FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez Addresses Labor Fightback
Network Conference in Cleveland, Denounces Corporate Attacks on
FLOC in North Carolina and Calls for Support to Boycott of R.J. Reynolds “Vuse” Electronic Cigarette

Speaking at the opening night session of the Third National Labor Fightback Conference in Cleve-
land, Ohio, on July 21, Baldemar Velasquez, president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee

(FLOC, AFL-CIO), denounced the anti-immigrant and anti-worker Farm Bill S615 that was passed by
the North Carolina legislature in June and signed into law by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper on
July 13.
“S615,” Velasquez explained, “is a shameful abuse of power that takes aim at our union in a blatant
attempt to stop farm workers from achieving union collective-bargaining agreements that include
wage increases, job security, benefits, and improved working conditions.”
S615 has two parts:

(1) It makes it illegal for growers who have signed union agreements to deduct dues from union mem-
bers who want to pay dues, thereby seeking to weaken FLOC. “It would be close to impossible for our

union staff to go and collect dues from all the worksites in the back woods of North Carolina,” Ve-
lasquez told the participants in the Labor Fightback conference.

(2) It makes it illegal for farmworkers to ask growers to sign an agreement with their union as part of
settling wage or other legal violations. “With the continuation of Jim Crow-era laws that aim to stop a
now almost entirely Latino workforce from organizing, this is an affront to freedom of association and
smacks of racism,” Velasquez stated.
But the fight is not over, far from it, Velasquez continued. “We will challenge this unjust law in the
courts. … We have faced daunting obstacles before, and we have overcome them. We have beat
back the xenophobes and racists who are constantly pummeling migrant workers and immigrants
alike. And we will push them back again!”
Velasquez recounted the long history of FLOC’s organizing drives — and victories — since the union
formed in the late 1960s. And he informed the Labor Fightback conference participants that FLOC
would be convening the union’s 7th Constitutional Convention on September 8-9 in Toledo, Ohio, on
the occasion of FLOC’s 50th anniversary.
“Because of the many recent attacks on workers, immigrants and poor people, this convention will be
one of the most important yet,” Velasquez stated. “The stakes are higher than ever, and our members

are depending on this convention to strategize their self-defense by organizing around collective-bar-
gaining, to educate through marches, hearings and demonstrations in our non-violent tradition.”

Velasquez also announced that the FLOC convention delegates will discuss and vote to launch a
boycott of an R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. product — the electronic cigarette “Vuse” — which is sold
predominantly at 7-11, Circle K, Kangaroo, and WaWa convenience stores. “We will boycott those
stores as long as they carry that product,” Velasquez said.
“We are asking folks to pledge to support this boycott by sending their pledge to FLOC so that we can

announce their support at our upcoming convention,” Velasquez continued. “We are also asking sup-
porters to write a letter to British American Tobacco (BAT) — with a copy to North Carolina Governor

Cooper — taking issue with this unacceptable power play against one of the most exploited work-
forces in North Carolina.”

Support pledges to the boycott should be emailed to FLOC at Letters to British
American Tobacco — the new parent corporation of R.J. Reynolds — should be emailed to Snail-mail letters can be sent to British American Tobacco p.l.c., Globe
House, 4 Temple Place, London, WC2R 2PG. Letters to Governor Roy Cooper should be emailed to: Please send copies of your letters to FLOC.

Velasquez went on to urge Labor Fightback Conference participants to go back to their unions and or-
ganizations to help FLOC raise the resources to transport, house, and feed the farmworkers who will

come to the FLOC convention as delegates. “We expect 500 delegates from Ohio, North Carolina,
South Carolina and Mexico, as well as various special international guests,” Velasquez noted.
Checks should be mailed to FLOC, 1221 Broadway St., Toledo, OH 43609.

The participants at the Cleveland conference raised close to $2,000 at the gathering for FLOC’s con-
vention fund drive. The conference also agreed to make FLOC’s fund drive and its boycott of this R.J.

Reynolds product a top priority in the months ahead.
— Approved by Third National Labor Fightback Conference (Cleveland, Ohio – July 21-23, 2017)

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