Author Archives: FLOC
On April 25, 2018, a FLOC and IUF (International Union of Food and Allied Workers) delegation traveled to London to attend British American Tobacco’s 2018 Annual General Meeting. This trip marked the first time that FLOC met with BAT as complete owners of Reynolds supply chain and the first meeting since the launch of FLOC’s boycott of Reynolds’s e-cigarette brand VUSE. Despite having brought to BAT’s attention numerous investigative reports and examples of human rights abuses on BAT and Reynolds’s contact farms, Chairman Richard Burros insisted that BAT’s policies were satisfactory and “doing the job.”
During the shareholders meeting, President Velasquez challenged BAT to stop promoting charity programs as an alternative to freedom of association and collective bargaining. “How long are you going to follow a model that is proven to be a failed model?” citing the US’s War on Poverty charity programs. “They fail because they don’t address the systemic inequities in the supply chain. Farmworkers do the most arduous jobs in this industry. We’re not asking for handouts, we’re asking for a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.” He also asked why BAT continues to either support or remain neutral when their growers sponsor legislation that inhibits freedom of association like NC SB615 and the NC Agricultural Right to Work law.
In a private meeting afterwards with BAT executives, President Velasquez pushed BAT to sign a memorandum of understanding to guarantee freedom of association to farmworkers in their supply chain. He also encouraged BAT to fix their pricing structure so that the price of tobacco would cover the true costs of doing business and allow farmers to provide better working conditions and fair wages, instead of marginalizing the farmworkers at the bottom of the supply chain with bad legislation.
“I encourage BAT to see FLOC as a real partner in transforming the tobacco industry and helping to fix the inequities in their supply chain. But until we have a written agreement from BAT and Reynolds, we’ll continue to organize and boycott Reynolds’s product VUSE.”
From April 9-20, we officially launched a boycott of Reynolds American Inc. (now owned by British American Tobacco)’s VUSE e-cigarette brand with over 40 demonstrations outside of Kangaroo, Circle K, 7 Eleven, and Wawa convenience stores in New York, San Francisco, Orlando, Raleigh, Durham, Toledo, and other major US cities. The boycott was dedicated to FLOC organizer, Santiago Rafael Cruz, who was assassinated on April 9, 2007 in our office in Mexico to try to stop the union from aiding farm laborers and ending corruption in the H2A guest worker program. The AFL-CIO, International Union of Food and Allied Workers (IUF), and the National Farmworker Ministry have already formally endorsed the boycott.
Contact us at email@example.com if you’re interested in getting involved in the VUSE boycott!
Horacio Mendoza Lopez, a tobacco farmworker and FLOC member states, “In the tobacco fields, you find yourself with a lot of suffering, obstacles and barriers such as all of the illnesses, the heat, and the work injuries. Even though a lot of people think that what we’re doing is easy, we know that what we’re doing comes with a lot of sacrifice.”
Despite widespread national and international support for tobacco farmworkers’ demands, Reynolds still hasn’t agreed to sign an agreement with FLOC to guarantee farmworkers the right to unionize and negotiate better working conditions.
“As farmworkers, we work hard under the sun and we give our best effort. I have seen how tobacco companies fill their pockets with money and how they themselves push for farmworkers to have even lower salaries. We are fighting for better wages and for decent and dignified housing, and that’s why I’m calling for support of this boycott.” says Jose Camper Lopez, a farmworker and FLOC member.
Similar demonstrations will be replicated and spread to other cities in the US. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in getting involved in the VUSE boycott!
In a meeting with the Roberto Campa Cifrián on Tuesday, the Secretary of Labor of Mexico, FLOC President Velasquez pushed the Mexican Department of Labor to work with FLOC in achieving a common interest of protecting Mexican workers. Historically, Mexican workers who come to the US to work in the fields through the H2A guest worker program have been exploited in the workplace and excluded from most laws that protect the rest of the US workforce. Velasquez explained the harmful impacts of this lack of parity by detailing abuses that Mexican farmworkers face in the US including widespread wage theft, sexual harassment, and dangerous working conditions among others.
In the context of Trump’s anti-worker administration and harmful immigration proposals like the Goodlatte Bill, Velasquez stressed the need for Mexico to defend their own citizens. Velasquez suggested that the Mexico government use the NAFTA renegotiations to push for the expansion of the Agricultural Worker Protections Act (AWPA) to include H2A guest workers. AWPA is the principal federal law that provides federal protections around the wages, housing, transportation and working conditions of US agricultural workers but currently excludes H2A guest workers from its protections and remedies. If AWPA covered the H2A program, it would be an additional tool that labor organizations could use to stop the abuses in the H2A program, which has expanded rapidly to more than 200,000 agricultural workers in 2017, the majority of whom are Mexican citizens.
During the meeting, Roberto Campa Cifrián committed to promoting actions and policies to stop the exploitation of agricultural workers and stated that he was confident that they could advance protections for workers. Campa requested another meeting this summer to give a report back on the progress that has been made.
“We are grateful for Campa taking the time to meet with us. We look forward to our next meeting this summer to hear what progress has been made and to continue building a collaborative relationship with the Mexican government to achieve our common goal of protecting Mexican workers.” Said President Velasquez.
Congratulations to Sesario, a FLOC board member, for his introduction into the distinguished alumni hall of fame at Swanton High School in Ohio.
Sesario’s earliest memories of FLOC are of farmworkers walking out of the fields during the 1968 strike. “It happened so fast,” he remembers, “and we had something like $36 in the organization’s bank account. We did the strike on a farm where the grower was the president of an association representing growers in the area. A local union donated hot dogs and we had mariachis, and we did the 3 day strike right there on the grower’s property.” Even with few resources, Sesario says this first strike sent a powerful message: farmworkers were a force to be reckoned with. “The first strike really made us feel empowered. We were taking people right out of the fields, and it was really powerful.”
Today, Sesario continues to organize workers and supporters and currently serves on FLOC’s Board. We thank him for the 50 years that he has organized with FLOC! Click here to read more about Sesario’s story.
On November 15, FLOC a coalition of civil rights groups filed a federal lawsuit challenging a state law that guts the ability of farmworkers to organize and make collective bargaining agreements with employers.
The lawsuit argues that the North Carolina Farm Act of 2017 impedes farmworkers’ First Amendment right to participate in unions, and asserts that the law is discriminatory, as more than 90 percent of the state’s agricultural workers are Latino. The Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed that the government cannot impose special burdens on expressive associations such as unions.
The lawsuit was brought on behalf of FLOC and two FLOC members. It was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the North Carolina Justice Center, and the Law Offices of Robert J. Willis. The groups are asking the court to block implementation of the law as the challenge proceeds.
“Politicians that are also growers shouldn’t pass self-serving laws simply because they don’t want their workers to unionize. With the continuation of Jim Crow-era laws that aim to stop a now almost entirely Latino workforce from organizing, this is an affront to freedom of association and smacks of racism. Companies like Reynolds American should be embarrassed that growers in their supply chains are attacking the very farmworkers who make their companies’ wealth,” said FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez.
More than 100,000 farmworkers provide labor to North Carolina farms, helping to generate more than $12 billion for the state economy. The vast majority are Latinos and work seasonally, many under temporary H2A visas.
The law bars farmworker unions from entering into agreements with employers to have union dues transferred from paychecks — even if the union members want it, and even if the employer agrees to the arrangement. Because North Carolina is a so-called “right-to-work” state, dues deductions can only occur when individual workers choose to have dues deducted. Many of FLOC’s members are guest-workers who lack ready access to U.S. bank accounts, credit cards and other means of making regular union dues payments, and they therefore rely on dues transfer arrangements to pay their union dues. If those arrangements become invalid, the union will be required to divert most of its limited resources to collecting dues individually from each worker.
The law also prohibits agricultural producers from signing any agreement with a union relating to a lawsuit, such as a settlement in which an employer agrees to recognize a union, or a collective bargaining agreement that includes a promise not to sue. FLOC has used such voluntary agreements with employers to secure critical improvements in working conditions at farms, such as higher wages and an end to exploitative recruitment fees and blacklisting. In addition, FLOC has successfully challenged tobacco giants, such as Reynolds American, Inc. to acknowledge their responsibility for the conditions workers face in their supply chains. The new law introduces major obstacles to FLOC’s ability to renew its existing agreements and pursue more in the future.
The groups are asking the court to declare the law unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth amendments. They are also asking the court to grant preliminary and permanent injunctions, restraining state officials from enforcing the law.
The law’s primary sponsor was State Sen. Brent Jackson, who owns Jackson Farming Company and was recently sued for wage theft by Latino farmworkers who were helped by FLOC. State Rep. Jimmy Dixon, an owner of Jimmy Dixon farm in Duplin County, was the only legislator to speak in favor of the anti-worker provisions in the bill on the House floor. He said the law was necessary because “there seems to be a growing wave of folks that are interested in farm labor.”
In a packed room at the union hall of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) on Broadway St., members of the Black and Brown Coalition of Toledo signed an historic community agreement with Mayor Paula Hicks Hudson and Chief of Police George Kral. The agreement includes a code of conduct that police officers and Toledo residents commit to complying with, including a groundbreaking independent process where citizens can air their grievances and complaints. In addition, community groups and the City of Toledo agreed on a process for both community groups and the Toledo Police to train their respective constituencies on proper conduct, search and seizure procedures, record keeping, use of force, among other critical topics in order to promote trust and enable law enforcement to keep communities safe. Click here to read the full code of conduct!
“After two years of conversations in our community and with the Police Department and Mayor’s office, we are pleased to begin the next phase in a process to improve the relationship of our Latino and Black community and the police department. We believe this agreement will help us feel safer and also help the police department do their job more effectively. We thank everyone who put a lot of time and effort into this project. Our understanding is that this code of conduct is the first independent agreement signed between community and police groups and hope that other communities across the nation will organize themselves and create similar agreements.” said President Velasquez.
Members of the Black and Brown Coalition of Toledo include the Laborers International Union Local 500, the Toledo chapter of the NAACP, the Toledo Community Coalition, Latino’s United, the NW OH AFL-CIO, the FLOC Homies Union, and FLOC LOBOS.
“We are very proud of the relationships that have been reestablished with FLOC and Baldemar Velasquez. We realize that we have much more in common than we have apart. When we stick together and are focused in one direction and with one voice, we can accomplish quite a bit.” said Ray Wood of the Toledo NAACP.