Category Archives: Events and Highlights Archive

Songs For Justice, Join Us!

 

Join us for a night of FLOC history through story and song! The Aguila Negra band features a mix of of movement songs with traditional folk music. The band donates 100% of the proceeds to the FLOC movement. Please join us at the concert and consider becoming a sponsor.

Your contributions will support FLOC’s struggle to win fair and safe working conditions, fair pay, and the right to collectively bargain for thousands of farm workers.

 

Sponsorship Details: 

$100.00 – Silver

$200.00 – Gold

$300.00 – Platinum

$500.00+ – Underwriter For Justice

 

*Tax exempt contributions can be made to CMWJ, FLOC’s education  and training partner.

Mail contributions to 1221 Broadway St., Toledo, OH 43609

or

make a donation online at our website: www.floc.com

For more information e-mail iayers@floc.com or call 419-243-3456

Olympian Harvesters Deserve A Fair Day’s Pay for Hard Work!

FLOC members are Olympian harvesters! Thanks to Esmith for the video!

This is what they call el baje; they’re taking all the leaves off the stalk and as you can see he fills his underarm with a whole lot of leaves. Then he runs to the trailer to dump it (that part isn’t in the video), and then he goes back to the row and does it again for hours at a time!

Farmworkers deserve a fair day’s pay for the hardwork. Reynolds American continues to refuse to guarantee a fair wage and fair housing in their supply chain, even after understanding how hard this work is in extreme temperatures. This is why we #BoycottVUSE

Click on the link below to see the video of our members in action!

https://photos.app.goo.gl/M4uT3ut9G1YhwoJb8

 

Miembros de FLOC son trabajadores tremendos! Gracias a Esmith por el video!

Aqui estan en el baje, quitando todas las hojas de la planta, llenando la brazada con un monton de hojas. Despues uno corre a dejar las hojas en la traila y regresa a hacerlo otra vez por horas y horas!

Trabajadores agricolas merecen un salario justo por un trabajo duro. Reynolds American sigue negando su responsibilidad para asegurar salarios y viviendas justas a los trabajadores en su cadena de produccion, aun sabiendo que tan duro esta este trabajo especialmente cuando se pone muy caliente! Por eso tenemos el boicot de VUSE, #BoycottVUSE

Haga clic en el enlace de abajo para ver el video de nuestros miembros en acción.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/M4uT3ut9G1YhwoJb8

Congratulations Sesario Duran!

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.

FLOC Sues NC Over Law Stripping Rights From 100,000 Workers

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.”

Tobacco Farm Workers on Strike in Kentucky

On Wednesday, seven tobacco farm workers who come from Nayarit, Mexico through the H2A guest worker program initiated a strike on Wayne Day’s farm. For the past three years, Day systematically cheated the workers out of the minimal wage. While the H2A minimal wage in Kentucky now stands at $10.92 per hour, Day paid the workers only $7 per hour in 2015, $8 in 2016 and $8 again in 2017. Additionally, the workers were at times paid by piece rate, earning them as little as $3 an hour despite working at a fast pace.

“We are on strike because of the unfair pay of the grower who hopes to get away with not paying us the correct wage.  We came to work for a better life for our families through sacrifice and sweat. But what we have been paid is insufficient. Even working at a high speed, we cannot earn a living wage on this farm.”  said Cristian Santillan, one of the leaders of the striking workers.

This year, the workers joined FLOC and asked Day to recognize the union, negotiate with FLOC, and pay back all stolen wages. On Sep 19, Stephen Bartlett, a FLOC organizer, delivered the legal demand letter to Day. The grower responded by saying that if the workers don’t like the wages he pays, they can return to Mexico. “This tactic is not going to work with these workers,” said Bartlett.  “They came to the US to support their families and communities back home, and they are going to fight for what is rightfully theirs and the wage promised to them in their work contract.”

On Oct 11, the workers initiated a strike, refusing to work until Day pays them back the stolen wages and agrees to pay them the minimum wage going forward. On Sunday, Oct 15, FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez and a FLOC support delegation will be visiting the workers to show solidarity for what may be the first tobacco farmworker strike in recent KY history.

For folk in Kentucky who want to support the workers:

Contact Stephen Bartlett (estebanbartlett@gmail.com, 502-415-1080) for upcoming solidarity actions! Please support the workers by contributing to a strike fund to support these members financially during the strike and in their struggle to win a union contract! 

 

IUF votes unanimously to join FLOC’s fight

The IUF (International Union Federation) votes to join FLOC in an international fight against tobacco companies 

During the 27th IUF World Congress in Geneva, the IUF unanimously adopted a resolution co-authored by FLOC that calls on tobacco companies to guarantee farmworkers freedom of association. While many tobacco companies like Reynolds American, British American Tobacco, and Philip Morris International claim to have protocols that protect farmworkers, they continuously move production to countries where it’s easier to exploit workers through lower wages and safety standards.

In October 2016, FLOC traveled to Malawi, Africa to gather with union leaders from 8 tobacco growing countries in Africa and Latin American and discuss the common problems that farmworkers face globally: poverty wages, child labor, sexual harassment, lack of access to water, and job insecurity. In response to these issues and the failure of charity programs, trainings, and audits to have a meaningful effect on conditions in the fields, the coalition of unions drafted a resolution calling on unions to work together to fix issues in the transnational tobacco companies’ supply chains. Specifically, the resolution calls on Reynolds American and other tobacco companies to guarantee the right to freedom of association by creating a practical mechanism that allows workers to negotiate the conditions of their labor without fear of being fired or retaliated against.

“Today, we received phenomenal support from the IUF for our global tobacco campaign. Specifically we gathered significant support in launching the next phase of the campaign for a Vuse electronic cigarette boycott.” Said FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez

Listen to the Public News Service report on the passing of the IUF & FLOC resolution: International Effort Gains Momentum to Protect NC Tobacco Workers

 

FLOC Condemns White Supremacy

FLOC Condemns the Violent Attack in Charlottesville, VA and Celebrates All Those Who Fight Against White Supremacy 

Our hearts go out to the people of Charlottesville, Virginia, especially to those who lost their lives or who were injured during Saturday’s racist attack. We also stand in solidarity with all those who in the face of these attacks have fearlessly taken action to confront white supremacy.

As someone who has been threatened with physical violence and has watched the Ku Klux Klan burn crosses in front of our strike headquarters, we are no stranger to this type of racial violence. We have seen this violence from farmers who seek to stop the progress that we have made and return the institutions of slavery and share cropping to the South and Midwest. We have seen this violence from local police who target our people and collaborate with ICE to tear apart our families. We have seen this violence from the NC state legislature, most recently with Farm Bill, SB 615, a targeted attack against our union and farmworkers who are fighting to improve their working conditions. And we have seen this violence from our president whose words and policies have not only directly hurt us but have also emboldened neo-Nazi and other white supremacist organizations to commit acts of terror.

Racism hurts us all and seeks to divide us as a people. Those who dismantle the structures and institutions of racism should be celebrated not criminalized. On Monday night, Takiyah Thompson removed the Confederate monument in Durham, NC that has for too long sent the wrong message about who we are as a nation. We applaud her actions and encourage everyone to commit to organizing and building unions and strong peoples organizations to challenge the systemic inequities in our daily lives.

In the words of Heather Heyer who died while fighting for what she believed in, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” FLOC is paying attention, and we remain committed to continuing the fight for racial and economic justice for all people.

 

In solidarity,

Baldemar Velasquez

FLOC speaks out against abuses in BAT supply chain

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!

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