Deadline Now: FLOC Founder & President Baldemar Velasquez
Friday, November 9 at 8:30 p.m.
FLOC -- the Farm Labor Organizing Committee -- was the first-ever union of its kind for migrant workers when it was founded 45 years ago by Baldemar Velasquez.
FLOC, headquartered in Toledo, represents thousands of farm workers in multiple states. What does the future hold for FLOC? What happens to FLOC and the workers it represents if Velasquez should retire? Join Jack Lessenberry for his conversation with Baldemar Velasquez, this week on "Deadline Now."
Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of "Deadline Now:"
If you go to FLOC’s internet website, it says the union has built a base of tens of thousands of migrant farm workers by remaining true to two principles.
First, Farm Workers need a voice in the decisions that affect them. The union believes that allowing workers to form a union and collectively bargain with their employer is the only way to provide an effective structure for self-determination.
And the only way they stand a chance against the huge imbalance of power they face. Their second principle is that you have to bring all parties to the table to address problems that affect the entire farm industry. You need workers, growers and corporations involved in making decisions, or whatever you do won’t work.
Besides, they’ve found that having a multi-party agreement is the only way to create a positive impact on farm workers’ lives.
Those who have been hostile to Baldemar Velasquez and FLOC sometimes say that his demands would put the growers and the corporations out of business. The union says that is nonsense, that they want the other parties to do well, because that helps the workers to make money. FLOC says the union only wants its members to get their fair share, so they can have decent housing and food and share in a small portion of the American dream.
But today, unions all over this nation are having a hard time coping with changing times and technologies. Industrial union membership has been plummeting. Famous unions like the UAW find themselves fighting not only to retain members, but to survive.
Baldemar Velasquez has been one of the longest-lasting labor leaders in American history, and sometimes I would guess even he must be astonished at what he and FLOC has accomplished.
Yet if FLOC is to keep fighting, the union has to plan for the future. The union has never known a time without Baldemar. When you go to FLOC’s website, the only other name listed under the leadership is 74-year-old Sesario Duran. Where are the young leaders and the women who will help take FLOC to the next level?
Not to mention, and provide leadership for the next forty-five years. Cesar Chavez, the founder of the United Farm Workers union, had as his slogan this: La lucha continua! The struggle continues. Perhaps the ultimate legacy Baldemar Velasquez could leave to his union would be to ensure that it does.