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July 1997, Volume 3, Number 3

FLOC Goes to North Carolina

On May 28, 1997, Baldemar Velazquez, head of the Farm Labor
Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO, announced that FLOC would try to
organize the several thousand cucumber workers at the growers
affiliated with Mount Olive Pickle Co., the largest pickle company in
North Carolina and the South, processing an estimated 70 percent of
the pickle crop in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Mount
Olive employs 500 workers in its pickle plant and has 30 collection
stations in the Carolinas.

As is common in the pickling cucumber industry, Mount Olive signs
contracts with cucumber growers to produce cucumbers to be pickled.
The growers in turn hire workers to harvest their cucumbers beginning
in May and June. The other two major North Carolina pickle processors
buy pickles from growers who use some of the H-2A workers who are
brought to the North Carolina Growers Association. H-2A workers are
guaranteed $5.79 per hour in North Carolina and free housing.

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee, founded in 1967 and based in
Toledo, Ohio, represents 6,000 of the 10,000 migrant farm workers who
come to northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan each year to harvest
cucumbers and tomatoes. FLOC has a three-way agreement between
processors such as Campbells (Vlasic) and Heinz, farmers who grow
crops for these processors under contract and the workers who harvest
the crops. In 1996, the FLOC workers filed a record 500 grievances
against farm employers, charging them with not paying them the
minimum wage.

There are an estimated 36,000 migrant farm workers in North
Carolina, including 7,000 who pick cucumbers for pickles sometime
while in the state, and 200,000 to 300,000 seasonal workers.
According to FLOC, about 1,000 Mt. Olive harvesters have signed cards
pledging their support to FLOC.

Craig Whitlock, "Union targets pickle plants Mount Olive: migrant
workers focus of organizing," News and Observer, May 29, 1997.

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