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FLOC Homies Union to launch Grassroots campaigns

By La Prensa Staff


Whether in Toledo or south of the border, a youth-oriented Latino grassroots group plans to make its presence felt in the coming months. The FLOC Homies Union is developing a new action agenda for 2019, four years after the group’s original formation. About 75 young people attended the most recent monthly meeting, held Thursday evening, March 7.


The organization has achieved official nonprofit status with the state and federal government, which will allow them to accept donations, grants, and other funding sources for their activities. The Homies Union also has formed a work co-op, allowing members to do side jobs for homeowners and businesses along the Broadway Corridor, such as small home repairs, painting, lawn maintenance, housekeeping, and other work to earn extra money.


Toledo Police have reached out to the FLOC Homies Union for help in addressing criminal activity in the Junction St. area, what is described as the most crime-ridden neighborhood in the city at present. FLOC, in turn, has requested help from the Black and Brown Unity Coalition.


“We think that is an important initiative. The police haven’t been able to solve all the crime in that area, so they came to us,” FLOC founder and president Baldemar Velásquez told the crowd.


As part of a code of conduct negotiated with Toledo police leaders a few years ago, FLOC agreed to help wherever possible to rid the Old South End of crime by taking an active role.


“We know, history has shown people who live in high poverty pockets, are surrounded by that kind of activity,” Velasquez said. “Without putting blame on anyone, that’s just what it is. We have to start with what the reality is. Somebody has to go in there, investigate, talk to people, find out who they are, find out what their problems are, and try to make some sense.”


The plan is to help identify the root causes of crime problems in the neighborhood, recruit more young people to join the FLOC Homies Union, and to help them find jobs. Another issue may be a lack of lighting. The Homies Union convinced Toledo city leaders to switch to brighter LED lighting along the Broadway Corridor, citing it as a problem that contributed to crime there.


“We need to know what the problems are they see in the community, not the problems everybody tells them they have, but what they think the problems are,” Velásquez said.  “Give them an honest job. Put some honest money in their pocket. We’ve now put more than $300,000 in the pockets of the Homies Union.”


The FLOC Homies Union is engaged in a tutoring program for neighborhood children who recently failed to pass a test as part of the state’s third grade reading guarantee. Those Toledo Public Schools students won’t advance to the fourth grade unless they pass a second attempt at the test this spring. 40 kids recently took the test, but only five third-graders passed.


“We’re building relationships with the students, with their families, as well as union to union,” said Chibuzo Petty, FLOC family advocate. “We are part of a union that represents farm laborers, but the teachers are also part of a labor union. We’re not just building relationships interpersonally, but we’re also supporting a laborer in the community.”


Kayley Hecker told the crowd she has assisted teachers and students at Marshall Elementary School by passing out practice tests and lunches, as children use their noon hour to brush up for a second attempt at the test. She described their efforts as “fun and interactive,” so the kids don’t “feel like they’re being punished or not good enough” because they didn’t pass the reading test the first time. She also said the program “has been beneficial” as a Homies Union member.


The FLOC Homies Union also is forming the Committee of 100, a political committee of 100 Latino registered voters. The only requirement is its members are committed to voting how the collective group decides to vote on a local issue or candidate. That consensus decision could become a powerful political tool in the near future to develop a large, powerful voting bloc.


“That Committee of 100 could turn into 300, 400, 500 votes easily,” said Velásquez. “I can pretty much guarantee you that if you get 60, 70, or 80 registered voters together in one place, you can get just about any politician to show up.”


Top officials from the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) also traveled to Mexico City March 18, 2019 to train H-2A agricultural guest workers. Part of that training will involve convincing migrant farm workers to file human rights complaints about a seasonal situation at the border.


According to the FLOC founder and president, once the seasonal workers ride a bus back to Mexico from North Carolina, there is a shakedown at the border. Each migrant farm worker on the bus, for example, may be required to pay a $50 bribe. If there are 50 people on the bus, the Mexican cartels gain a quick $2,500 in cash.


“Many of our members are Mexican nationals with an H-2A visa,” said Velásquez. “We have 10,000 members who come here to work in North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio. Because they’re legal, when they’re transported back to Mexico, the customs (officials) on the Mexican side stop them and shake them down. These customs officials are tied to organized crime with the (drug) cartels. That makes this very, very dangerous.”


FLOC has set up meetings with top Mexican officials to explain the situation and demand a solution to the problem. Most of the migrant farm workers are reluctant to speak out in fear of not being recruited the following year to work the fields in the United States. They must maintain a clean work record to remain in the program, so staying silent keeps them employed and able to send money home to support their families.


“We got members, over 100 members, to document the shakedown,” said Velásquez. “Now we’ve made it into a formal report. We’re going to present a formal petition in Mexico City.”


While the Homies Union, consisting of young Toledo residents ages 14 to 24, are focused on grassroots neighborhood causes along the Broadway Corridor, the FLOC president explained why they should care about other Latinos the union represents, even south of the border.


“Those members that come to the U.S. pay (union) dues here,” said Velásquez. “We use those dues to do this community organizing work. This is why and how we have the Homies program. This is why and how we can fund the work we do in the urban areas.”




Copyright © 1989 to 2019 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 03/19/19 09:30:49 -0800.




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