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Grower rep fired after assaulting FLOC campaign leader

By Federico Martínez, Special to La Prensa

A representative for the North Carolina Growers Association was fired this past week after physically assaulting Oscar Sánchez, campaign leader for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee’s “Respect, Recognition, Raise!” campaign, FLOC President Baldemar Velásquez confirmed on Sunday.

The attack, which was captured on video, occurred on July 9, 2014. The suspect, who the growers association and FLOC have not named, is being charged with assault locally, Velásquez said. The charges could not be confirmed at the time of publication. Representatives for the growers association could not be reached for further comment.
 

Baldemar Velásquez

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 their concerns.

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 weekend.

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, Velásquez said.

 “He’s a tough old bird,” said Velásquez

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.

 

 
Copyright © 1989 to 2014 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 07/29/14 19:15:39 -0700.

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