On October 12, 2013, nearly 400 FLOC members gathered in Durham, NC for FLOC’s 12th Constitutional Convention. This was the culmination of a year’s worth of camp meetings, regional membership meetings, and the previous day’s committee meetings, which gave farmworkers the decision making ability to guide their union’s work and speak out about the issues they are facing.
Resolutions Committee co-chairs Jose Gonzalez Sandoval and Maria Elena Valdez led the delegates in reading, debating, and passing 16 resolutions which will give the elected FLOC leadership guidance on what issues to pursue as vital to the farmworker movement. Resolutions addressed key field issues such as wages, housing, breaks on the job, but also broader political issues, such as immigration reform and a continued effort to convince tobacco manufacturers to clean up their supply chain.
Speaking to the resolution on the fight for a just minimum wage for farmworkers, FLOC member-delegate Pedro Ramirez said, “[translated] We work extremely hard under the most difficult circumstances so that we can feed and clothe our family and making less than $8 an hour is not a dignified salary, so I support this resolution and look forward to working on it!”
Members vote to launch 5,000 farmworker sign up campaign
One of the most important moments of the convention came when, in a unanimous vote, delegates passed a resolution to continue the Reynolds Campaign to pressure tobacco giant Reynolds American to protect workers’ rights in its supply chain, and to launch a massive sign up campaign to organize 5,000 new tobacco farmworker members in the 2014 harvest season. The chair of the constitution committee stressed the importance of organizing new members. “These companies are getting rich off of our work, and as we grow, we build the strength we need to win dignified work conditions!”
Delegates received greetings from special guests, who pledged their support for the farmworker efforts. David Cox, President of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) addressed the group bringing greetings and pledging support for FLOC tobacco organizing in the South. “There is a war on workers happening now; but we are stronger together and AFGE stands with FLOC because we are stronger together and together we will fight back!”
Special guests from Mexico addressed the delegates to discuss collaboration on cross-border workers’ rights issues, including Rogel Del Rosal of the RCPP, a small farmers’ organization in Mexico and Francisco Pablo Jimenez of MOCRI, a former political prisoner recently liberated after fighting contamination from mining companies in rural Mexico.
Rev. Dr. William Barber II, President of the NC NAACP and leader of NC’s Forward Together Movement was received by a standing ovation from delegates as he arrived after driving more than an hour from the NC NAACP Convention occurring in Rocky Mount, NC to address the Convention and bring a statement of solidarity with the farmworker struggle. Rev. Barber received loud cheers when he announced that NC NCAACP staff would be supporting FLOC’s organizing drive next summer. “The NC NAACP stands with the farmworkers and their union today and we pledge to stand with the farmworkers next summer as you organize thousands of tobacco farmworkers throughout the state!” said Barber.
“This Convention is a crucial part of building real self-determination, so that us farmworkers can finally speak for ourselves and work so that our own organization can fight for the issues most important to us” said newly re-elected President Baldemar Velasquez. Delegates also elected Justin Flores at the Vice President, and Christiana Wagner as the Secretary Treasurer.
All photo credit to Phil Fonville. Thank you for all of your support and for donating your time and talent!
March and Rally for Immigration Reform!
Following the convention, hundreds of allies joined FLOC delegates for a march and rally in downtown Durham in support of humane immigration reform and labor rights in agriculture. Rally speakers included Baldemar Velasquez, CJ Stephens of SEANC, Jose Cisneros of Fuerza y Libertad, and Veronica Isabel Dahlberg, Executive Director of HOLA.
Thank you for making this convention possible!
We are forever grateful to the 83 volunteers and drivers who helped prepare convention materials, made phone calls to recruit other volunteers, registered delegates the day of the convention, worked security at the convention, and ensured that convention proceedings ran smoothly.
Special thanks to those volunteers who helped transport our NC members to and from the convention. These volunteers donated a significant amount of time (some very early in the morning), gas, and braved the desolate back roads of NC to make sure FLOC members could participate in their convention.
Many thanks to the Youth And Young Adult (YAYA) of the National Farm Worker Ministry, who drove here all the way from Florida to volunteer throughout the entire weekend, including late nights and early mornings.
Thank you to the Durham Convention Center, Sheraton Imperial Hotel, and Scott Brown Media Group, who were all incredibly helpful in working with us to put together a wonderful weekend for our members.