The suspect was fired by
the growers association after FLOC representatives filed a
grievance over the attack, Velásquez said. It wasn’t the first
time that FLOC and farmworkers have complained about the
suspect, he said.
“He’s made threats before;
he’s been accused of sexual harassment,” said Velásquez. “He’s a
typical bully whose always been allowed to keep doing it.”
The assault comes on the
eve of a high profile visit by members of the British Parliament
who want to see first-hand reports on the serious human rights
abuses that FLOC and farmworkers say are occurring constantly in
tobacco fields throughout North Carolina and the south; a charge
that Reynolds American has steadfastly denied.
British American Tobacco
owns 42 percent of Reynolds American, which FLOC
officials hope they will use to push Reynolds into addressing
Some of the problems FLOC
has cited include: inadequate housing, below-minimum wages and
wage theft, workplace injuries, pesticide and nicotine poisoning
and other health-related problems.
The British contingency
will arrive late Friday, July 25 and visit farms throughout the
Velásquez, who lives in
the Toledo area, had to go to North Carolina early this past
week after his campaign worker, Oscar Sánchez, was attacked.
Sánchez was shaken, but not seriously injured in the incident,
“He’s a tough old bird,”
According to FLOC
officials Sánchez had arrived at the North Carolina farm after
haven taking FLOC members to local food bank. Previously Sánchez
had been meeting with farmworkers who were concerned because the
work season was off to a slow start due to the weather.
FLOC had filed a request
for a fund managed by the North Carolina Growers Association to
help workers survive when work is scarce. Sánchez said the
growers’ representative was singling out farmworkers who were
requesting help and appeared to be trying to intimidate them.
After Sánchez corrected a
mispronounced name, the growers’ representative without warning
crossed the 20 feet between him and Sánchez and began punching
him in the face.