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FLOC celebrates its golden anniversary, reflects on 50 years of constant struggle


By Jessica Harker, Special to La Prensa
Senior at the University of Toledo


TOLEDO, Sept. 9, 2017: The Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) held a convention in downtown Toledo last weekend celebrating 50 years of constant struggle for the organization, farmworkers, and migrants.


The convention lasted Sept. 8 through 9 with FLOC delegates meeting Friday in committees.

Saturday and Sunday consisted of meetings starting at 9 a.m., where the organization votes on various issues and invites new members.


Additional to the convention, FLOC members, along with the community, participated in a march/rally beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday with around 400 supporters attending, to demonstrate solidarity against hate groups and racism. The march started at the SeaGate Centre and worked its way through downtown, all the way to the federal court building on Spielbusch Avenue.


“The march was really to bring attention to the racial hatred around the country,” said Baldemar Velásquez, the president of FLOC. “The emergence out of the shadows and into the mainstream of the Nazis, the Klu Klux Klan and other white hate groups. This is not the America that we want.”


One of the main goals of the march, according to Velásquez, was to make sure that “Toledo, Ohio doesn’t become another Charlottesville.” “We live with these terror tactics all of the history of FLOC,” Velásquez said.


He continued citing numerous cases of hate and intimidation the group faced, including having a cross burned, cars getting keyed, and entrails of farm animals being nailed to supporters’ front doors. “We need to call attention to this behavior and this mentality that has no place here in Toledo,” Velásquez said.


Other than the march, according the Velásquez, the most important legislation passed during the convention was the decision to boycott electronic cigarettes and all VUSE products.

The legislation is both a boycott and a secondary boycott, according to Velásquez, which means avoiding shopping at all stores that sell VUSE products as well as avoiding purchasing these items.


“We have been pressing the global tobacco companies to negotiate with FLOC in a supply chain agreement to guarantee freedom of association and the right of workers to form their own unions.” Velásquez said. “Outside of FLOC, the agricultural workers are excluded from the federal law that allows unions to be organized. They have excluded them [the farmworkers] since 1935.”


Velásquez said the group also elected officers and highlighted some of the new board members and leaders. These new board member included: Christina Velásquez-Wagner, as secretary-treasurer, and Justin Flores, as Vice President.


“[Flores] He’s been with us for nine years, has risen through the positions to the number two spot. He's really a bright young Latino,” Velásquez said, “Christina Velásquez-Wagner is my daughter; she’s modernizing the entire accounting system at FLOC and making it all electronic.”


The theme of the event—50 Years of Constant Struggle—was created in meetings where members were asked to reflect on how best to summarize the organization according to Velásquez. “The big difference is this: not only do we challenge the structural inequalities, but when we take on the struggle, people are convinced that we’re not going to go away,” Velásquez said. “They know that when FLOC starts a campaign we aren’t going to pack up and go away and leave them stranded.”


Velásquez said that this, along with the fact that the leaders are forced to be visible in the front lines of the movement, is what allows people to have hope in the future of the organization and what led to them surviving for so long.


We believe in nonviolence, but that doesn’t mean being a pushover. It means standing up in the face of oppression and exploitation. Whether it's a labor contractor or a farmer... you stand up to him!” President Velásquez concluded. 






Copyright © 1989 to 2017 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 09/12/17 22:16:51 -0700.




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