The decision to hold the Convention in North Carolina, rather
than Toledo, Ohio, where it has been held since 1967, was
noteworthy, as FLOC has spent six years pushing tobacco giant
Reynolds American to guarantee labor rights and end labor abuses
in the tobacco supply chain of the South.
According to FLOC’s press release, FLOC President Baldemar
Velásquez stressed the need for continued organizing as the
US South leads the country in sub-standard conditions and wages.
In August, the State Legislature passed a bill that” attempts to
ensure that farmworkers never attain labor rights, the right to
organize, or freedom of association.”
In a unanimous vote, delegates passed a resolution to
launch a massive organizing campaign next summer, with a goal of
signing up 5,000 new farmworker members throughout North
Carolina, strengthening the union and the movement to fight for
fair treatment in the work place. Members also voted to continue
the campaign to pressure major tobacco companies to guarantee
labor rights in their supply chain.
Fifteen other resolutions passed including resolutions for
increased wages, safe and healthy working conditions, and an end
to family separation through deportation. “These 16 resolutions
represent a lot of work ahead of us; they represent the demands
of the farmworkers so I take them very seriously,” said
Guest speakers included AFGE President J David Cox, NC
NAACP President Rev Dr. William J Barber, Rogel del Rosal
Valladeres of the Red Campesina de Pequeños Productores, an
organization of small growers in Mexico, Leonel Rivero, a
human rights attorney, and Francisco Pablo Jiménez of
MOCRI, a former political prisoner recently liberated after
fighting contamination from mining companies in rural Mexico.
All delivered messages of solidarity to the farmworker struggle,
and pledged their commitment to support next summer’s organizing
drive. “The NC NAACP stands with the farmworkers and their union
today and we will stand with the farmworkers next summer as you
organize thousands of tobacco farmworkers throughout the state!”
said Rev. Barber, as he was greeted with a standing
ovation by FLOC members.
The urgent need for unity in the labor movement in the South and
solidarity between black and brown workers was a common theme
that ran throughout the convention. “They call people illegal
and unauthorized. My bible tells me that the only thing
unauthorized is the mistreatment of our fellow brothers and
sisters” Said Rev. Barber.
Following the convention, hundreds of allies joined FLOC
delegates for a march/rally in downtown Durham in support of
humane immigration reform and labor rights in agriculture.
Rally speakers included Velásquez, CJ Stephens of SEANC, José
Cisneros of Fuerza y Libertad, and Veronica Isabel Dahlberg,
Executive Director of HOLA.
For video of the march, click here: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6Cj_Z-6I2PmaHBfQ1pYOWFWQUE/edit?usp=sharing