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
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
the year. North Carolina leads the nation in heat stroke deaths, many of
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
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
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
It is my desire to shed light from the inside, a life that most stand in
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
Hasta La Victoria!