Category Archives: Recent Events

World’s Tobacco Workers United in Global Fight for Justice

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FLOC’s fight to improve working and living conditions for tobacco workers has expanded into a global call for action 


On January 30, FLOC President and Founder Baldemar Velasquez traveled to Yangon, Myanmar to invite agricultural unions to join FLOC in a global call to implement human rights for agricultural workers. While many tobacco companies like Reynolds American and British American 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. During the World Conference of Agricultural Workers’ Unions, President Velasquez highlighted the need for all agricultural workers to fight together in an international effort to improve working conditions within the transnational supply chains of tobacco companies.

The global call began in 2016 in Malawi, Africa when union leaders from 8 tobacco growing countries in Africa and Latin American assembled with FLOC to discuss the problems that union members face. It quickly became clear that tobacco workers across the world deal with many of the same issues such as 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, a declaration was drafted and adopted, initiating a global call for action. Specifically, the declaration 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.

This week, the agricultural sector unions of the IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations) officially ratified the declaration and vowed to fight together with FLOC for farmworker justice! The final version of the declaration and work plan will be presented to the IUF 27th Congress in Geneva in August.


Click here to read the full declaration presented in Myanmar!


[President Velasquez] said the global “call for action” represents a coordinated step toward protecting agricultural workers across the world, and he vowed to take international tobacco companies to task who won’t allow their laborers to organize.

“Each country, with the support of all the organized unions, will trigger an economic pressure on the tobacco companies to make good on freedom of association, the right to represent ourselves,” he said, adding union leaders are laying the groundwork for a global boycott of some tobacco distributors. “This will get their attention.”

“Toledo FLOC leader issues ‘call to action’”,Toledo Blade, Feb. 3, 2017




BV speaking in Myanmar wide


Members Convene in Nayarit to Prepare for FLOC Convention

Nayarit Meeting

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.

Isidro Castro

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


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.

Triangle Friends of Farmworkers Benefit Dinner for FLOC

Come Celebrate and Support FLOC’s 2016 Work Organizing Farmworkers!
Join us to hear from FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez, Liz Shuler,

the first woman elected Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO, and other union leaders.

When: Saturday, October 29, 2016 
           6:00 – 8:00 PM

Where: Durham Central Park Cohousing Community
           130 Hunt Street, Durham, NC
         (Park in the Center for Senior Life lot directly across
Hunt Street.)

Home-made Mexican food & Music by Sue Gilbertson,

Charlie Thompson & friends

Make a Reservation NOW

(and no later than October 25th);
email Dave Austin at


HELP Triangle Friends of Farmworker’s reach their goal of $4,000 raised to support FLOC and farm worker rights!!

CAN’T ATTEND?      We still need your help.  

Please contribute. Write a check to “Center for Migrant Worker Justice” (FLOC’s 501(c)(3) partner) and mail to: “Dave Austin; 130 Hunt St. Apt 407; Durham, NC 27701″  OR  

NC Members gather to train leaders and build union

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August 2, 2016

(Español abajo)

members meeting presentation_ajonas

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.

FLOC Joins Ohio Against Hate Campaign

BV Ohio Against Hate

June 10, 2016

FLOC is proud to join the Ohio Against Hate Campaign to encourage 100,000 Ohio voters to stand up and speak out against the hate-filled agenda of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. FLOC’s President Velasquez spoke at a press conference kicking off the campaign in Cleveland, OH yesterday. “Donald Trump is just vocalizing what we’ve heard under people’s breaths,” he said. “We continue to speak out against that and fight the inequities that propel the polarization and division that is based on greed and avarice.”

From Ohio Against Hate’s press release:

“The effort will be the largest summertime neighborhood-based, door-to-door campaign against hate and divisiveness in Ohio history, according to Ohio Against Hate Campaign Coordinator Jerry Pena. More information on the effort is at

On July 16, over the weekend before the Republican National Convention, more than 2,000 volunteers from Ohio will deliver a message of love and unity to multicultural communities across the state that have become the target of Trump’s hateful attacks. The door-to-door campaign will reach out to people in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton, Youngstown, Toledo, and Akron.”

Read the full press release here


FLOC Homies Union Organizes Women’s Empowerment March in Toledo


June 6, 2016

“When enough of us stand together and speak out, we can make changes happen. Young women like myself have a fundamental right to our personal safety. Schools and other institutions are not doing enough to protect that safety.” -Billi, Homies member

DSC_7733_web 4On Saturday, Toledo community members and organizations, including YWCA and AAUW, joined the FLOC Homies Union for a Women’s Empowerment March to raise awareness of sexual harassment and abuse toward women, empower women to speak out about these issues, and encourage institutions like the Toledo Public Schools to address these issues in a meaningful way.
Harley Foore, a member of the FLOC Homies Union, spoke at the rally following the march. “When The Homies first got together as a class, we began talking about issues that we saw in our community,” said Foore. “We quickly discovered that all of the girls in the class had at one point or another been harassed on the street or in our school…this made us feel unsafe and kept us from walking anywhere by ourselves.”


Homies member Billi Zimmerman leads the march

Billi Zimmerman, another Homies member, courageously spoke about her own experience with sexual harassment. “When I was in elementary school I was sexually harassed. I spoke up and nobody took me seriously. They thought I was lying. My principal told me that there was nothing she could do since there was no evidence. How can there be no evidence when the incident happened right in front of a camera? Why am I being called a liar and why not being believed especially when over half of girls will be sexually harassed in high school?”

One of the goals of the march was to press institutions like Toledo Public Schools to do more to keep women safe. Foore, a student at a Toledo high school noted, “Toledo Public Schools do not currently offer any training on sexual harassment or consent. They have nothing in the student handbook that talks about sexual harassment or consent. How is this acceptable?”

The Homies have scheduled a meeting with Toledo Public Schools superintendent Durant next week, and plan to ask him to begin talking to students about issues like sexual harassment, rape, and consent. “Ultimately we want him to start listening to the female students at his school, and to take their concerns seriously,” says Foore.