Category Archives: Recent Events

“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!

Undercover Video Shows Child Labor in the Fields

Ever wondered what it’s like to work in the fields? Watch as Kiwi Callahan goes undercover in Eastern NC to reveal the truth about child labor in the fields.

Part One of Where I Don’t Belong: In the Fields

 Part Two of Where I Don’t Belong: In the Fields

 

FLOC has continuously called on Reynolds American to sign an agreement with FLOC to guarantee the right to freedom of association to all farmworkers in their supply chain. In May 2016, RAI for the first-time admitted instances of child labor, hazardous working conditions and other human rights abuses on contract farms in their 2015 audit report; however, they continue to deny farmworkers the right to organize and collectively bargain without fear of retaliation, arguing that simple trainings can solve the inequities in their supply chain. Click here to read more about the Reynolds campaign!

FLOC celebrates the release of Oscar Lopez Rivera

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After serving 35 years in prison, Oscar Lopez Rivera has been transferred home to Puerto Rico where he will be released after finishing the last three months of his sentence. Join us in celebrating his long-awaited freedom!

As a leader of the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN), Lopez Rivera fought for Puerto Rican independence. In 1977, he was arrested and charged with seditious conspiracy because of his anticolonial organizing. For decades, human rights groups and activists like Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter have called for the release of Lopez Rivera. More recently, FLOC President Velasquez sent a letter to President Obama in January 2017, calling on him to use his executive power to commute his sentence and release him.

“I am joining the voices of my Latino brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico and the US as well as so many concerned persons not only here but globally, asking that you release Oscar Lopez Rivera before your term as President ends. Mr. Rivera has certainly served his time; and there is no societal benefit for his continued incarceration. In fact, persons of good will around the world would welcome his release as a humanitarian act so indicative of who you are as a person and as a President.”

 

 

FLOC celebra la libertad de Oscar López Rivera

Después de servir 35 años de su sentencia de prisión, Oscar López Rivera ha sido traslado a su hogar, Puerto Rico, donde va a ser liberado después de terminar los últimos tres meses de su sentencia. Únanse con nosotrxs en celebración de una larga espera para ser liberado!

Como líder de las Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN), fue detenido y convicto por conspiración sediciosa debido a su organización anticolonial. Por décadas, grupos y activistas de derechos humanos como Desmund Tutu y Jimmy Carter han exigido su liberación. Recientemente, Presidente Velásquez escribió al presidente Obama en enero de 2017, solicitándole que use su poder ejecutivo para conmutar la sentencia y liberar a Lopez Rivera.

“Me estoy uniendo a las llamadas de mis hermanxs latinxs en Puerto Rico y los Estados Unidos, así como tantas personas interesadas no solo aquí sino en todo el mundo, pidiéndole la liberación de Oscar Lopez Rivera antes de que se termine su mandato como presidente. Sin duda, señor Rivera ha cumplido su condena. De hecho, personas de buena voluntad de todo el mundo agradecerían su liberación como un acto humanitario tan indicativo de quien eres como persona y como presidente.”

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

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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.

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

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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.

Triangle Friends of Farmworkers Benefit Dinner for FLOC

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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 daustin@mindspring.com

CONTRIBUTIONS WILL BE REQUESTED. 

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

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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.

FLOC Joins Ohio Against Hate Campaign

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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 OhioAgainstHate.com.

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

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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.”

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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.