June 1, 2008
Reference: Berna Ellorin, Secretary–General, BAYAN USA, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
BAYAN USA Remembers Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes
As BAYAN USA joins the international labor community in mourning the untimely death of the great Filipino labor leader Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran, BAYAN USA also remembers and pays tribute to two other US labor leaders whose lives left an indelible mark on those struggling for justice and freedom under conditions of repression, corruption, and dictatorship.
Twenty–seven years ago today in US history, two US–born Filipino–Americans, 30–year old Gene Viernes and 27–year Silme Domingo, were gunned down in their Seattle union office. Both Viernes and Domingo were officers with Local 37 of the International Longshore Workers Union (ILWU), a US–based cannery workers union filled with many Filipino immigrants who had fled from the Philippines to escape Martial Law under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.
While both Viernes and Domingo did not grow up in the Philippines, they grew into their solid identities as proud Filipinos through their immigrant families, through the Filipino immigrants in the ILWU they organized, and eventually through their exposure to the Philippines. Expressing international solidarity to the anti–Martial Law movement in the country, Viernes and Domingo were hosted by the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), the largest and most militant umbrella of trade unions and labor groups in the Philippines, and its celebrated then-secretary general, Ka Bel.
KMU’s work towards building a genuine trade union movement in the Philippines instrumental in the national struggle for freedom and democracy inspired Viernes and Domingo so much so, that they returned to the United States with the intention of ridding the ILWU and US labor movement of its known corruption and build US labor solidarity for the anti–Marcos movement. They eventually established the Seattle chapter of the Katipunan Ng Mga Demokratikong Pilipino (KDP) or Union of Democratic Filipinos, which led the first major anti– Marcos protests in Seattle.
With Marcos intent on crushing all opposition in the Philippines, and even overseas, it is no secret the dictator paid his goons to assassinate Viernes and Domingo in their Seattle office, hoping it would send a message and stop US activists from mounting protest actions and speaking out against martial law in the Philippines. Marcos was proven wrong.
Today, BAYAN USA continues the tradition of organizing Filipino–Americans to not only organize for US–based concerns, but primarily Philippine–based concerns. While the regime of Gloria Macapagal–Arroyo is worse than the Marcos dictatorship with its human right record, we are not cowed, nor will we stop mobilizing and protesting against the current state of political and economic repression in the Philippines. Though Viernes and Domingo did not live long enough to see the end of the Marcos regime, many of us in BAYAN USA look forward to witnessing the end of the Arroyo regime through popular ouster. We will also continue to send our members and allies to the Philippines for exposure with people’s organizations fighting for social change, because the example of Viernes, Domingo, and Ka Bel burns within us.
MABUHAY SILA VIERNES AT DOMINGO! (Long Live Viernes and Domingo!)
MABUHAY SI KA BEL! (Long Live Ka Bel!)
MABUHAY ANG URING MANGGAGAWA! (Long Live the Working Class!)
ITAGUYUD ANG DIWA NG TUNAY NA UNYONISMO! (Uphold the Spirit of Genuine Trade Unionism!)