Category Archives: Events and Highlights Archive

FLOC speaks out against abuses in BAT supply chain

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Earlier this year, BAT announced that they will pay $49 Billion to acquire Reynolds American Inc. and become the world’s biggest tobacco company. 

Leaders of FLOC challenged British American Tobacco (BAT) during their Annual General Meeting (AGM) in London, UK about their failure to be transparent and take concrete action despite numerous reports detailing human rights abuses on BAT contract farms. 2017 marks the 7th year that FLOC has attended the shareholders meeting. During the 2014 AGM, BAT Chairman Richard Burrows claimed that there were no labor or human rights violations in the BAT supply chain. Since then, independent research groups including SwedWatch and Human Rights Watch have published reports detailing serious human rights abuses on BAT contract farms in Bangladesh and Indonesia respectively, echoing what FLOC has been reporting for years from the fields of North Carolina. In BAT’s own corporate audit report, they admitted instances of worker death by heat stroke, workers being sprayed by pesticides, and poor housing conditions, among other issues.

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Vice President Flores speaks out during the 2017 BAT AGM

In response to FLOC’s 10-year campaign demanding freedom of association and collective bargaining rights for tobacco farmworkers, BAT has responded with cosmetic approaches including corporate audits. During the AGM, President Velasquez asked when BAT would stop relying on questionable auditing companies and address the real systemic issues.

 

After the meeting, FLOC leaders met directly with BAT executives to discuss the issues and real solutions in more depth. While BAT has stated they want to work with FLOC to resolve issues in the BAT supply chain, these human rights violations will continue until BAT agrees to guarantee freedom of association and implement a practical mechanism that allows farmworkers to denounce abuses and act as their own auditors!

thumbnail_IMG_20170426_123906President Velasquez proposes solutions to BAT representatives

 

 

Click here to read about the global call, uniting tobacco workers in a global fight for justice. 

Members discuss issues with local sheriff

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On Sunday April 2, 2017, FLOC members met with the Sheriff and Captain of the Wayne County Sheriff Office to discuss how to begin building trust between the Latino community and local law enforcement. Given the current political climate and recent attacks on immigrant communities, it is increasingly difficult for communities of color to trust law enforcement agencies to serve out their function of protecting the people. In the meeting, members spoke directly with Sheriff Pierce about issues including racial profiling as well as presented suggestions for the Sheriff’s department on how they can earn the community’s trust.

 “It’s very important for you as the community to feel comfortable with the Sheriff’s office so that we can communicate together and that you are not afraid to come to us when a crime is committed.” – Sheriff Piece

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FLOC will keep working to ensure that police agencies in the region:

  1. Do not target undocumented workers for tickets: In North Carolina, undocumented people are barred from having NC drivers’ licenses. This discrimination means that undocumented people and their children are unable to fully participate in community activities, and that every time they must drive they do so at the risk of being ticketed and fined for not having a driver’s license. These tickets cost about the equivalent of a farmworker’s weekly wages. We oppose random traffic stops, targeted checkpoints, and the running license plates that targets immigrant families.
  1. Stop collaborating with ICE. While local police departments function separately from ICE, collaboration between the two agencies has created fear in the immigrant community that discourages people from reporting crimes. To build trust, it will be necessary for local law enforcement agencies to focus on protecting the community, not serving out the mission of a separate governmental agency.

This meeting marked the beginning of a process in which members of the community will gain a greater voice in how they want the police to serve and protect them. The next NC Associate Members Meeting is Sunday April 23, 3-5PM. For more information on how to get involved in the campaign, call our NC office 919-731-4433.

Click here to read more about our efforts to change police policy in Ohio!

El pasado Domingo abril del 2017, miembros de FLOC se reunieron con el Sheriff y Capitán del departamento de policía del condado de Wayne para discutir un plan de cómo crear un lazo de confianza entre la comunidad y la policía local. Dada la situación política y los recientes ataques en contra de la comunidad inmigrante, es cada vez más difícil para las comunidades de color confiar en las agencias judiciales para que cumplan sus funciones de proteger a la comunidad. En la reunión, los miembros hablaron directamente con Sheriff Pierce sobre temas como la perfilación racial, así como presentar sugerencias al departamento de policía de cómo se podrían ganar la confianza de la comunidad.

“Es muy importante para ustedes como comunidad que se sientan cómodos de acercarse a la policía, o no tener miedo y comunicarnos sobre cualquier crimen del cual hayan sido víctimas”- Sheriff Pierce

FLOC va a seguir trabajando para que las agencias judiciales en la region:

  1. No tomen como blanco a la comunidad indocumentada para los tickets: En Carolina del Norte, a las personas indocumentadas se les niega el derecho a adquirir una licencia de conducir. Esta manera de discriminar significa que toda persona indocumentada y sus familias son incapaces de participar plenamente en actividades comunitarias, y que cada vez que tienen que conducir lo hacen bajo el riesgo de ser detenidos y multados por no contar con dicha licencia de conducir. Estas multas son el equivalente al salario promedio de una semana de un trabajador agrícola. Estamos en contra de las paradas sin razon evidente, los retenes que toman como blanco a la comunidad inmigrante y de correr información de placas de familias inmigrantes.
  1. No colaboren con ICE. Si bien los departamentos de policía local operan independientes a ICE, la colaboración entre ambas agencias ha sembrado temor dentro de la comunidad inmigrante y los desalienta a reportar crímenes. Para restablecer la confianza con la comunidad, será necesario que las agencias locales de policía se concentren en proteger a la comunidad, sin cumplir la misión de una agencia gubernamental separada.

Esta reunión marcó el inicio a un proceso en el cual los miembros de la comunidad tendrán una voz más fuerte para expresar en como desean que la policía los sirva y los proteja. La próxima reunión comunitaria se llevará a cabo el próximo Domingo 23 de abril a las 3:00pm. Para más información favor de comunicarse al 919-731-4433.

Pon clic aqui para leer mas información de los esfuerzos de cambiar las políticas de la policía en Ohio!

 

“We are the strength of the union”

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For the last 9 years, union members have gathered in Monterrey before the start of the growing season to sharpen their skills as union leaders and organizers and discuss the union’s strategy on key issues. This leadership training plays a crucial role in empowering members with the necessary tools and knowledge to tackle the issues that they’ll confront when they arrive in the fields of North Carolina.

Training topics included: identifying and filing grievances, using the workers compensation procedure, participation in the union’s democratic process, negotiating for better benefits and pay, and supply chain strategies to improve conditions on farms.

“I see this meeting as the start of the organizing work in North Carolina. We get together with the most active and involved members to cover important topics, make a plan, and learn things that we’ll use in NC to improve the conditions in the camps and encourage other workers to join the union.”

 

Vice President Justin Flores

This year’s training on March 18 and 19 laid the groundwork for the 2017 quadrennial convention where members will vote for the union’s leadership, goals, and direction for the next four years. Members formed committees and discussed resolutions to present at the convention including a possible boycott of a Reynolds American tobacco product.

“We are the strength of the union. [In Monterrey], we proposed what will be carried out in the convention in Ohio. In each group that was formed, we discussed what we wanted, and from these we will bring a summary to Ohio to analyze and see what things the people are asking for and what are the needs of the union members.”

 

 

 

- FLOC member Rene Rubio

FLOC members Felipe, Albino and Eli also gave reports on their experiences as members of the negotiating team that helped negotiate a new 4-year union contract between FLOC and the North Carolina Growers’ Association. They covered specifics of the new agreement and highlighted how members can use the contract and its grievance mechanism to be their own camp inspectors and advocates for change.

A special thanks to the Solidarity Center of the AFL-CIO for sponsoring the training!

 

 

Por los últimos 9 años, miembros del sindicato se han juntado en Monterrey antes del comienzo de la temporada para mejorar sus dotes de liderazgo del sindicato y hablar de la estrategia sindical en asuntos importantes. Este entrenamiento del liderazgo juega un papel fundamental en empoderar miembros con las herramientas y conocimiento necesario para abordar los problemas que se enfrentarán al llegar a los campos en Carolina del Norte.

Temas de formación incluyeron: identificar y resolver agravios, usar el proceso de compensación laboral, participar en el proceso democrático del sindicato, negociar mejores beneficios y paga y la estrategia de organizar en las cadenas de producción para mejorar condiciones en los campos.

“Yo veo esta reunión como el comienzo del trabajo de organizar en Carolina del Norte. Nos juntamos con los miembros más activos, los miembros más involucrados. Tocamos los puntos importantes, hacemos un plan, aprendemos unas cosas que usamos allí en Carolina del Norte para ir mejorando las condiciones del campo, animando más compañeros para unirse a la unión” – Vice Presidente Justin Flores

El entrenamiento de este año que tomó lugar el 18 y 19 de marzo empezó a formar la base para la convención cuatrienal de 2017 donde miembros votarán por el liderazgo, metas y dirección del sindicato para los próximos 4 años. Miembros formaron comités y hablaron de resoluciones para presentar en la convención, incluyendo la posibilidad de un boicot de un producto de tabaco de Reynolds American Inc.

Somos la fuerza del sindicato. [En Monterrey], nosotros planteamos que se lleva al cabo en la convención en Ohio. En cada grupo que se formaba, se mencionaba que es lo que queríamos, y de todas esas se llevará un resumen a Ohio para que lo analicen y vean cuales son las cosas que está pidiendo la gente y las necesidades de los sindicalizados.” – Rene Rubio, Miembro de FLOC

Felipe, Albino y Eli, miembros de FLOC, también presentaron sus experiencias como miembros del equipo de negociación que ayudaron a negociar un nuevo acuerdo sindical de 4 años entre FLOC y la Asociación de Rancheros de Carolina del Norte. Abarcaron los específicos del nuevo acuerdo y enfatizaron como miembros pueden usar el contrato y su proceso de quejas para ser sus propios inspectores de campamentos y promotores de cambio.

¡Un agradecimiento especial al Centro de Solidaridad del AFL-CIO por patrocinar el entrenamiento!

Members Convene in Nayarit to Prepare for FLOC Convention

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On Sunday, January 8 2017, union members gathered in Santiago Ixcuintla, Nayarit Mexico to kick off a new year of organizing. 2017 represents numerous significant landmarks for FLOC. This September, members from across the South and Midwest will come together for our quadrennial convention and 50th Founding Anniversary Celebration. Members began preparing for the convention by forming committees and starting conversations about what they want their union’s priorities to be for the next 4 years.

 

In the agricultural off season, members who come to the US with temporary agricultural visas return to their homes in Mexico. For many members who come from the state of Nayarit, their work in the fields doesn’t end just because they have left North Carolina. Nayarit, located on Western coast of Mexico, grows more tobacco than any other state in Mexico.

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Union member Isidro Castro took FLOC representatives on a tour of tobacco fields in Nayarit. Isidro explains that while the work is the same, the pay and conditions are not. What members make in an hour in North Carolina, they make with a whole day’s work in Mexico. Working in the fields in Mexico also means working without the protection of a union. Health and safety violations, wage theft and child labor are common, and there is no grievance mechanism to address these issues.

 

During the membership meeting, FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez explained the potential for FLOC’s tobacco campaign to end exploitation in the fields not just in the US, but also in Mexico. “It is time that we join with our counter-part workers in other countries and collectively press the tobacco companies to reflect dignity and respect throughout their global supply-chains.”

 

 

Songs for Justice Benefit Concert

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Thank you to all of the following donors who supported the 2016 Songs for Justice Benefit Concert. A special thanks to all of our volunteers and FLOC’s youth groups the FLOC Homies and FLOC Migos for helping to make the event a success.

 

Port Authority, Bruce Goldstein, Seamus Metress, Aron Velasquez, Baldemar and Sara Velasquez, Kate Jacobs, Christi & Aaron Wagner, Rick Velasquez, Historic South, Mary Templin, ABLE, Monica Morales, Duane and Maria Rodiguez Winter, Sofia Quintero Art & Cultural Center, Nick Wood, Peter Uvagi, Jon Richardson, Joe Balderas, Esther Guardiola, Elizabeth & Frankie Julian, Jack Kilroy, Mary Jane Flores, Judith Kincaid, Lourdes Santiago, Jon & Satya Curry, Oscar Sanchez, Jerry Ceille, Kathy Farber & Bill Armaline, Greater Northwest Ohio AFL-CIO, Toledo Public Library, Peter Uvagi, Sandra Cisneros, Ramon Perez, Ramon Deanda, Tiffany Kidd, Roman Arce, UAW, Lindsay Webb, Catherine Crowe, Jeremy Sprinkle, FLOC Migos, Tom Harris, Joni Rabinowitz, Marty & Dave Wagner, LIUNA Local 500, UU Universalists, Clearwater, FLA, Anitia Lopez, Justin Flores, Meliton & Esperanza Hernandez, Belia Spradlin, Dan Velasquez, Linda Weiderhold, Toledo Friends Meeting, David Shilling, Diana Coble, Tom & Lynn Nowel, Sesario & Lucy Duran, Elsa Barboza & Family, Molly Willbarger, Gary McBride, Raul Jimenez & Family, Mary Meyers and Glen Boatman

It’s not too late to donate to support farmworker and youth organizing. Click here to make a donation today.

After 26 years in the fields, Pablo is determined to see change

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Pablo is sharing his story as part of our “Voces: Somos FLOC/ Voices: We Are FLOC” campaign to highlight stories from our members to raise funds and build awareness to support the important organizing work our members are doing in the fields. Please consider making a donation today to support this campaign.


Haz clic aquí para leer la historia de Pablo en Español.

When Pablo first came to the US to work in the fields, he landed in rural Virginia. It was 1990, and he remembers the first grower he worked for taking him and his coworkers to the store to buy them all envelopes, notebooks, and pens to write letters home to their families. “We used to finish work and go back to the camp and write letters to our families, sometimes three or four a week,” he says.

DSC_0602_600x400Pablo worked in the fields of Virginia for 18 years. Then in 2009, he was sent to work in North Carolina, an experience he will never forget. “The grower was violent,” he recalls, “he screamed at us, and everyone was afraid of him.” It was common knowledge that the grower kept a gun in his truck, and while he never openly threatened anyone with it, the message was clear: do your work and don’t complain.

In 2013, he landed at a farm in Louisburg, NC, where he was offered extra work driving the van of workers to and from work and between the fields each day. When he noticed he wasn’t being paid for the extra hours spent driving, he confronted the grower. But the grower refused to pay. Feeling like he had no other option, Pablo continued driving for the rest of the season, but was never paid for his time. He wasn’t offered employment at that farm the following year, a move which Pablo is sure was a result of him questioning his pay.

Earlier this year, through a routine union visit at Pablo’s camp, Pablo learned that because he was covered by FLOC’s union contract, he had the right to file a complaint about the wages stolen from him in 2013. He filed the grievance, and immediately signed up to be a member of FLOC.

Last month Pablo won his grievance, and he and another worker who also drove the van received thousands of dollars in back wages.


DSC_0599_800x1200Each year, FLOC members gather for regional meetings where members like Pablo learn how to use the union contract to protect themselves at work, and strategize ways to continue building union membership and power.

Will you donate to help raise the funds needed to make sure workers can come to the meetings and participate in their union? A donation of $25 will sponsor a worker who wants to participate in the meeting.

Pablo says he joined the union because he wants to see workers get a fair share of the wealth in agriculture. “The growers invest a lot of money. But it’s us, the workers, who plant and harvest that money. They invest a lot of money, but we invest our time. We deserve good pay.”

For years, Pablo has watched growers exploit and silence workers on the various farms where he has worked, and now he is determined to do something to change it. He works tirelessly educating his coworkers about their rights under the union contract, and encouraging workers to speak up when there is a problem.

“When worker’s voices aren’t heard, when they say we don’t get to have an opinion, that is the same as saying that we are slaves,” he says. “The slaves didn’t have a voice or a vote. They worked and worked, and if they spoke out they were mistreated.”

Now, Pablo is a union leader at his camp. He just attended his first union meeting where workers received training on their rights under the contract, and strategized how to oPablo at members meetingrganize their coworkers and build the union. At the meeting, Pablo presented his case to over 50 workers as an example of why having a strong union and grievance procedure is so important. He’s not shy when it comes to encouraging others to become members. “I invite everyone to join the union and make complaints about problems,” he said at the meeting. “If we stay quiet then we are siding with the person who is doing wrong.”

Members like Pablo need your support to continue fighting for safe, humane working conditions, fair pay, and union rights. Will you donate $25, $50, $75, or whatever you’re able to support member organizing? You can easily donate online here, or send a check to 1221 Broadway St. Toledo, OH 43609.

NC Members gather to train leaders and build union

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August 2, 2016

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On Sunday, over 50 members from more than 15 different labor camps across Eastern North Carolina came together to participate in the first 2016 regional meeting for union members covered by the FLOC and NCGA (North Carolina Growers Association) contract.

In the first half of the meeting, members and FLOC staff reported on recent grievances that members have won, updates on the Reynolds tobacco campaign, and updates on the current FLOC/NCGA contract negotiations. Members also voted unanimously to approve the financial report. In the second half of the meeting, members chose to participate in one of two training groups: “How to Organize Your Co-Workers” and “How to Resolve Common Grievances” to empower themselves to act as union representatives on their farms. Members left the meeting committed to sharing what they had learned and use it to make the union even stronger.

Many thanks to the volunteers who helped transport members and make this meeting possible!

Photo credit for all photos: Alex Jonas

This is union democracy in action! Check out this video of the breakout sessions during the meeting:

Este domingo, más de 50 miembrxs de más de 15 ranchos distintos por la parte este de Carolina de Norte se juntaron para participar en la primera junta regional de 2016 para miembrxs protegidxs por el contrato colectivo entre FLOC y la NCGA (Asociación de Rancheros). En la primera mitad de la junta, miembrxs escucharon de sus propixs compañerxs y representantes de FLOC acerca de las quejas que se ha ganado recientemente, actualizaciones de la campaña tabacalera con Reynolds y actualizaciones de las negociaciones pendientes del nuevo contrato colectivo entre FLOC y la NCGA. Además, miembrxs votaron unánimemente para aprobar el reporte financiero. En la segunda parte de la junta, miembrxs eligieron participar en uno de dos grupos de entrenamiento: “Como Se Puede Organizar Sus Compañeros” y “Como Se Puede Resolver Quejas Típicas” para empoderar a si mismos para actuar como representantes del sindicato en sus ranchos. Al fin de la junta, los miembros comprometieron a compartir la información que habían aprendido y usarla para fortalecer el sindicato.

High Risk And Low Reward: Rafael’s Story

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Rafael is sharing his story as part of our “Voces: Somos FLOC/ Voices: We Are FLOC” campaign to highlight stories from our members to raise funds and build awareness to support the important organizing work our members are doing in the fields. Please consider making a donation today to support this campaign.


Rafael is no stranger to hard labor. In his home state of Michocan, Mexico, he worked in the hot sun every day building houses. The work was difficult, but necessary to support his large family. If you ask Rafael about his family, he smiles with pride and says, “I have thirty grandchildren!”

Nine years ago he crossed the US border to join his son harvesting oranges in Florida. “The first day was so hot. Then I went back the next day, and it was the same. I thought ‘this work isn’t for me.’” But Rafael had already crossed the border, and despite the heat and horrendous working conditions, he’s spent the past nine years working the fields from Florida to North Carolina.

Rafael’s work in the fields came to an abrupt halt last season when his left hand was crushed by a machine that was laying plastic in the fields. “Nobody really knew how to use the machine,” he recalls. “I screamed when my hand got pulled in, and they had to figure out how to put the machine in reverse so I could get my hand out. But my hand was already broken.” He’s wasn’t the only worker to be injured by this machine. “Two weeks after I got hurt, I saw a guy get caught underneath the same machine. He was hurt really badly, I remember there was blood in his eyes. Nobody even took him to the doctor.”

Your donation to the “Voces: Somos FLOC” project goes directly to support workers like Rafael, who are organizing to fight for safer working conditions in the fields. Click here to support this important work.

1200x800Rafael had to have surgery on his hand, and just one week after the stitches were taken out, a supervisor came to his house and told him if he didn’t go to work, he would be fired. “I went, but it was really hot. And right away my hand got really red and swollen.” After that first day back at work the pain was unbearable, but so was the pressure to continue working. Even though he hadn’t been cleared by his doctor to return to work, Rafael’s supervisor moved him to the “bodega,” or work shed, and told him to try a different type of work.

Two weeks later, he was told to leave his employer owned housing. He was forced to move in with his daughter, which was much farther from where he worked. Finally, a supervisor told Rafael that they didn’t have any work he could do with one arm.

Rafael’s injury might have ended his field work, but it opened a new door for him: getting involved with the union. Rafael understands the importance of organizing and coming together to demand fair treatment. “Once [while working] in the sweet potatoes, the grower didn’t want to pay us the right amount. A coworker said to me, ‘what are we going to do?’ I told him, ‘we’re all going to go together and tell [the grower] what he needs to pay us.’”

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In the fields, he says, “It’s hard. In the sweet potato harvest, it’s normal to see people faint. Sometimes it’s because nobody brings them any water.”

But Rafael is determined to work to change the dangerous conditions that so many farmworkers face each day. After his injury, he met with a FLOC organizer who helped him fill out worker’s compensation paperwork to ensure that his medical bills would be paid, and that he had a small stipend to survive on while his hand is healing.

In May, Rafael went to his first union rally in Winston Salem, North Carolina, in support of FLOC’s campaign to organize thousands of farmworkers throughout the South and press tobacco manufacturers to recognize farmworkers’ right to freedom of association. Since then he has also attended membership meetings and trainings to continue organizing with others in his community. “This work is important,” says Rafael. “Having the information in Spanish is especially important, because some of us don’t think we have rights in the US and we never have the time to learn.”

Members like Rafael need your support to continue fighting for safe, human working conditions, fair pay, and union rights. Will you donate $25, $50, $75, or whatever you’re able to support member organizing? You can easily donate online here, or send a check to 1221 Broadway St. Toledo, OH 43609.

Voces: Jackkie’s Story

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Jackkie is sharing her story as part of our new “Voces: Somos FLOC/ Voices: We Are FLOC” campaign to highlight stories from our members to raise funds and build awareness to support the important organizing work our members are doing in the fields. Please consider making a donation today to support this campaign. 


 

Meet Jackkie. She’s 18, and out of all of the obstacles she has overcome in her life as a young worker, her greatest victory is graduating from high school this year. It’s a big moment for her whole family, especially for her mom. As Jackkie’s mom pins on her graduation cap and Jackkie steps back into the tobacco field for a picture, she tells us why this is moment is so important: “My mom walked across the border so that I could walk across the graduation stage.”

DSC_0552_smallJackkie’s earliest memory of the fields is sitting next to her mom and snacking on blueberries while her mom was picking. Jackkie and her 4 siblings all spent time in the fields with their mom, and all learned the work at an early age.

Jackie started working in the fields for the same reason many other young people do: she wanted to help her family. She watched her single mom, exhausted and sore from field work, struggle to work and take care of her family of five every day. “I used to wish I could just sit with my mom and talk when I got home from school, like a lot of my friends did. But usually my sister would feed us, and by the time my mom got home from the fields around 8 or 9:00, she was so tired…she would take a shower and go straight to bed.”

So one day, Jackkie put on her own gloves and began to work in the tobacco fields. The work was hard, but it gave her the one thing she felt she was missing: time with her mom.

Donate today to support the organizing work our members like Jackkie are doing.

Jackkie’s first run at field work didn’t go well. “I wanted to work, but my mom didn’t like it at all,” she recalls. “I got sick really quickly after I started working. I was nauseous and had a lot of pain in my stomach, so my mom pulled me out of tobacco and told me to go back to the blueberry fields.” She remembers quite a few kids working in the fields with her. “The crew leader would just pretend like he didn’t see us. He didn’t push us like he did the adults, and he would just give us a little money on the side.”

DSC_0569_web sizeAround 10 or 11, Jackkie took on harder work. “I used to rip up the black plastic covering from the fields at the beginning of the season. That’s when I started getting sick. The dirt would go in my nose and my mouth. I could taste it when I drank water. It was hard because you had to dig your hands into the dirt, use your nails to get under it, to pull it up…it would end up ripping my skin. And you had to be careful not to accidentally rip up the plants, or you would get in trouble. The boss would yell at you.”

Long days in the sun left Jackkie exhausted and in pain, with torn and dirty hands. But even more difficult than the physical injuries was the fear she felt every day in the fields. Barely a teenager, she faced threats and verbal abuse from older male supervisors. She watched people around her get sick from the work, some fainting and struggling without water. But the gripping fear of losing a paycheck kept her and many others silent. “I didn’t know anything about my rights. And [supervisors] knew that people didn’t know their rights. So they would tell us to do things, and threaten to take money out of our checks. I used to think, what if they make me leave and they don’t give me my money? What if they fire my mom and she can’t work anymore? How would we pay the bills?”

For a few years she worked every summer in the fields of Eastern North Carolina. She doesn’t remember exactly how many summers she worked, because the repetitive work days blur together in her memory now.

Until the day she decided to quit.

On a hot summer day, when Jackkie and her coworkers sat down in the shade for a water break, the contractor passed around a single cup of water. Everyone had to drink from the same cup, which was filled with yellow water and dirt. “I didn’t want to drink it, but I was so thirsty. Just looking at the cup, I thought, I don’t want to do this anymore. They don’t give us enough water, or bathrooms. I’m not a dog. I need water, and I need clean water.”

After Jackkie left the fields at 14 she started working in a pepper factory, where she still works today. The work is hot and repetitive, but there’s shade, and a real bathroom in the building – small things that feel like luxuries after field work. But at the factory, Jackkie found a whole new set of abusive rules: workers aren’t allowed to talk to the person next to them, and the supervisors threaten to fire workers who go to the bathroom too often. When she first started, no one was provided gloves, and many people broke out with a rash.

Then one day, Jackkie’s sister introduced her to FLOC, and Jackkie found the support and resources she needed to fight back against the awful working conditions and abusive supervisors in the factory.

DSC_0582_web sizeNow, at 18, Jackkie actively educates and organizes other workers in the pepper factory and in her community. “The bosses think I’m ignorant and not educated,” she says. “They still try to intimidate me but I tell them they can’t intimidate me because I know my rights. They can’t tell me I can’t go to the bathroom. That’s illegal.”

Earlier this year, a supervisor in the factory told Jackkie they weren’t going to pay her because she had lost the card uses to clock in and out. She immediately confronted management. “Yes you are going to pay me, because I worked,” she said. She also discovered that her and others are being underpaid, and is working with FLOC to push factory management to pay everyone the correct wages.

Now, Jackkie’s organizing work goes far beyond the factory. Last summer, Jackkie founded a youth organizing committee within FLOC called the FLOCMigos. The FLOCMigos are all youth who have worked in the fields, and are now coming together to learn about organizing and support local organizing campaigns to improve conditions in the fields. “We can all relate [to each other], we’ve all been through a lot of the same things. We know the same struggle.”

Earlier this year, the FLOCMigos went to DC for a demonstration in support of FLOC’s campaign to organize thousands of tobacco farmworkers throughout the South. It was Jackkie’s first big demonstration, and when you ask her about it her eyes light up and you can feel her excitement. “I was the one with the loudest voice, so I was chanting and yelling. I liked the fact that everybody was looking at us, but not because we were doing something wrong. Because we were doing something really good.”

Donate today to support the FLOCMigos and their organizing work.

FLOCMigos in DC

 

Black Lives Matter To FLOC

Homies BLM upright long

FLOC mourns the loss of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the officers killed in Dallas and Baton Rouge, and we honor their lives by standing beside our black brothers and sisters fighting for black lives to be valued, respected, and protected. We are proud to be a part of a movement building black and brown solidarity, and today I am recommitting myself personally and FLOC to continue working with other unions and community organizations to build understanding and solidarity.

In our own community, the FLOC Homies Union, a youth organizing committee based out of FLOC’s Toledo office, is working to improve relations between the Toledo police and the local community. The Homes have been working with the Toledo Police Department to negotiate a code of conduct to foster honesty, integrity, and ethical behavior, and treatment that recognizes the value of every life.

Several members of the Homies Union have been the targets of police discrimination, and have been wrongly accused of being gang members. We want police to protect us, and not look at us as automatic suspects on the street.

Read more about the FLOC Homies Union here.

“We want the police to protect us, and not be looked upon as automatic suspects when they see us on the streets,” said FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez.

Watch the news report on the FLOC Homies work with Toledo Police.

Homies WTOL video screenshot

 

Philando Castile was also a part of our labor community. He was a member of Teamsters Local 320, and a beloved staff member at the school where he worked.
Now is the time when solidarity matters most in this movement for justice. I hope you’ll join us in standing with our black brothers and sisters as we all fight for a country where traffic stops don’t end in death.

 

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