“This meeting is for us as workers to come together and express our needs to our union. Many good things have come from the FLOC contracts, but some of us need to learn more on all the issues that the union is taking on,” said Ruben Morales Antonio, one of the FLOC regional presidents.
The North Carolina farm workers made labor history on September 16, 2004 when FLOC won collective bargaining agreements for over 8,000 workers. For the first time in history, migrant farmworkers in North Carolina are working under the protections and guarantees of a labor contract with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO (FLOC).
The assembly included discussions on: the focus of FLOC’s activities, the costs and methods for obtaining work visas, the costs and travel arrangements from México to North Carolina, assured living arrangements before coming to North Carolina, and access to health care while working in agricultural production.
At the Assembly, the FLOC workers organized committees to address such issues as health, training and education, living conditions, contract negotiations, and union activities.
According to Baldemar Velásquez, FLOC’s president, thousands of problems have been addressed under the grievance procedure, including: wage discrepancies, access to health care, work-related illnesses and injuries, field sanitation, and housing.
Some of the protections guaranteed under the FLOC labor contracts include: negotiations regarding wages and working conditions, bans against discrimination based on national origin and race, protections against hazardous working conditions such as misuse of chemicals and pesticides, and a grievance procedure for timely resolution of complaints about pay and conditions.
According to FLOC activist Leticia Zavala, many U.S.-Americans are unaware of the important contributions made by migrant workers to local economies, estimated at over 330 billion dollars annually in production of goods and in purchasing items in the U.S. economy.
Nor do migrants overload the health care systems in the United States
In a reported July 25, 2005 study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, it was found that immigrants accounted for 10.4 percent of the U.S. population but only 7.9 percent of total health spending and 8 percent of government health spending.
Its conclusion: Immigrants are not swamping the U.S. health care system and use it far less than U.S.-Americans.
According to the report, health spending by the government, insurers and patients themselves averaged $1,139 per immigrant compared to $2,564 for non-immigrants. Thirty percent of immigrants used no health care at all in the course of the year. Immigrant children spent or cost $270 that year, compared to $1,059 for “native-born” children.
“Our study lays to rest the myth that expensive care for immigrants is responsible for our nation’s high health costs. The truth is, immigrants get far less care than other Americans,” said Dr. Sarita Mohanty, who led the study while she was at Harvard University but who is now at the University of Southern California.
“Further restricting their eligibility for care would save little money and place many immigrants—particularly children—at grave risk. Already, many immigrant children fail to get regular checkups and as a result more end up needing emergency care, or get no care at all,” concluded Dr. Mohanty.
The researchers used U.S. government data taken in a 1998 survey from U.S. residents, including natural-born citizens, immigrants who had become citizens, temporary residents, and illegal aliens.