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FLOC farmworkers, supporters meet and rally for “Rights and Justice”

Toledo, Oct. 3, 2009: Tobacco harvesters coming from North Carolina joined tomato and pickle pickers from Northwest Ohio to chart the course for the future of their union—the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), which represents over 12,000 farmworkers.

Baldemar Velásquez, leader of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO for over forty years, presided over FLOC’s 11th triennial convention—the last one was held in September of 2006—wherein over 400 delegates attended.

Attorney Jack Gallon, FLOC’s Baldemar Velásquez and Wendy Avina, Toledo City Councilman Steve Steel, Keith Wilkowski (candidate for Toledo Mayor), and Adam Martínez (candidate for Toledo City Council)
at FLOC Rally, Oct. 3, 2009.

The theme of the convention in 2009 was “Organize the South” and “convince R.J. Reynolds” to take responsibility for the oppressive conditions in which North Carolina tobacco farmworkers are subjected. FLOC is mobilizing its forces, which includes “rights advocates and sympathetic consumers throughout the nation, to achieve justice and equity.”

FLOC also stressed the importance of immigration reform, addressing the plight of an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

A major local issue addressed at the convention was FLOC’s efforts to build alliances with local police and sheriff’s departments, to counter pressure on them to duplicate the work of immigration and the border patrol, which would further strain city and county budgets.

Fred Azcarate, of the AFL-CIO, represented newly elected president Richard Trumka and delivered a message of solidarity and support from Trumka.

The convention began at 9:00 a.m., Oct. 3, at Toledo’s SeaGate Centre and was followed with a march and rally for immigrant rights at 4:00-5:00 p.m. The march began at SeaGate Centre and terminated with the rally on the south side of the Lucas County Courthouse.

The Reverend Nelson Johnson, Pastor of the Beloved Community Center in Greensboro, N.C. and national chair of Interfaith Worker Justice, spoke at the evening banquet on the witness-visit of the Southern Faith and Labor Alliance to the tobacco fields.








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