FLOC staff in North Carolina and volunteers (including the Triangle Friends of Farmworkers) are working together to stand with farm workers facing intimidation, abuse, and wage theft. They are also delivering food since a bad crop has impacted some farm workers and growers, and others are dealing with a corrupt farm labor contractor impacting six farms in Eastern Carolina.
In recent weeks, delegations of farm workers, union organizers and volunteers have been delivering letters to growers about conditions that need to be addressed. About this, Baldemar Velasquez said, “The farm labor contractor Salvador Barajas has stolen workers’ wages. This corrupt labor contractor is providing the workers NO breakfast any day, and NO meals on Sunday! And he is stealing the wages they fairly earned. Brave farm workers are putting their jobs and pay on the line so they can win their rights. What does a movement for justice take? It takes small campaigns, led by a couple of leaders and protected by many believers!”
This is also about having union recognition, something FLOC has been calling for in the tobacco industry for years, asking them to require basic human rights in their supply chain. The tobacco companies have not taken any significant action. They have chosen, instead, to try public relations and meetings and negotiations but there has been no meaningful change.
“After 12 years of calling for real action, all these companies have done is set up phony audits and a complaint hotline run by GAP Connections, an industry front group they all created together. We are calling on these companies to put their money where their mouth is and improve pricing and purchasing practices so that growers and workers can have safe, fair, and stable jobs,” said FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez. “Companies can claim they require higher standards, but if they pay growers who use these Farm Labor Contractors the same price for tobacco as the good growers who hire directly and provide good conditions, their commitments are worthless and this is the inevitable result.”
Often, farm worker management and recruitment is outsourced to Farm Labor Contractors. It is a tactic to avoid directly hiring workers, paying good wages, providing decent housing and complying with union benefits. This work is delegated in order to save the grower money, but the savings are often passed on to the workers through the Farm Labor Contractor who exploits them for personal gain, including intimidation and threats of retaliation.
NFWM is continuing its support of farm worker rights via the VUSE boycott. For background and updates for this campaign go to https://nfwm.org/farm-workers/