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Bree’s Beat

Velasquez inspires farmers

Bree Bailey | Contributor

Baldemar Velasquez grew up in a family of immigrant farmworkers in Southern Texas. At the young age of five, he spent his days in the fields alongside his parents working long days in the hot sun.

Outside of their control, his family was transferred to Ohio, where they did not feel welcomed by the locals. Rather, the perspective of those around them seemed to consist of “stay in the field, do the work, and get out.” He watched his parents cower under the abusive hand of those around them. Working as a Mexican immigrant was anything but safe. As a young child, Velasquez witnessed young men mock his mother and steal her hard-earned money. There was no one to protect them.

When the Ohio winter blew in, their family did not have enough money to travel back to Texas. They were forced to stay in a cold, small apartment and pay rent that put them in debt. The next several summers were a vicious cycle of hard work, being treated unjustly and having to spend every penny on cheap housing for the winter.

Velasquez began to attend the local school although he knew no English. No one was able to translate for him and learning was nearly impossible at first with the language barrier. Nonetheless, the school was heated unlike their small makeshift home.

Over the years he grew in knowledge and in bitterness for the injustice his family faced every day. This desire for equality propelled him to obtain his degree and work to change our government’s policies involving farmworkers in the states.

Laws have been put in place to allow freedom of association, or unions, to protect workers in manufacturing, teaching and various other fields. However, this has not been allowed for the farmworker since 1933 due to racism against black workers.

Now Velasquez works with an organization called Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in order to allow farmworkers to speak for themselves. He advocates for them to be allowed to organize and create policies of freedom together.

These efforts are not strictly helping workers here in America. FLOC works closely with companies who import goods from workers in African countries. Many of these African “employees” are paid next to nothing in dangerous working conditions with no benefits. If a worker is injured on the job they are discarded for the next available person, and many of these individuals become ill or even die while on the job, but no compensation is provided. The products are then resold for a marked up price though production cost next to nothing thanks to these underpaid workers.  

FLOC is the voice for these workers who have no one speaking on their behalf. Alongside this approach, FLOC addresses specific companies who currently abuse access to cheap labor and boycott their products. On the positive end some companies partner with them in order to clean up their current system and provide rights for all involved.

To figure out how you can use your voice and join the movement visit http://www.floc.com/wordpress/ . Currently FLOC is boycotting VUSE due to their abuse of low wage workers.

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