Austin, TX – In the Fall of 2019, FLOC members faced abusive working conditions, wage theft, threats, and violations of basic health and safety protocols in the tobacco and sweet potato fields of North Carolina, including on farms that supply Whole Foods. Collaborating with Oxfam America, FLOC is seeking to meet with Whole Foods and other supermarket chains to discuss how they can end human rights abuses of migrant workers in their supply chains. For over 50 years, FLOC members have fought for improved working and living standards for migrant farmworkers in the Mid-West and Southern US, pioneering agreements between growers, workers, and agricultural purchasers such as Campbell’s Soup in 1986 and Mt. Olive Pickle Company in 2004. These agreements have resolved longstanding labor abuses that track back to the days of slavery and Jim Crow exclusions of then largely Black farmworkers through guaranteeing workers the right to freely associate, organize, and collectively bargain for improvements.
Whole Foods refused the dignity of a formal meeting, Oxfam, FLOC, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters held a rally outside of Whole Foods’ HQ in Austin, Texas on Jan. 16th.
“There are lots of abuses in the sweet potato industry, including low wages and a lack of real increase in the payment to workers for sweet potatoes, even as demand and supermarket prices increase. Farmworkers deserve more from companies who control the sweet potato prices around the country!” said Leticia Zavala, FLOC member and board member as she held a sign displaying a picture of FLOC members working in the fields with a quote from a member quoted saying “I’m concerned about dying in the fields.”