Velma Veloria immigrated to the United States from the Philippines in the 1950s, grew up and attended college in the Bay Area, and became an activist through her participation in the anti-war and Asian American student movements in the 1960s.
Upon graduating from San Francisco State University, Veloria traveled to the Philippines, where she observed the brutality and oppression of the Marcos regime. When she returned to the United States, Veloria joined the Katipunan ng Demokratikong Pilipino (KDP), or Union of Democratic Filipinos, to put pressure on Marcos and end U.S. support for the dictatorship.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Veloria was a labor activist. She worked as an internal organizer for the Office of Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), ILWU Local 37 (cannery workers), and in Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) campaigns in San Francisco, New York, and Seattle to organize office workers and nurses. Following the assassination of ILWU Local 37 officers and KDP activists Gene Viernes and Silme Domingo on June 1, 1981, the KDP transfered Veloria to Seattle to keep the union reform movement in the Alaska cannery industry alive. For the next few years, Veloria organized cannery workers, participated in the Committee for Justice for Domingo and Viernes, and continued to agitated against the Marcos dictatorship. (For more information about the Committee For Justice, see Cindy Domingo’s presentation here).
Following the dissolution of the KDP, Veloria, like many other KDP activists, folded her political work into Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition in 1988. After that campaign, she became a Legislative Assistant to State Representative Art Wang. In 1992, Veloria became the first Filipina in the continental United States to be elected to a State Legislature, serving 12 years as State Representative for South Seattle’s 11th District. In addition to advocating for affordable housing, workers’ rights, and racial justice, Veloria took particular interest in the impact of international trade and globalization on local communities and co-authored important legislation to combat human trafficking and require oversight of international trade agreements.
Velma Veloria discussed this wide range of activism and politics in a videotaped interview conducted by Stefanie Johnson and Trevor Griffey on October 26, 2004.