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April 2023, Volume 29, Number 2

Florida, Southeast

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers developed a Fair Food Program that requires buyers of mature-green tomatoes to pay premiums that are returned to workers. The US fresh tomato industry is shrinking; 60 percent of the fresh tomatoes consumed in the US are imported from Mexico and Canada.

The CIW after 2005 persuaded many supermarket and fast-food outlets to require their tomato suppliers to join the FFP and pay pickers an extra penny a pound for FFP tomatoes. However, Publix, Wendy’s and Kroger have not joined the FFP, prompting the CIW to organize a 45-mile march to Palm Beach in March 2023. Wendy’s does not buy mature-green tomatoes.

Florida has become a Republican stronghold under Governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to run for president in 2024. One reason is an influx of migrants from blue states such as New York, including ex-President Donald Trump; many migrants are attracted by the warmer weather and no state income tax. There are more registered Republicans, over five million, than registered Democrats, less than five million. Florida’s conservative influencers tend to focus on cultural issues including parental rights in schools and no masks for covid, while Texas conservatives tend to focus on economic issues.

FLOC. Baldemar Velasquez founded the Farm Labor Organizing Committee in 1967 and was challenged for re-election as president of FLOC in September 2022 by a former FLOC VP in North Carolina, Leticia Zavala. Velasquez won re-election 135-21 in what Zavala supporters call a rigged election; they wanted the FLOC convention to be held in North Carolina so that more farm workers could participate.

Some of the delegates who voted for Velasquez were “certain non-farmworkers who have demonstrated their support” of FLOC, including 20 Velasquez family members who voted at the 2022 FLOC convention and associate members who pay $30 a year to FLOC.

When Zavala announced that she was running for president of FLOC, she and her supporters were allegedly harassed by Velasquez and eventually fired. Zavala and her supporters believe that Velasquez’s refusal to step down, and his efforts to make his relatives union leaders, puts FLOC on the same path as the UFW as an enterprise run by and for the descendants of the founder.

FLOC has a contract with the North Carolina Growers Association (NCGA), which brings H-2A workers from Mexico to North Carolina tobacco and cucumber farms. The contract covers almost 10,000 H-2A workers but, as a right-to-work state, only some of the covered workers pay 2.5 percent of their wages to FLOC in union dues.

Velasquez led a boycott and march from Ohio to Campbell’s headquarters near Philadelphia in 1983 to win a contract that recognized FLOC as the representatives of workers employed by farmers who sold cucumbers to Campbell’s, and used a similar march and boycott strategy to win a three-way agreement between Mt Olive Pickle, FLOC, and cucumber growers in North Carolina in 1999.

Georgia. Some 5,000 GMO poplar trees developed by San Francisco-based Living Carbon were planted in southern Georgia early in 2023, the first trees modified to grow fast and absorb carbon that were planted in forests. Living Carbon improves the ability of the GMO trees to turn sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into sugar and starch, the photosynthesis at the core of plant growth. China is the only country to have planted large numbers of GMO trees.

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