William O. Douglas Betty Bowen Carl Maxey Chief Joseph Bertha Landes Buffalo Soldier Home
Search Encyclopedia
Advanced Search
Featured Essay
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search
7100 HistoryLink.org essays now available      
Donation system not supported by Safari     Donate Subscribe


Cyberpedias Cyberpedias
Timeline Essays Timeline Essays
People's Histories People's Histories

Selected Collections
Cities & Towns Cities & Towns
County Thumbnails Counties
Biographies Biographies
Interactive Cybertours Interactive Cybertours
Slide Shows Slideshows
Public Ports Public Ports
Audio & Video Audio & Video

Research Shortcuts

Map Searches
Alphabetical Search
Timeline Date Search
Topic Search


Book of the Fortnight
Audio/Video Enhanced
History Bookshelf
Klondike Gold Rush Database
Duvall Newspaper Index
Wellington Scrapbook

More History

Washington FAQs
Washington Milestones
Honor Rolls
Columbia Basin
Walla Walla
Roads & Rails

Cyberpedia Library

< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Filipino Cannery Workers

HistoryLink.org Essay 411 : Printer-Friendly Format

As early as the 1920s, Filipinos from Seattle were contracted to work in Alaskan canneries. These canneries offered summer work for students to pay for their studies. In 1930, more than 4,000 "Alaskeros" worked in the canneries.

Labor unions organized for cannery workers centered many of their activities in Seattle. In 1933, the Cannery Workers and Farm Laborers Union Local 18257 became the first Filipino-dominated cannery workers organization.

No Respect

Many abuses occurred. Contractors who hired workers for the canneries sometimes forced Alaskeros to provide a bribe in exchange for employment. The contractors sometimes organized and controlled gambling in order to get more money from workers. Cannery workers also lived in often crowded, segregated, substandard housing while on the job.

Union organizers fought against these practices and contractors fought back. In 1936, contractors had Virgil Duyungan, union local president, and Aurelio Simon, local secretary, assassinated outside a Japanese restaurant in Seattle. Before dying, Duyungan managed to shoot his assailant, killing him.

Since the assassination, the union has continued to have a turbulent history and various affiliations. In 1949, union officers of Local 7 were arrested as "communists." Under U.S. law, communists were subject to deportation. Appealing their case, they resisted deportation on the grounds that they had entered the United States as "nationals" not "aliens" before the status of Filipinos was changed in 1934. The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled in favor of the labor officers.

Reformers Slain

In 1981, Local 37 officers Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes were gunned down outside the union offices in downtown Seattle. They had been trying to reform the corrupt system of dispatching workers to Alaska canneries.

Four men involved in the murders were sentenced to life in prison. The Committee for Justice for Domingo and Viernes also charged that Ferdinand Marcos, then leader of the government of the Philippines, paid for the murders due to the victims' anti-Marcos activities.

Peter Bacho, Alaskeros: A Documentary Exhibit on Pioneer Filipino Cannery Workers (Seattle: IBU/ILWU Region 37, 1988); Fred Cordova, Filipinos: Forgotten Asian Americans: A Pictorial Essay 1763-circa 1963 (Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt, 1983); Nancy Ordona Koslosky and Julia Laranang "Filipino Migrant Labor: to the Farms, and to the Canneries," International Examiner (Seattle), November 1976, p. 4; Gene Viernes, "It's the Alaskeros Waiting for Dispatch to the Canneries," International Examiner (Seattle), February 1977, p. 1.

< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Related Topics: Maritime | Labor | Asian & Pacific Islander Americans |

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You

Cannery workers union members, Seattle, 1936
Courtesy WSU Press

Silme Domingo (1952-1981)
Courtesy Historic Eastern Hotel, Seattle

Gene Viernes (1951-1981)
Courtesy Historic Eastern Hotel, Seattle

Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search

HistoryLink.org is the first online encyclopedia of local and state history created expressly for the Internet. (SM)
HistoryLink.org is a free public and educational resource produced by History Ink, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt corporation.
Contact us by phone at 206.447.8140, by mail at Historylink, 1411 4th Ave. Suite 803, Seattle WA 98101 or email admin@historylink.org

Untitled Document