FLOC Leaders go to Geneva, Cultivate Solidarity and Meet with Big Tobacco!

FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez and Secretary Treasurer Christiana Wagner attended the 28th Congress of the International Union of Food, Agriculture, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco, and Allied Workers’ Association (IUF) in Geneva, Switzerland. The IUF is an international federation of trade unions across the globe that we have been affiliated with  for over a decade now. During the conference we were able to meet with our brothers and sisters across the globe working in agriculture, building unity in our struggle to win freedom of association for tobacco workers here in the United States and across the globe.

Throughout the 28th Congress, we met with union leaders who have been critical in our fight against British American Tobacco, including large unions from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Uganda, South Africa, and many more. We started building global solidarity initiatives with our brother and sisters working in agriculture in Australia, and discussed how the entire tobacco supply chain must be united to combat exploitation at the hands of corporations like BAT with tobacco manufacturing unions. As we continue to organize farmworkers, those at the lowest level of the supply chain, who are the most exploited and least protected, we will need support not just from allies in the United States but across the globe. Our time in Geneva with the IUF is building a foundation for a truly global and unified fight for farmworkers here and around the world!

Through the support of the IUF, FLOC leadership was able to sit down with a top executive at Philip Morris International (PMI), one of the largest tobacco companies in the world. At this impromptu meeting, FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez brought attention to the plight of tobacco farmworkers in the United States, the struggle against heat stroke, low wages and poor living conditions, and FLOC’s solution through a sustainable supply chain agreement that brings freedom of association to farmworkers. An agreement with PMI would directly improve the lives of hundreds of farmworkers in the tobacco fields and beyond throughout the Southern United States. This conversation is the first of many.

As the Congress ended, FLOC President Velasquez was elected to serve as an alternate on the Executive Committee at the IUF! This is a huge victory, and we are extremely honored that out of 407 affiliates from 126 countries, President Velasquez will have the opportunity to bring the voices and concerns of our members to global attention through this leadership position.

Preserving union jobs and small family farms in the United States, and simultaneously taking on transnational, multimillion dollar corporations require a strong, comprehensive global approach. Our affiliation with the IUF and our time in Geneva is essential to maintain both.

Hasta La Victoria!