Category Archives: Front Page Slides

Union Democracy in Action at the FLOC 13th Constitutional Convention

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On September 9, 2017 FLOC members from Ohio and the Carolinas convened in Toledo, OH for FLOC’s 13th Constitutional Convention. Not only did this convention represent the culmination of a year of camp meetings, regional membership meetings in both Mexico and in the US, and the previous day’s committee meeting, but it also represented the successes of the past 50 years of FLOC’s work and constant struggle.

 

Members voted to reelect Baldemar Velasquez as president, Justin Flores as vice president, and Christiana Velasquez as Secretary Treasurer. They also voted for the FLOC Board and welcomed on two new board members: former FLOC Vice President Leticia Zavala and FLOC member and leader Eli Porras Carmona.

“[translated] I accepted the nomination with all of my heart and the will to accomplish many things for my coworkers. There is a lot to do, and I am sure that together we will accomplish la Victoria for all of our proposed resolutions.” – said newly elected board member Eli Porras.

Special guest speakers included Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks Hudson, Leonel Rivero, FLOC’s Mexico attorney, and Francisco Pablo Jimenez of MOCRI, a former political prisoner liberated after fighting contamination from mining companies in rural Mexico.

 

After the convention, allies joined FLOC members for a march and rally in downtown Toledo to defend immigrant rights and make sure that Toledo doesn’t become another Charlottesville. Click here to watch the march in action!

Members vote to boycott VUSE e-cigarette

Members presented, debated, and passed 13 resolutions including two emergency resolutions which will give the union leadership guidance on what the union’s work for the next four years will entail. Resolutions addressed important issues and topics like wages, housing, retirement benefits, immigration reform, and education.

 

One of the most important moments of the convention came when, in a unanimous vote, delegates passed a resolution to boycott Reynolds e-cigarette VUSE to escalate FLOC’s campaign with tobacco giant Reynolds American to guarantee farmworkers the right to organize!

Speaking to this resolution, Jose Benjamin, an H2A tobacco worker in North Carolina, said, “[translated] We have given a lot to the tobacco companies and in return they have given us very little. We are the ones who work, and we are the ones who suffer.”

Thank you to everyone who helped make this convention possible!

The convention would not have been possible without our amazing volunteers and drivers who helped register delegates, pick up and transport members, act as security to keep our members safe, and translate between Spanish and English. A special thanks to the National Farmworker Ministry and the YAYAs who drove here from Florida to participate and volunteer at the convention. And lastly, a HUGE thank you to our sponsors whose donations made this convention fiscally possible!

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IUF votes unanimously to join FLOC’s fight

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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

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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

Gov. Cooper Signs Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Worker Bill in NC

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Only a few weeks ago during meetings with worker and immigrant rights organizations, NC Governor Roy Cooper committed to support workers and veto anti-immigrant bills. His promise was put to the test when the NC Legislature passed S615, a bill sponsored by farmers elected to the NC General Assembly that aims to stop FLOC from continuing our efforts to improve wages and working conditions for farmworkers. Despite numerous requests from labor and immigrant rights organizations and other social justice NGOs for a veto, Governor Cooper signed S615 on July 13.

The amendment sponsor, Rep. Dixon, himself a farmer, was asked about why he feared farmworkers would join unions when there are already anti-union laws in place and replied, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” clarifying without a doubt his intention to stifle workers’ right to freedom of association and speech.

“Gov. Cooper chose to be on the wrong side of history, supporting the continuation of racist Jim Crow-era laws aimed at keeping immigrant farmworkers from achieving equal rights and ending abuses in the fields. It is a shame that this Democrat and others refuse to stand on the side of the most marginalized working poor and the immigrant workers that keep this state’s economy afloat.”

- President Baldemar Velasquez

However, the fight is not yet over. We plan to challenge this bill in the courts. Please join us for a press conference next Tuesday, July 18 at the Governor’s office in Raleigh, NC to discuss next steps to stop this bill’s implementation. More details coming soon!

Kale Farmworkers Settle Lawsuit against Teachey Produce!

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Four migrant farmworkers, with the assistance of FLOC, recently settled a class action lawsuit with Teachey Produce in Rose Hill, NC! The farmworkers were compensated for wage theft, health and safety violations, and retaliatory discharge despite the Teachey Brothers using immigration threats to try to silence them.

On June 24, 2016, Pedro went to pick corn for Teachey Produce. When he got to the field, he realized there was no water despite dangerously high temperatures. That day, he had a heat stroke and had to be hospitalized. What made the situation worse was that the Teacheys then refused to file a workman’s comp claim or help Pedro with the hospital bill that was equivalent to almost a whole season’s worth of Pedro’s wages.

On another occasion, Floricel Morales-Cruz spent a day picking kale and packaging it into boxes. After an entire day’s work, the Teacheys dumped the kale onto the ground, told him that it wasn’t good enough, and refused to pay him for his work. Meanwhile, Victoria Hernandez and Florencio Jose-Ambrosio also worked picking kale and were paid per bucket, but experienced unauthorized deductions from their checks without explanation.

The four migrant farmworkers worked with FLOC organizers to try to settle the dispute informally; however, after the Teacheys responded by threatening to call ICE, the workers decided to file a class action lawsuit together against Teachey Produce. Later, during the mediation of the claims, the plaintiffs were told that they were “wetbacks” and would be “kicked back to Mexico.” Despite the threats, a settlement was reached, and in total, Teachey Produce will pay over $60,000 to resolve all claims!

“Unfortunately, this case is not an isolated incident in Southern agriculture, especially during the Trump presidency. We’re happy we could assist these workers in standing up for their rights and getting what was owed to them. We’ll do everything we can to assist more workers in joining together to face these problems collectively.” said FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez.

Click here to read about another recent win for farmworkers in NC!

FLOC Pushes PMI to Help Blacklisted Workers

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In October 2015, 8 tobacco farm workers decided to speak out against pervasive wage theft and intimidation on their farm in Newton Grove, NC where they were employed through the Farm Labor Contractor Jr. Perez. After the workers spoke to auditors from the tobacco company Philip Morris International (PMI) as well as the US Department of Labor about the issues and saw no results, they collaborated with FLOC to stage a work stoppage to recover their stolen wages. The workers were then retaliated against and blacklisted by Jr. Perez, who continues to deny them employment.

PMI boasts having higher labor standards than most tobacco companies including freedom of association and collective bargaining rights for workers in their supply chain, but when FLOC has pressed them on how these standards apply to real life situations, they are silent. To date, PMI has not informed FLOC of any actions taken to protect and defend the 8 workers who risked their livelihoods to fix inequities in PMI’s supply chain.

“Scripture instructs us in 1 John 3:18, ‘…not in word or speech, but in truth and action.’ This is what we Faith Leaders from different traditions in New York City have and are asking of PMI and their suppliers. Not merely to write an ALP [Agricultural Labor Practices Code] but to have it placed into action so that unethical Farm Labor Contractors like Jr. Perez will be unable to blacklist individuals.”- Reverend Luis-Alfredo Cartagena

On May 3, 2017 during PMI’s shareholders meeting in New York, President Velasquez and New York religious leaders questioned PMI on their lack of response to the blacklisting of the 8 FLOC members. They also presented a resolution that would allow PMI to fix systemic issues in their supply chain and empower more workers to come out of the shadows.

“None of the steps PMI has taken constitute an independent grievance mechanism. They are all paid for and financed by PMI. FLOC has continuously shown that corporate funded grievances mechanisms don’t work; we need an independent process for workers to report and resolve issues like wage theft, intimidation, retaliation, and child labor.” – President Velasquez

In response, PMI Chairman Camilleri stated that they would work with both the Farm Labor Practices Group as well as FLOC to create a proper grievance mechanism that would transform their written policies into real tools that workers can use to correct labor violations. PMI needs to act fast, not just for the 8 workers blacklisted by Jr. Perez, but for all farmworkers who face human rights abuses but are silenced by the threat of retaliation.

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!

Add your name to #RaisetheWage in NC!

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Farmworkers work over 12 hour days in the fields, exposing themselves to pesticides, dangerous temperatures, and other health hazards – and yet many of them are still living in poverty, barely able to put food on the table. For too long, tobacco companies like Reynolds American Inc. have marginalized farmers to keep tobacco prices low, resulting in poverty wages and exploitation for those at the bottom of their supply chain. It is time for companies like Reynolds to use their wealth and industry power to ensure economic security and justice for everyone in their supply chain by paying fair prices for their tobacco and signing an agreement with FLOC to guarantee farmworkers freedom of association.

Add your name to support raising the minimum wage in North Carolina to $15 in 5 years! Then, click here to read more about the Reynolds Campaign. 

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