a recent meeting he had with KMU leaders and explained how they ―expressed the need for international support‖ and a ―call for solidarity.‖ The resolution passed unanimously and resolved that, That the ILWU object to and will actively take measures to protest restrictive decrees and repressive policies of the Marcos government against Filipino workers which continue to this day. Also, that the ILWU continue to promote active interest in the general developments in the Philippines and their effects on the welfare of working people through increased coverage in the DISPATCHER newspaper, conducting educational programs, and fostering relations with groups which work for industrial democracy, freedom of trade union rights, freedom for the Filipino people.33 The passage of this resolution encompassed the legacy of the KDP and their role in the ILWU Local 37. By passing this resolution we can see the transnational vision of justice that the KDP had in mind when they formed in 1973 starting to materialize. However as quickly as their victory in the ILWU convention came, they suffered a tragic loss. Two month after the passage of this resolution both Domingo and Viernes were killed in their own union hall in Seattle.
Understanding the Murders Locally and Internationally To understand what the murders of Domingo and Viernes meant, we need to understand whom their organizing work threatened. In examining the work the KDP did for workers in the canneries, their work attacked the conservative union leadership in the canneries. A year before the murders of Domingo and Viernes, KDP members won eleven of the seventeen positions in the local 37 elections, with Domingo winning secretary treasurer and Viernes winning Dispatcher. The dispatcher position was particularly important because the dispatcher is ―responsible for the placement of union members to employment in Taylor, Turning to the Working Class: The New Left, Black Liberation, and the U.S. Labor Movement, pp. 229 Committee For Justice For Domingo and Viernes, Resolution #21 on the Philippines. Call for Justice, pp. 5.
MCNAIR SCHOLARS JOURNAL
Alaskan canneries.‖34 Viernes‘s victory meant ―The old system of jobselling, favoritism, and privilege was being challenged by a rank and file movement which demanded fairness based on trade union principles, accountability of leadership to membership, and an end to corruption.‖35 In looking at the resolution KDP members were able to pass at the 1981 ILWU convention, we see a US labor union condemn the Marcos regime and build connections with an anti-Marcos labor union in the Philippines, the May First Movement (KMU). At the time of the resolution the KMU had a combined membership of 500,000. The KMU not only worked for the rights of its members, but they called for the overthrow of Marcos dictatorship.36 Viernes, before the ILWU convention, made a trip to the Philippines and meet with leaders of the KMU. ―Together they worked out a plan for the KMU to host a delegation from the ILWU to investigate the conditions of Filipino workers.‖37 The linking of the KMU with the ILWU made Domingo and Viernes targets of the Marcos dictatorship.
To Die for Transnational Justice When the ILWU Local 142 held their memorial for Domingo and Viernes, they opened with a song named ―Walan Sinuman[g].‖ The first stanza of the song read, ―Nobody lives for oneself alone, nobody dies for oneself alone.‖38 In thinking about Domingo and Viernes, the opening stanza of ―Walan Sinuman[g]‖ embodied what their lives and murders symbolize, a selfless commitment to transnational justice. The activism of Domingo and Viernes, and all the other members of the KDP within the ILWU Local 37 demonstrated that part of genuine solidarity is the ability to look outside one‘s own conditions of oppression and find similarities with others. It would have been easy for those in the ILWU Local 37 to focus solely on the corruption that existed in the Alaskan canneries, and no one would have blamed them. However, by forging the corruption that existed in Alaska with the corruption that plagued the Philippines under the Marcos regime, KDP members internationalized a standard for justice. This standard for justice knew no national or racial Cruz, Rene. (1980, October 16-31). Reform Movement Sweep Key Position. Ang Katipunan, pp.8.
Cruz, Rene. (1981). Anti-Marcos Labor Activists Murdered: Marcos Linked to Seattle Slayings. Ang Katipunan, pp.4.
ILWU Local 142, Memorial Service For Gene Viernes and Silme Domingo.
Fighting for Transnational Justice barriers. When the ILWU made a commitment, through the resolution that was passed in Hawaii, to ―actively take measures to protest restrictive decrees and repressive policies of the Marcos government,‖ the ILWU committed themselves to seeing the type of justice they worked for in the US happen in the Philippines. By setting an international standard for justice they recognized when injustice happens on an international level then resistance needs to happen on an international level.
Works Cited ACWA. (1973). Proposal for the Alaska Cannery Workers Association (ACWA). Seattle, WA.
ACWA. (1973). Silme Domingo and Michael Woo‘s Investigation of Working Conditions in Alaska. ACWA. Seattle, WA.
Brown, Lloyd L. (1952). Stand Up for Freedom. Bulosan, Carlos (Ed.), 1952 Yearbook of the ILWU Local 37 (pp. 28). Seattle, WA.
Churchill, Thomas. (1995). Triumph Over Marcos. Seattle: Open Hand.
Committee For Justice For Domingo and Viernes. (1985). Resolution #21 on the Philippines. Call for Justice, pp. 5.
Cruz, Rene. (1981). Anti-Marcos Labor Activists Murdered: Marcos Linked to Seattle Slayings. Ang Katipunan, pp.4.
Cruz, Rene. (1980, October 16-31). Reform Movement Sweep Key Position. Ang Katipunan, pp.8.
Cruz, Rene. (1983, September). The KDP Story: The First Ten Years.
Ang Katipunan, pp. 1.
Ellison, Micah. (2005). The Local 7/ Local 37 Story: Filipino American Cannery
Unionism in Seattle 1940-1959. Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project.
Web site: http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/local_7.htm Fresco, Crystal Fresco. (1999). Cannery Workers‘ and Farm Laborer‘s Union: Their Strength in Unity. Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project.
http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/cwflu.htm Hernandez, Amado. (1952). Wall St. Chains the Philippines. Bulosan, Carlos (Ed.), 1952 Yearbook of the ILWU Local 37 (pp. 29). Seattle, WA.
ILWU Local 37. (1951). Constitution and By Laws of the Local 37, International Longshoremen and Warehousemen‘s Union. Seattle, WA.
ILWU Local 37. (1952). Terrorism Rides the Philippines. Bulosan, Carlos (Ed.), 1952 Yearbook of the ILWU Local 37 (pp. 27). Seattle, WA.
ILWU Local 142. (1981). Memorial Service For Gene Viernes and Silme Domingo.
Katipunan ng mga Demokratikong Pilipino (KDP) Propaganda Commission. (1973). The Political Program of the Katipunan ng mga Demokratikong Pilipino.
KDP. (1975). Summation of the 2 Years Experience KDP National Council Report.
Laranang, Julia. (1977, November). The Conviction of Ferdinand Marcos for Human Rights Violations. The International Examiner, pp. 6.
San Juan, Jr. E. (1986). Crisis in the Philippines: The Making of a Revolution.
Massaschusetts: Bergin and Garvey.
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Remembering Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes: The Legacy of Filipino American Labor Activism. By Ron Chew. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2012. 150 pp. Softbound, $17.95.
On June 1, 1981, two officers of Local 37 of the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU) were killed by gunmen in the local’s Seattle headquarters. Secretary-Treasurer Silme Domingo and Dispatcher Gene Viernes headed a reform slate that had recently won all of the local’s offices except president. Local 37’s membership consisted predominantly of Filipino American Alaskeros, who traveled to Alaska each summer to work arduous salmon processing and canning jobs. Themselves Alaskeros, Domingo and Viernes, like the reformers they represented, were critics of Ferdinand Marcos, the ruthless dictator of the Philippines. The reformers also strongly opposed the corrupt practices of Local 37 President Tony Baruso, a Marcos supporter who engaged members of the Tulisans, a Seattle gang, to murder Domingo and Viernes. Relying partly on oral history, the book reviewed here focuses on this tragedy and its long-term repercussions.
The two slain reformers, both 29, and their mostly young colleagues were children of the idealism and political activism of the 1960s and 1970s. They objected to racial discrimination in the segregated Alaskan canning industry, where the best jobs and company-provided food and housing went to white workers, while the Alaskeros labored long hours in unsafe jobs, ate meager fare, and lived in squalid conditions. The reformers brought class action suits against the canners in the 1970s with mixed results. Particularly galling to the reformers were the corrupt practices of Baruso and his associates, who demanded payments from workers for Alaska jobs and ran a gambling racket that targeted Alaskeros. Employing the threat of force, the Tulisans controlled cannery gambling and took much of the winnings.
Since its 1930s West Coast founding, the ILWU has traditionally opposed corruption and discrimination. Its reputation for championing civil rights, social justice, union democracy, and clean governance is legendary. However, on rare occasions the union’s commitment to local autonomy has worked against this legacy. That is partly why Baruso could seize control of Local 37. When the young [End Page 219] reformers became active in the 1970s, many older Alaskeros remained reluctant to directly challenge Baruso, who at least provided jobs. Acknowledging this, the reformers did not run anyone against Baruso in the 1980 elections when they swept the other local offices. Terri Mast, Silme Domingo’s partner, an experienced Alaska worker and a reformer, later called this a mistake.
The killings emotionally devastated the reformers. Mast was left with two young daughters to raise alone. With Baruso and the Tulisans at large, danger threatened. But the reformers rallied. Mast, who had won election to the local executive board in 1980, courageously confronted Baruso in public shortly after the murders. When she also revealed that Baruso had submitted forged ballots in another ILWU election, Baruso was recalled from office in late 1981. Mast was elected local vice-president and then president. Meanwhile, she and the reformers installed a corruption-free job-dispatching system and completely cleaned up the local.
The reformers also formed a Committee for Justice for Domingo and Viernes. They sponsored a series of investigations and legal battles that led to the conviction for murder of Baruso and the guilty Tulisans. When it was revealed, too, that the Marcos regime had been complicit in the murder conspiracy, a successful wrongful death civil suit was brought against Marcos. In 1987, Local 37 merged with the Inland Boatmen’s Union (IBU), an ILWU affiliate. Mast became regional director of the new IBU Region 37. In 1993 she was elected IBU national secretary-treasurer, a position she still holds. Richard Gurtiza, another 1970s reformer, assumed her old post. A third original reformer, John Foz, has also held important IBU offices.
What seems remarkable about this story is the degree to which the reformers and their families have persevered together. Ron Chew, the author of the volume under review, was one of the reformers himself. His volume consists of three parts. The first is a valuable fifty-three page history of the Alaska salmon canning industry.
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$5,500 scholarship for students entering or transferring into the University of Washington
The Domingo-Viernes Scholarship annually provides $5,500 in financial support to undergraduate students entering or transferring into the University of Washington who are committed to the principles of justice and equality and have demonstrated financial need. It is also available to University of Washington graduate students.
Founded through the efforts of the Inlandboatmen's Union, Region 37, this scholarship honors Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes, two inspiring leaders of the Seattle labor movement. Gene grew up on a farm in the Yakima Valley and began working in the Alaska salmon canneries at the young age of 16. Gene was a state wrestling champion and attended Central Washington State College on a full ride athletic scholarship. Silme graduated with honors from the University of Washington and went on to found the Seattle chapter of the Union of Democratic Filipinos. Together, they formed the Alaska Cannery Workers' Association and fought the brutal working conditions and racist management of the industry.
Despite opposition from all sides, Gene and Silme founded the Rank and File Committee in 1977 to struggle for union democracy and fair working conditions. They were elected to the leadership of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 37 in 1980, and worked hard to build links and solidarity with the people of the Philippines. Tragically, both were murdered on June 1, 1981. Corrupt former Local 37 President Tony Baruso and Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos were later implicated in the assassination. Their memory lives on as inspiration to workers and students striving for justice.
Scholarship winners must demonstrate high academic achievement and be enrolled for Autumn Quarter of the upcoming academic year. Students also must demonstrate financial need according to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to qualify.
Those who do not meet FAFSA requirement are highly encouraged to consider other scholarships offered by the Bridges Center. More information is available by clicking here .Eligibility
Undergraduate students entering or transferring into the University of Washington who are committed to the principles of justice and equality and have demonstrated financial need. It is also available to University of Washington graduate students.
Scholarship winners must demonstrate high academic achievement and be enrolled for Autumn Quarter of the upcoming academic year. Students also must demonstrate financial need according to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to qualify. Low-income, non-citizen students unable to file a FAFSA due to immigration status may instead complete the free Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WASFA) .
Those who do not meet FAFSA or WASFA requirements are highly encouraged to consider other scholarships offered by the Bridges Center. More information is available by clicking here .
To apply, a student should verify that they have financial need according to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) (or WASFA. if applicable) and prepare the following materials:
Please note in your application if you have applied to the University of Washington but have not yet received notice from the Admissions Office. If this is the case, you are eligible for the scholarship, but the award will be contingent on your admittance to the UW.Contact Information
Andrew Hedden, Program Coordinator
Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies
University of Washington