National Farm Worker Ministry in partnership with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries, and the North Carolina Council of Churches hosted Putting Our Faith Into Action: Supporting Farm Workers in North Carolina on March 18th, 2014. The event was an opportunity for organizations to learn how to use their faith to answer the call to stand alongside farm workers in a fight for justice.
NFWM Executive Director Rev. Lindsay C. Comstock opened the evening with a thank you to the organizations in attendance and a brief introduction of what NFWM has done to support farm workers in the last few months. “We are proud to stand alongside the hard working men and women who make up the Farm Labor Organizing Committee. As tobacco workers launch a 5,000 card sign-up campaign this summer, NFWM will be organizing support from religious communities and faith leaders to support FLOC’s efforts,” said Rev. Comstock.
Briana Kemp, External Affairs Director for FLOC, introduced numerous events and actions that faith organizations have already taken part in and even more opportunities that are happening in the near future. Kemp discussed the actions in front of Pantry, Inc. stores, letter writing campaigns to managers and attendance at the various shareholder meetings. Tying together the important link that farm workers and faith organizations have, Kemp stressed the importance of religious leaders’ presence at these events and the way in which faith organizations can continue to help in the future.
FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez then shared the many successes of the FLOC Reynolds Tobacco Campaign over the past year, while emphasizing the need for future action. “When everyone else said no, that we couldn’t change companies and organize farm workers, [the faith community] said yes. Without the church, FLOC would not exist,” stated President Velasquez in a moving history of the faith community’s influence on FLOC’s successes.
President Velasquez urged faith organizations to continue to fight with farm workers for justice, while stressing that farm workers need to have a voice. “Farm workers do not need service providers, they need a say in their own futures. These people would feed, clothe and shelter their own families if they had a decent living wage.”
After taking questions and comments from the audience, Rev. Comstock, Kemp and President Velasquez provided more opportunities for faith organizations to stand on the side of farm workers. Kemp encouraged everyone to continue to join them in the Reynolds Tobacco Campaign, especially through the upcoming Annual Pilgrimage for Peace and Justice event that will highlight the human rights violations in the Reynolds supply chain. President Velasquez briefed the group on internship opportunities that will organize more farm workers to join FLOC and his plan of funding each intern over the summer. Rev. Comstock ended the evening with an offering of resources to mobilize faith organizations on NFWM’s website and a call to help FLOC raise money for their summer interns, “wouldn’t it be great if the faith communities in this room could partner together and fund one or two interns this summer?”
Need help putting your faith into action? Contact NFWM for resources and information on farm worker campaigns in your area. Litanies, prayers and other worship resources are available and can be created based on the needs of your congregation.
Kelli Davis Communications and Development Director firstname.lastname@example.org