Organizing Asian American Labor

The Pacific Coast Canned-Salmon Industry, 1870-1942

Chris Friday
Outstanding Book in History Award, Association for Asian American Studies, 1995
Book Cover

PB: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-56639-398-0
Publication: Aug 95

HC: $66.50
EAN: 978-1-56639-139-9
Publication: May 94

Ebook: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0379-7

296 pages
6 x 9
6 tables, 6 halftones

Asian and Asian American workers resist oppression and shape their own lives


Between 1870 and 1942, successive generations of Asians and Asian Americans—predominantly Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino—formed the predominant body of workers in the Pacific Coast canned-salmon industry.

This study traces the shifts in the ethnic and gender composition of the cannery labor market from its origins through it decline and examines the workers' creation of work cultures and social communities. Resisting the label of cheap laborer, these Asian American workers established formal and informal codes of workplace behavior, negotiated with contractors and recruiters, and formed alliances to organize the workforce.

Whether he is discussing Japanese women workers' sharing of child-care responsibilities or the role of Filipino workers in establishing the Cannery and Field Workers Union, Chris Friday portrays Asian and Asian American workers as people who, while enduring oppressive restrictions, continually attempted to shape their own lives.


"Very thoroughly researched in traditional and non-traditional sources, well-organized, and gracefully written, the volume will be of particular value of readers interested in immigration, ethnicity, labor, and the American West." —Choice

"An important book, addressing a major topic in ethnic, industrial, labor, and Western history with extraordinary rich coverage of the Chinese and Japanese and Filipinos in the Pacific Coast canned-salmon industry. The research can only be described as awesome, quite extraordinary....This is a book which carries historical riches of value not only within but beyond the boundaries of this specific topic."Robert Kelley, University of California, Santa Barbara

Table of Contents

Maps and Illustrations
1. The Spawning Grounds
2. "Satisfaction in Every Case": Cannery Work and the Contract System
3. Cannery Communities, Cannery Lives
4. Competitors for the Chinese
5. "Fecund Possibilities" for Issei and Nisei
6. From Factionalism to "One Filipino Race"
7. Indispensable Allies
8. A Fragile Alliance

About the Author(s)

Chris Friday is assistant professor of history at Western Washington University.


In the Series

  • Asian American History and Culture edited by Cathy Schlund-Vials, Rick Bonus, and Shelley Sang-Hee Lee

    Founded by Sucheng Chan in 1991, the Asian American History and Culture series has sponsored innovative scholarship that has redefined, expanded, and advanced the field of Asian American studies while strengthening its links to related areas of scholarly inquiry and engaged critique. Like the field from which it emerged, the series remains rooted in the social sciences and humanities, encompassing multiple regions, formations, communities, and identities. Extending the vision of founding editor Sucheng Chan and emeriti editor Michael Omi, David Palumbo-Liu, K. Scott Wong and Linda Trinh Võ, series editors Cathy Schlund-Vials, Rick Bonus, and Shelley Sang-Hee Lee continue to develop a foundational collection that embodies a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to Asian American studies.