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FLOC continues the fight against corruption

 

MEXICO CITY: On March 18, 2019, Baldemar Velásquez, president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) kicked off an anti-corruption campaign by meeting with the First Minister of the National Commission on Human Rights to express FLOC’s concerns over the corruption within the H2A guest worker program.

 

Since 2006, the union has had a presence in Monterrey, Nuevo León, the location of a US Consulate where guestworkers can obtain visas for work in US agriculture. Founded to help union members with recruitment issues, the union began a campaign to end the extortion of bribes many guestworkers pay to labor recruiters to enter and work in the US.

 

In response, FLOC organizer Santiago Rafael Cruz was brutally assassinated in its FLOC office in April 2007. FLOC continues to seek justice for Santiago, pushing Mexico’s federal government to take over the investigation from the State Attorney General that has left three of four assassins at large for over a decade despite knowing their names.

 

Not deterred by the intimidation, FLOC continues to fight against corruption that takes millions of dollars out of workers’ pockets each year. On March 19th, 19 members of FLOC, who traveled from seven different states in the Mexican Republic, presented a 20-page complaint to the National Commission of Human Rights, focusing on the nature of corruption at the U.S.-Mexico border.

 

Growers pay for a fleet of charter buses to transport thousands of migrant farmworkers back to México at the end of the season. Frequently, upon crossing the border, corrupt officials force members to hand over money if they are to make it home safely and without delay.

 

A FLOC survey of members discovered that over 70 percent of workers paid some type of bribe and a large group of those who didn’t pay bribes traveled by plane. Workers paid up to $180 each in bribes to immigrations and customs officials in route home.

 

Cruz Diaz Montalvo, a FLOC member who presented the complaint to the National Commission on Human Rights noted [translated]: “We are asking you to heed our petition; I’ve been doing this for 28 years and each year it gets worse. Our safety and our families’ well-being depend on this complaint.”

 

According to Velásquez, without the protection of a union agreement, many H2A workers continue to pay exorbitant bribes to recruiters for access to visas for jobs in the US. “These are just a few examples of the corruption and exploitation that workers face in the supply chains of some of the biggest corporations in the world, such as Alliance One and RJ Reynolds,” said Velásquez.

 

“Our goal is to keep organizing and build a movement to end corruption and exploitation in agriculture by holding these huge corporations responsible for the supply chains they have created, whether the problems exist in the US, Mexico, or even Africa.” Velásquez was referring to FLOC’s efforts to create an alliance with tobacco sector unions around the world to work together and avoid efforts to pit workers against each other globally in a race to the bottom.

 

FLOC plans to escalate this fight against corruption as the 2019 agricultural season begins in North Carolina on the anniversary of Santiago’s assassination on April 9 [See page 6 of La Prensa].  There will be public actions calling for a boycott of Reynolds’ e-cigarette VUSE and continued efforts to get the tobacco industry to end the widespread abuse of farmworkers in the US and México.  

 

 
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Revised: 04/09/19 13:13:11 -0700.

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