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Union by LawFilipino American Labor Activists, Rights Radicalism, and Racial Capitalism$
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Michael W. McCann and George I. Lovell

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226679877

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226680071.001.0001

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LELO, ACWA, and the Politics of Civil Rights Mobilization

LELO, ACWA, and the Politics of Civil Rights Mobilization

(p.225) 4 LELO, ACWA, and the Politics of Civil Rights Mobilization
Union by Law

Michael W. McCann

George I. Lovell

University of Chicago Press

This chapter follows the rebirth of the oppositional rights tradition among a younger generation of Filipino American cannery workers and their diverse allies in the 1970s. A critical dimension of this story is the influence of African American labor activist Tyree Scott, who pioneered a model of transformative grassroots protests and class action civil rights lawsuits to open up the building trades in Seattle and elsewhere in the US. Scott’s model of legal mobilization was highly influential to a dissident group of young Filipinos, who joined him to form a “workers’” legal organization (LELO – Labor and Employment Law Office) and filed three civil rights law suits. The young reformers – led by Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes – aimed to use the litigation to improve worker conditions and opportunities in the canneries, to build support among workers for taking power from the corrupt union leadership in Local 37, and to catalyze support for alliance with anti-Marcos groups in the Philippines as well as anti-racist socialist reform activists in the metropole. The reform activists in the Alaska Cannery Workers Association (ACWA) realized great success on all three aspirations with this legal mobilization strategy.

Keywords:   legal mobilization, civil rights, class action, Alaska Cannery Workers Association, Tyree Scott, Labor and Employment Law Office, Silme Domingo, Gene Viernes, anti-Marcos

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