Dependence upon duty-free, American goods increased the suffering of local producers. In the 1920s to the 1930s, a number of peasant uprisings and labor protests evolved from cases of exploitation and poor living conditions. The Philippines, though a country rich in resources, was unable to sustain the basic needs of the masses. The Filipino leaders, absorbed with much attention on how to gain political autonomy had not fully given efforts to bring about economic independence. Pressing issues like social reform, land ownership, tenancy rights, and the distribution of wealth had been the causes of public discontentment. 7. The First Labor Groups In January 1902, Isabelo de los Reyes organized the first labor union in the Philippines, the Union de Litografos e Impresores de Filipinas. Soon after its founding, the members decided to reorganize themselves into the Union Obrera Democratica (U.O.D.), a federation of smaller unions of printers, lithographers, cigar makers, tailors, and shoemakers, which demanded higher wages and worker's benefits. With its official organ, La Redencion del Obrero, the Union voiced the social demands and nationalistic feelings of the workers. As a result of one of the strikes, Isabelo de los Reyes was imprisoned. A few weeks later, he was pardoned. Dr. Dominador Gomez, who succeeded De los Reyes, led a group of laborers on May 1,1903 in a demonstration before Malacanang. However, Gomez was replaced by Lope K. Santos for
242 the union members distrusted the former's involvement in the surrender of Sakay, which led to his capture. Lope K. Santos, a printer and newspaperman, was the last president of the U.O.D. Under him, the union became known as the Union del Trabajo de Filipinas. Political rivalries had led to its dissolution in 1907. On May 1,1913, Labor Day was first officially celebrated in the country. The labor leaders organized the Congreso Obrero de Filipinas (C.O.F.). This Congress approved resolutions demanding eight- hour labor day, child and women labor laws, and an employer's liability law. Barely four years later, Vicente Sotto established his Asamblea Obrera, which he used to support his candidacy for the House of Representatives. In 1917, Joaquin Balmori founded the Federacion del Trabajo to support the candidates of the Democratic Party. The Congreso Obrero de Filipinas for its part, backed the Nacionalista Party's candidates. In Bulacan, the Union ng Magsasaka was formed in 1917 to fight the evils of tenancy and usury. In 1919, Jacinto Manahan, formed his own group in view of the decline of the original peasant organization. Also in 1919, the Legionarios del Trabajo was formally organized as a result of a strike against the Manila Electric Company. The group pressed a number of nationalistic demands such as protection of Philippine products from foreign competition.
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- james reyes
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