Farmers Elected to State Legislature Seek to Stop Farmworker Union’s Progress S615 continues decades long effort to deny farmworkers freedom of association
Contact: Justin Flores, firstname.lastname@example.org, 704-577-3480
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 28, 2017, Raleigh, NC –State Rep. David Lewis of Dunn, NC, a tobacco farmer in Eastern NC was pushing Senate Bill 375, which focuses on stopping farmworkers from organizing for better wages and working conditions. Not having the votes to pass the bill, Rep. Jimmy Dixon, a farmer from Warsaw, NC snuck it in as an amendment to the Farm Bill, S615, which was passed without opportunity for full discussion.
The bill has two parts: 1. It makes it illegal for farmers who have signed union agreements to deduct dues from union members who want to pay dues, seeking to weaken the only farmworker union in the state, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) 2. The bill makes it illegal for farmworkers to ask growers to sign an agreement with their union as part of settling wage or other legal violations, making it more difficult for farmworkers to achieve union agreements that include wage increases, job security, benefits, and improved working conditions. This, FLOC believes, is occurring in retaliation for a series of lawsuits their members have brought over the past few years, seeking to end wage theft, intimidation, and retaliation across Eastern NC.
Farmworkers are excluded from the National Labor Relations Act, face exceptions in the minimum wage, child labor, and workers compensation laws, among others. Farmworkers are covered by the state’s so called Right to Work law, which forces unions to spend money representing non-members, and more recently, were the victims of the “Agricultural Right to Work” law, passed in 2013 in response to FLOC’s tobacco campaign.
“Farmers have many ways to come together and improve their lives, such as trade associations and cooperatives; it is unfair for them to try and stop their own workers from doing the same by passing laws to make it illegal. Politicians that are also growers shouldn’t pass self-serving laws simply because they don’t want their workers to unionize. 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.” said FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez.
FLOC is a farmworker union that represents over 10,000 farmworkers in NC, SC and OH. Since 2007, the union has been calling on tobacco purchasers, such as Winston-Salem based Reynolds American to spend more money buying US tobacco to support growers and improve conditions for the tobacco farmworkers in their supply chain.