¡Que viva FLOC! Justice for tobacco farm workers

floc_11On Tuesday, May 6, I piled into a van with several other fellow YAYAs and embarked on a road trip to Greensboro, NC. The purpose of this trip was to support the Farm Labor Organizing Committee and their campaign against the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company by making our presence known at the Reynolds American Inc. shareholders meeting. The importance of attending this meeting was to urge the board of directors to acknowledge and rectify the injustices farm workers face and to let them know that FLOC and it’s supporters aren’t going anywhere until they do.

Three of us were chosen to go inside the meeting including Cristina, floc_17Jonathan and myself. Our job was to ask questions pertaining to farm worker issues that ranged from improving abysmal living conditions to workers having the right to unionize and negotiate wages without fear of retaliation. Everyone was allotted enough time to ask all their questions but did not receive substantial answers.

FLOC as been attending these meetings over the past several years in an effort to demand space to voice their concerns and negotiate progress which is a slow process but it happening nonetheless.

Following the meeting we rejoined everyone who was participating in the floc_18March on Reynolds. It was exciting and rejuvenating to walk out of that stiff meeting and be met with drums and chants demanding farm worker justice erupting from the streets. I immediately ditched my dress shoes and threw on some sneakers ready to hit the pavement in solidarity. The march was concluded with a rally and passionate speakers urging everyone to stay engaged in this fight for justice.

Other components to this trip included organizing trainings to develop and sharpen our knowledge and skills. So, after we left the rally and took a collective nap there was still work to be done. We went through a YAYA floc_13training to demonstrate the dynamics of power and privilege. The previous day we were engaged in training by Funds for Democratic Communities on fundraising and solidified some important strategies for the rest of the year.

Of course this trip wasn’t all work as we did get to have bonding time with folks from FLOC, the National Farm Worker Ministry, and some farm workers. The most vital aspect to this trip was making a camp visit to experience the living and working conditions of farm workers and to hear their stories of struggle and triumph. Building relationships with the people we are working in solidarity with is absolutely necessary to doing this work and trips like this are definitely essential.

floc_15I am tremendously grateful for the kind hospitality of the folks at the First Baptist Church in Greensboro and everyone who made it possible for us to attend this trip and have these experiences that keeps us impassioned and motivated to carry on in the fight for farm worker justice.

Heather Bryan
Orlando YAYA

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