CALL TO THE FIELDS
Baldemar Velásquez and César Chávez
in a march for migrant worker rights in 1984
 

FLOC President Baldemar Velásquez was raised as a migrant farmworker. Since his childhood, he has worked in the fields and orchards of many states from Texas to the Midwest. He suffered the oppression and discrimination of migrant workers, and watched his parents humiliated many times from the injustices they experienced trying to support their family. Finally, after one incident when his father was cheated out of promised wages in front of the family, Baldemar began organizing migrant workers to stand up for their rights. Following the model of César Chávez, this protest led to the founding of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC).

Baldemar has a long history of sacrifices for migrant rights, including living in poverty to start and maintain the FLOC movement in its struggles and fasts to focus public attention on the suffering of migrant workers who provide Americans with food on their tables.

Baldemar has led the FLOC movement through many hard times to a number of victories, including the Campbell Soup strike and boycott and the Mt. Olive boycott... and into the current RJ Reynolds Tobacco campaign. FLOC staff and supporters know that the FLOC motto "Hasta La Victoria" (Towards the Victory) is a promise to struggle through all the hardships to victory.

Baldemar's commitment to justice now leads him to experience another challenge - to understand directly the hardships of tobacco field workers. This account is being recorded so those of us who follow Baldemar's leadership can better understand the current struggle for justice.

This past Monday July 21, Baldemar issued the following statement:

    This coming Sunday I will move into a labor camp in the most difficult time of
    the year.  North Carolina leads the nation in heat stroke deaths, many of the
    past cases happen in July and August when men are not only battling the
    heat but also nicotine poisoning.   The workers FLOC represents in North
    Carolina harvest 26 different crops ranging from cucumbers to tobacco to
    Christmas trees.  In my farm work history, I’ve worked in all those harvests
    or close to them, row crops, bush or tree crops but never anything close to
    tobacco with its particular challenges.   I feel compelled to experience what
    the men go through in what is considered the worse, the riskiest and the
    dirtiest of the jobs.

    My sense is these men are generally getting a bad rap.   Listen to the
    talking heads on radio and TV, railing against immigrants, legal and
    undocumented, doesn’t seem right to me or truthful.  I will spend a modest
    week working with them and hope to write what these men go through, their
    hopes, expectations, their tragedies, and their humanity to the public.   It will
    allow me the privilege to speak more knowledgeably on their behalf as
    president of their union.

    I hope to send out a nightly message and the end of each day to a select list.
    It is my desire to shed light from the inside, a life that most stand in judgment
    of without the courtesy of walking for a season in the other’s shoes.

    Baldemar Velasquez, President FLOC, 
  
We urge you to follow Baldemar's experience so you can better understand both the daily lives of tobacco field workers and the efforts of FLOC to bring justice to the human beings.  See the FLOC website (http://www.floc.com).

Hasta La Victoria!