A Season to Vote

API Voters.Wooedbyparties.2016
API Voters Remain a Major Swing Vote in the Upcoming Election



“The Asian-American voter pool is remarkably diverse, ranging from Pakistanis and Indians to Chinese and Koreans.” That is the ethnic breakdown in the state of Virginia in an article from the Wall Street Journal. In Washington State we would add the populations from the Pacific Islands as well. This means the diversity of the Asian and Pacific American voting public is as varied as any other groups. Outreach by both major political parties will need to contend with this diversity. To the list we can confidently add: Vietnamese, Cambodian, Lao, Japanese, Thai, Sri Lankan, Filipino, Hawaiian, Fijian, Maori, Samoan, Tongan and a dozen other ethnicities.

The reality for political campaigns is that there is an assumption that if you reach one of these groups, you’ve reached them all. I very clear terms, that simply is not the effect.

In 2012, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans were a major factor in the elections; some have argued that we collectively were the most significant swing vote in that national and state-level elections.

Yet in the subsequent years, voter turnout in these populations droppedAPIvoterturnout.2014

I pointed this out at the dinner table this past summer. I was happily surprised at how interested my kids were in the topic.

My daughter entered her fourth grade class with the expectation that she would learn everything she needed to know about voting, elections and the Constitution. We are several weeks into the school year and I am trying to manage her expectations a bit. What I am struck by, is that she is committed to this idea of voting. Participation in elections, for her, is as important as her own interests in sports, arts and music. In essence; being a voter is an important part of her identity. She was disappointed that the right to vote wouldn’t be hers until she turned 18, because as she stated, “I’m a citizen now.”

What this triggered was a series of questions of whether the American voter– in particular Asian and Pacific American voters– saw the right to vote as inherent to their identity.

  • Does the right to vote coincide with the identity of being a citizen?
  • How do our next generations see themselves within our political process?
  • What is so important about voting?


Alaskeros: Filipino Cannery Workers in Alaska



Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project Links

“Cannery Workers’ and Farm Laborers’ Union 1933-1939: Their Strength and Unity” by Crystal Fresco

The United States took possession of the Philippines in 1898 and in the decades after that, Filipinos, mostly men, began to make their way to America to seek employment, especially in the fields and canneries. In 1933 some of these men formed the first Filipino-led union ever organized in the United States: the Cannery Workers’ and Farm Labors’ Union Local 18257. Based in Seattle, it was organized by “Alaskeros” who worked in the Alaska salmon canneries each summer and in the harvest fields of Washington, Oregon, and California in the other seasons.  The union was in its shaky beginnings when two of its founders were murdered. Yet, although its leaders were dead, the union would not die. Instead in the next few years,  it grew stronger, becoming effective up and down the West Coast.

Filipino American Activism Across Three Generation: Photo and Document Repository

Filipino American Activism Across Three Generations: Oral Histories of Cannery Workers



“Filipino Cannery Workers”

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.

Positively Filipino

“The Wards Cove Case: Separate and Unequal” by Cindy Domingo

n 1972, at the age of 16, David Della entered a new stage in his rites of passage. Like his father and six brothers, Della journeyed to Alaska and joined other Filipinos to can salmon in a plant owned by Wards Cove Packing Company. Narciso Della, David’s father, paid $100 to the dispatcher of the cannery workers’ union to get his underaged son one of the prized jobs in the cannery. The job, catching cans, consisted of lining up the cans for the retorts, the machine that cooked the salmon.

Carlos Bulosan Centennial

“The Historical Significance of the Eastern Hotel for Filipinos” by Doug Chin

The Filipino trek to Seattle began in the 1910’s. Many came as migratory laborers from California, Hawaii, and directly from the Philippines to work in the Alaskan canneries and the agricultural fields in eastern Washington as well as the farms in South Park, Renton, Kent, Auburn, and Bellevue.

By the 1920’s, some 3,000 arrived annually to find work. Their destination in Seattle was always the International District, where they could find some solace, familiar faces, and diversion from the laborious journey ahead. The Eastern Hotel was a primary stopping place for Filipino migrants, who filled the building during Spring and Winter, upon their return.


University of Washington Press

“Remembering Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes” by Ron Chew

Remembering Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes examines the lives of two slain cannery union reformers during the tumultuous Civil Rights Era of the 1970s. Author Ron Chew was a close friend of Gene and Silme, and his poignant prologue sets the stage for the story of their political awakening, the events that led to their tragic deaths, and the movement they nurtured. Through memories of family and friends, we learn about the men as second-generation Filipino Americans, as leaders, and as part of a generation striving to make America live up to its democratic ideals.

Arcadia Publishing and the History Press

“Filipinos in the Puget Sound” by By Dorothy Laigo Cordova, Filipino American National Historical Society

Since the 19th century, Filipinos have immigrated to the Puget Sound region, which contains a deep inland sea once surrounded by forests and waters teeming with salmon. Seattle was the closest mainland American port to the Far East. In 1909, the “Igorotte Village” was the most popular venue at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, and the first Filipina war bride arrived. Filipinos laid telephone and telegraph cables from Seattle to Alaska; were seamen, U.S. Navy recruits, students, and cannery workers; and worked in lumber mills, restaurants, or as houseboys. With one Filipina woman to 30 men, most early Filipino families in the Puget Sound were interracial. After World War II , communities grew with the arrival of new war brides, military families, immigrants, and exchange students and workers. Second-generation Pinoys and Pinays began their families. With the 1965 revision of U.S. immigration laws, the Filipino population in Puget Sound cities, towns, and farm areas grew rapidly and changed dramatically—as did all of Puget Sound.


Filipino American Historical Society

Mission: To promote understanding, education, enlightenment, appreciation and enrichment through the identification, gathering, preservation and dissemination of the history and culture of Filipino Americans in the United States.


Filipino American Heritage Guide by 4Culture


Invisible and Unwelcomed People: Chinese Railroad Workers by Zhi Lin

Koplin Del Rio is pleased to debut a new series of work by Zhi Lin, titled Invisible and Unwelcomed People: Chinese Railroad Workers. The exhibition comprises an extensive series of small studies as well as large format drawings executed in Chinese Ink. This provocative body of work is intended to enlighten and document an aspect in American history that has for the most part, been cruelly ignored and forgotten, the brutal treatment that Chinese immigrants endured in building the epic Trans-continental railroad that spans the United States.

Between the years of 2005-2007, Zhi Lin took several research trips following the railroad lines through California and Wyoming as well as attending the annual Golden Spike ceremony in Promontory, Utah several years in a row. Before each trip, the artist researched archives of historical photographs, old maps, aerial photos and sought out oral historical accounts from elderly residents in an attempt to fully immerse himself in that specific time period and carve away at a century and a half of faded memories.

The execution of the ghostly studies are reminiscent of English watercolor masters; Girtin, Constable, Turner, and are intended to conjure up a familiar and nostalgic aesthetic of the same period that tended to glaze over and disguise the injustice and horrors that occurred on the frontiers of the Industrial Revolution in 19th Century America.

Depicted are dilapidated burial sites, graves marked by wooden sticks, a testimony to the thousands of workers who lost their lives in grueling conditions carving their way through cliffs and mountain passes. One drawing, represents the historic site of the Golden Spike location, but instead of illustrating the fanfare that accompanies the annual commemorative festivities, the artist chose to highlight the desolation of an empty section of track that recedes into the horizon, The artist’s notes in the bottom right corner read, “The ground on which Chinese workers were unwelcome. On May 10, 1869, after eight Chinese workers laid down the last rail for the Central Pacific Railway, they, along with 1,500 other Chinese workers who constructed the railway from California to Promontory Summit, Utah were kept away from the celebration of the Golden Spike – the completion of the first Transcontinental railroad.”

(Selected images from website. Please visit to view more)

Site of the Golden Spike CelebrationsAltar in the Joss House5graves

The Filipinos in the Field: The Lesser Known History of the Farmworkers Union

Cesar Chavez Larry Itlong1967


 “Eclipsed by Cesar Chavez, Larry Itliong’s Story Now Emerges”

“Ask members of the Filipino American National Historical Society and they will say the Delano Grape strike of 1965 — the grape boycott that neatly tied together civil rights and labor rights in America—should be known as the revolution of Larry Itliong.

Instead, the strike that changed the world’s view on farm labor is more commonly known in history as the movement that made Cesar Chavez an international labor hero.

To mark 50 years since the week after the strike vote by Filipinos (Sept. 7th), and their bold first step to walk off the fields (Sept. 8), nearly 500 people gathered Labor Day weekend in Delano in California’s Central Valley to try and correct the record on Itliong and Chavez.”


“Larry Itliong Day Celebrated in Honor of Filipino-American Labor Leader”

“For the first time in California history, Filipino-American labor leader Larry Itliong will be recognized on an annual day honoring the late hero throughout the state.

Though not a name immediately associated with the farm labor movement of the 1960s in California, Itliong was the one who led Cesar Chavez to the picket lines that cemented Chavez’ place in the history books. Unlike the image many remember of Chavez, Itliong sported a crew cut, chewed cigars, loved to gamble, and, because of a work injury in an Alaskan cannery, bore the nickname “Seven Fingers.

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill over the summer to establish Itliong’s birthday, Oct. 25, as Larry Itliong Day. Itliong, who died nearly 40 years ago in 1977 of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, would have been 102.”