On September 5th, José Arturo González Mendoza tragically died while working on a farm within the North Carolina Growers Association (NCGA). Mendoza was 30 years old and left behind a wife and two children in Guanajuato, Mexico. We are devastated by this loss of life and are waiting for the results of the Department of Labor investigation into his cause of death before we respond fully. During this time, we have been in contact with his family members to offer legal support and to discuss how we can support them during this time of grief and mourning.
This past weekend, our organizing staff and FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez visited the farm Mendoza worked on to meet with workers and listen to their testimonies. We reassured all workers that there will be no retaliation for divulging facts to the Department of Labor investigators, and this right is protected by the collective bargaining agreement. During our visit, we requested the NCGA to be present to confirm this right. There are rumors and fears circling throughout the farm and online that if workers speak out they will be blacklisted, meaning they will not be asked to return to work the following season. Part of the purpose of our visit was to educate and share that the right to return with seniority is guaranteed under FLOC’s collective bargaining agreement. This lack of information can be attributed to the dynamics of existing in a right to work state, where many workers are not members of the union. We will continue to expand our outreach and educational training across NCGA farms in North Carolina, as workers have the full backing and support of the union and our grievance mechanism.
FLOC continues to stay in communication with the NCGA and the Mexican Consulate in Raleigh to ensure that all protocols surrounding this tragedy are complied with by the grower and the association, including covering the costs of returning Mendoza’s body to Mexico. We are also in continuous conversations with Mendoza’s family as the situation evolves, including legal representation. Once the results of the Department of Labor investigation are released, we will take swift action to set up systems in place to ensure that all protocols are followed and that workers are fully protected at work. A job should never cost your life, and FLOC is committed to protecting and supporting workers today and every day.