Victorio Velasco Photograph Collection, approximately 1920s-1968

Overview of the Collection

Velasco, Victorio A., 1902-1968
Victorio Velasco Photograph Collection
approximately 1920s-1968
approx. 950 photographs, plus negatives and postcards (3 boxes) ; sizes vary
Collection Number
Photographs of Victorio Velasco's involvement with the Cannery Workers and Farm Laborers Union, Local 7 and various Filipino groups, as well as photographs used for publication in the Filipino Forum
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 2065431929
Fax: 2065431931
Access Restrictions

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Born in the Philippines in 1902, Victorio Velasco immigrated to the United States in 1924. He is best known for his leadership in Seattle’s Filipino community. He published and edited the local Filipino Forum and served as the head of numerous Seattle Filipino community organizations. Because of his leadership in the Filipino community, many local and statewide organizations who sought to improve race relations asked him to serve on their boards and committees.

Velasco also participated in the Filipino-American labor movement. Like many other Filipinos during his time, Velasco spent most of his summers working in Alaskan canneries. Velasco worked alongside other Filipinos, who filled most cannery positions after the loss of Japanese immigrants in the 1920s. Cannery work was known for being particularly strenuous and the employers often tried to take advantage of Asian immigrant laborers, but the Filipinos developed a strong union to engage in collective bargaining with the employers. The Seattle branch of the Cannery Workers’ and Farm Laborers’ Union was organized in 1933 and represented Filipino-American cannery workers. However, the Filipino workers became frustrated with the AFL because of its stand on racial issues so, in 1937, they affiliated themselves with the CIO’s United Cannery, Agricultural, Packinghouse and Allied Workers of America, Local 7.

With union representation, the cannery workers were able to win concessions and improve wages and working conditions, but Local 7’s internal politics were often bitter. Velasco also was involved in a major split in Local 7 during the immediate postwar period. Many Local 7 members accused officers of corruption, which led to an investigation by its international union, which suspended or expelled three of Local 7’s top officers. These ousted officers formed a rival organization, the Seafood Workers’ Union (SFWU) and conducted a membership drive to try to displace Local 7. Although Velasco was not implicated in the Local 7 investigation, he joined the SFWU and became its secretary. There are a number of possibilities for why he might have joined. One factor might have been the persistent regionalism within the Filipino-American community. Many of those who joined the SFWU were from Velasco’s region of the Philippines. Ideology and politics may also have been a factor in Velasco’s decision, as members of the SFWU used anti-Communist rhetoric to attack Local 7. Velasco’s politics were consistently conservative and he saw Communism as a grave threat.

After merging with the AFL Alaska Fish Cannery Workers’ Union, the SFWU was able to enter a NLRB election that would allow cannery workers to determine which union would represent them. Redbaiting became a weapon in the campaign against Local 7, which affiliated with the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU). In 1950, the ILWU finally won collective bargaining rights and subsequently became Local 37 of the ILWU. Velasco then joined Local 37 and remained a member for the rest of his life, serving frequently as a delegate and as secretary-treasurer.

Newspaper publishing was also a large component of Velasco’s life. In the early 1920s, Velasco worked as editor for the Philippine Seattle Colonist and as the Seattle correspondent for the Philippine Republic. In 1928, he became the founder, editor, and publisher of the Filipino Forum, which served as a newspaper for the Seattle Filipino community. In 1937, Velasco suspended publication, but resumed printing the Forum after the outbreak of World War II. During the interim, he published or wrote for various other Filipino newspapers, including the Seattle Filipino Outlook, Northwest , Philippine Review, and the Philippine Advocate.

Throughout his life in Seattle Velasco was heavily involved in local civic organizations, mostly within the Filipino community. In 1928, he was part of a group of UW Filipino students who founded the Seattle Filipino Clubhouse Fund. The Fund was intended to raise enough money to build a center for Filipino students at the university, but the plans never materialized. However, Velasco later changed the organization’s name to Filipino Community of Seattle, Inc., and set out to build a center for the entire Seattle Filipino community. Decades later, in 1965, the center was finally completed and was open for social events and recreation. Velasco was a founder, president, and board member of the UW Filipino Alumni Association after World War II and founded both the Pangasinan Association of the Pacific Northwest and the Asinganian Club, which were comprised of people who came from his region of the Philippines.

Velasco also served civic organizations that were not specifically Filipino-related. Many of these groups reached out to diverse groups in the city and state to try to improve race relations. He helped found the Jackson Street Community Council in 1946 and served as its first secretary, and later as a board member. Other community organizations that Velasco served include the King County Advisory Council of the Washington State Board Against Discrimination, and the Board of Trustees of the Neighborhood House, which served inner-city youth.

Velasco died in Waterfall, Alaska in 1968. He had been working at a cannery there when the bunkhouse caught fire. After escaping safely, Velasco went back to retrieve his typewriter but was unable to escape a second time.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection includes photographs and negatives pertaining to the life and activities of Victorio Velasco, including his involvement with the Cannery Workers and Farm Laborers Union, Local 7 and various Filipino groups, as well as photographs used for publication in the Filipino Forum.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Restrictions may exist on reproduction, quotation, or publication. Contact Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries for details.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Acquisition Information

Donor: Josefina Queriubin Velasco, 1970 & 1972.

Processing Note

Processed by Erin Berg; processing completed in 2013.

Photographs were relocated from the Victorio A. Velasco Papers (Accession No. 1435-3) on October 13, 1997.

Separated Materials

Material Described Separately:

Victorio A. Velasco Papers (Mss Coll 1435)

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Visual Materials Collections (University of Washington)

Personal Names

  • Velasco, Victorio A., 1902-1968--Photographs

Titles within the Collection

  • Filipino Forum