April 2003, Volume 9, Number 2
The Toledo-based Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) held a rally April 13, 2003 in Mount Olive, North Carolina, home of the Mount Olive Pickle Co http://www.mtolivepickles.com). FLOC http://www.floc.com) claims 7,000 members in Ohio and Michigan, and has been boycotting Mount Olive since 1999 in an effort to get it to recognize FLOC as the representative of the estimated 3,000 cucumber pickers employed by the farmers who deliver to Mount Olive.
FLOC president Baldemar Velasquez says it took seven years to get a Campbell Soup Co. to sign three-way agreements between it, FLOC, and 28 tomato and pickle farmers in Michigan and Ohio. FLOC says it represents workers on all but two large Michigan and Ohio tomato and pickle farms.
Bryan Bell Jr. is an architect who has developed migrant housing for workers around Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. His Design Corps, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, offers a 50-50 split on costs with land-owners who commit to providing farm worker housing for at least 20 years, with Design Corps costs covered by grants. Bell's book, "Good Deeds, Good Design," will be published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2003.
New York-based Agrilink Foods (Birds Eye Foods) announced in February 2003 that it would close six frozen-vegetable processing plants to reduce costs; it has 30 processing plants and annual sales of $1 billion a year. One of the plants to be closed is in Green Bay, where Agrilink's bid to build a 98-employee dorm for solo male workers in 2002 was opposed by local residents. The state said that the Agrilink dorm would have been "state of the art" for migrant centers.
In New York, the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act was approved in the Assembly the last two sessions but failed to reach a vote in the Senate. New York recently raised the state's minimum wage for farm workers to the federal $5.15 an hour, and strengthened sanitary laws that apply to workers in fields.
In 1977, the INS, over the objections of DOL, allowed onion growers in Presidio, Texas to employ H-2 Mexican workers. Today, the 2,000-acre Presidio Valley Farms that once employed 900 workers has only a few irrigators to help grow oats, wheat, and alfalfa. Presidio today has 4,000 residents and an unemployment rate of 30 percent.
Rebekah Scott, "Migrant workers travel to protest in N. Carolina," Toledo Blade, April 13, 2003. Bill Grady, "Success surprises architect," Times-Picayune, March 24, 2003.