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
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.