“DON’T give in. Keep fighting.”
These were the messages that labor leader Democrito Tolo Mendoza left to workers belonging to labor unions under the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines and Associated Labor Unions (ALU), before he passed away on Tuesday, according to Alan Tanjusay, TUCP spokesman.
Mendoza, known, to TUCP and ALU as Kito, was 92.
He died around 6:40 p.m. while at the Chong Hua Hospital in Cebu City.
Leaving the messages to the workers while fighting for his life indicated that Mendoza was very much concerned with the workers whom he served since the 1950s.
Tanjusay described Mendoza as a “clever labor leader.”
The late TUCP head was also a lawyer.
As a lawyer at already 62 years old, Mendoza and other lawyers put up ALU on April 17, 1954 in Cebu City.
He was elected as the first secretary and treasurer of the association.
According to Tanjusay, “guided by his vision of building and establishing a national trade union movement to place workers on an equal footing with employers and government, Mendoza first organized the port workers in Cebu, which in return would become the largest labor federation, the Associated Labor Unions (ALU). He struggled against vested interest groups and cartels.”
In 1956, he became ALU’s president.
Under Mendoza’s leadership, the group’s first victory against a business firm happened in 1957 when a union affiliated with ALU won a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) from the Visayan Cebu Terminal Co. after a strike that started a year ago.
From then, Mendoza became leader of various organizations, including president of TUCP that was established in 1975.
TUCP is the largest federation of labor unions in the Philippines with more than one million members.
He was also vice chair emeritus of the Philippine Veterans’ Bank and regional vice president of the Veterans’ Federation of the Philippines (VFP).
Born on July 31, 1923 in Liloan, Cebu, Mendoza “is one of the founding pillars of the modern labor movement in the country, devoting 70 years of his life in pursuit of his dream of ensuring the Filipino workers and their families live decent lives,” Tanjusay said.
Mendoza’s unwavering advocacy in the national and international labor movement has been demonstrated through his unflinching promotion of the core labor standards: the right to organize, the right of workers to bargain collectively and the right to strike; and the prohibition of the worse forms of child labor, he added.
He not only displayed his love for his fellow Filipinos in the labor movement but also during the Japanese occupation by joining the guerrilla movement and becoming a bemedalled Filipino war veteran.
He advanced the freedom of association of workers and social justice in Southeast Asia that led to the founding of the Asean Trade Union Council in 1983 wherein many Filipino labor leaders and advocates were at the forefront and called the attention of the highly industrialized countries and the oil rich nations to apply a rational approach to the escalating oil prices in the spirit of universal brotherhood during the 63rd Session of the International Labour Conference (ILC) in 1977.
Mendoza is survived by his second wife, Dr. Marianita, former commissioner of the Social Security System (SSS); 14 children and grandchildren, including his youngest sons acting TUCP president and incumbent TUCP party-list Rep. Raymond Mendoza and Michael Mendoza, national president of the ALU.