The Limits of Labor Solidarity

Competing Organizing Ideologies of Filipino and Alaska Native Salmon Industry Workers, 1928–1946


  • Jessica S. Jiang


In the first half of the twentieth century, the canned salmon industry brought Asian migrants and Northwest Coast Native peoples together in a racially segmented labor force that spanned from Alaska to Oregon. This article focuses on the leadup to the 1946 union election for cannery workers in Alaska, where Seattle-based Filipino organizers affiliated with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) clashed with the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB) as they competed to represent the growing number of Alaska Native workers. I analyze the diverging ideologies of CIO and ANB leadership to understand the disjunctions that occurred throughout this conflict, focusing on debates over residency, race, and Indigeneity; Native women workers’ responses to the competing campaigns; and the post-election trajectories of both organizations. While CIO and ANB organizers agreed at times on certain measures, such as the need to curtail industrial fish trap usage, I argue that the divergence between their campaigns can be explained by their reliance on opposing ideological frameworks: Filipino organizers understood labor rights as an extension of civil rights, while Native leaders like William Paul understood labor rights as an extension of Indigenous land and resource claims. The competition between the CIO and ANB leading up to 1946 epitomizes a broader conflict between frameworks of civil rights and Indigenous sovereignty, and it provides an important opportunity to examine Native experiences with wage labor, tensions between Indigenous and migrant communities, and heterogeneous conceptions of settler colonialism and racial capitalism within labor movements.





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