FLOC has already signed up over three thousand workers to date and continues to sign up more members throughout the current season. The NCGA brings about 8,000 workers every year from Mexico under the H2A guestworker program. This includes not only workers on the farms contracted to Mt. Olive Pickle Company, but workers in other crops as well.
FLOC organized a seventy-nine member farm worker advisory group from which the negotiating committee was drawn. The resulting contract includes important gains for the workers:
• FLOC will represent the workers in negotiating wages, working and living conditions for the members.
• There will be a seniority system. No worker will be unfairly denied the opportunity to come as an H2A worker, nor will any worker be blacklisted.
• Under the contract, a grievance procedure will allow workers to file complaints about any abuse or injustice, without retaliation or discrimination.
• The Dunlop Commission will be used as a private labor relations board, as in the Midwest .
· • A worker will be paid a full day's medical compensation by the grower if s/he is injured at work and requests medical attention.
· • The worker can receive three days of paid family leave for the funeral of a close family member.
· • The cucumber pickers whose farms sell to Mt. Olive Pickle Company will receive a wage increase of over 10% in the next three years.
· • Investigation Committees will be developed to look at issues of improving housing, health care, and other issues.
· • All workers will be given at least one half day of rest every week in a “Freedom to Worship” clause.
The H2A workers now covered under the contract have experienced many abuses, including having little choice in their conditions and having been fired and deported for complaining. These workers now have a means to address such abuses through the union grievance process.
A private labor relations board is now available to act as final step arbitration in the grievance process. The Dunlop Commission established after the conclusion of the Campbell Boycott will be repositioned with members from the North Carolina agricultural community to do the job. Furthermore, the contract provides for joint labor and industry committees to address the housing, health, and other special needs of the workforce.
This historic moment is not the end of the story of the struggle for farm worker rights and economic justice, but the opening of a new chapter in the book. This is a big breakthrough and we certainly have many reasons to celebrate.
However, there is no time to rest. The administration of the new contract opens up tremendous challenges, as we continue to work hard to solidify and expand justice for farmworkers in North Carolina , particularly in this coming year:
We need at least 15 full-time organizers for contract administration duties for the 1,000 farms covered by the agreement, which are located all over the State of North Carolina . Because N.C. is a “right to work” state, we will need to sign up members every single year. Guestworkers are seasonal workers, and turn over is high. That means that any education and leadership development in one season will need to be re-started the next year.
1,000 camp representatives must be elected and trained to enforce the contract at every farm.
Education meetings must be organized in all these camps. These are opportunities for worker empowerment through education, training, and further organizing.
FLOC will monitor the recruiting process in Mexico to secure its new seniority system and make moot the debate on the old black-listing and bribery that have long plagued this system.
Since the day after the signing, hundreds of grievances have already been filed and resolved, mainly due to wage violations. More grievances have to be investigated, and resolutions reached, and with the new season, we can expect even more grievances to address.
We must open an office in Mexico to monitor the recruiting process, to secure the contract’s new seniority system, and to dismantle the bribery that has long plagued the system.
More importantly, this breakthrough opens up unprecedented opportunities to extend this victory to other industries as well as to the undocumented workforce in N.C. farms that are not covered by the present agreement. This historic moment is simple the opening of a new chapter in the book of the struggle for farm worker rights and economic justice.
We thank all of our friends for their support during the long struggle in North Carolina , and ask you to continue to walk with FLOC to overcome the challenges that we face as we implement these agreements and as we reorganize to achieve breakthroughs for other workers. We know that we can not continue without your support.
We ask for your continued support. Frankly, we currently do not have the necessary resources to meet the challenges. The most critical need is new organizers, who must be hired and trained to work with camp representatives and workers in the 1,000 camps all over North Carolina . Not only must we cover their salaries, but their travel expenses alone are going to be expensive, particularly with high gas prices. We must also expand the FLOC office in North Carolina and open the office in Mexico. We need your help.
Help support FLOC in meeting these new challenges?
You can donate online at http://www.floc.com, or by mail: Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL -CIO, 1221 Broadway Street, Toledo, Ohio 43609.
Thank you for your continued support for justice. Thousands of farm workers will benefit from your contributions.
Hasta la Victoria!