Defend Right of North Carolina Farm Workers to Organize

International Union and Foodworkers (IUF)

 Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC)

farm workers nc

Following a series of recent farm worker wins in the Southern United States, farmers elected to the North Carolina State Legislature are trying to use their legislative power to stop workers on their own farms from organizing for better wages and working conditions.

On June 28, the North Carolina General Assembly passed Farm Bill S615 with no debate. The bill aims to stop the progress that farmworkers are achieving by making it illegal for farmers to deduct dues from union members as well as making it more difficult for farmworkers to win union contracts.

US farmworkers are excluded from the National Labor Relations Act and other worker protections like minimum wage, child labor, and workers compensation laws, among others. However, through the efforts of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), farmworkers have won union contracts that include wage increases, job security, and improved working conditions. This bill aims to roll back this progress.

CLICK HERE to join FLOC and the IUF in calling on North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper to veto the bill. Your message will be sent by email to the Governor and delivered as part of a signed petition.

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A LEGACY OF INJUSTICE AND INEQUALITY

by Briosha Sanders

Bri-Sanders1-585x280I’d be lying if I told you that it never occurred to me to question the beauty of the countryside that I loved to explore as a young person of color in the South. Many people, like me, can’t help but admire stretches of crisp green plants that interchange with golden fields and eventually give way to pristine farm homes with freshly trimmed lawns. However, there is a deeply entrenched legacy of injustice and inequality that no amount of romanticizing or denial could remove from the reality of life in the country.  But people like to forget and forgetting is costly.

I’d seen third world poverty before when I worked with a nonprofit organization in Honduras in the summer of 2012, but I still felt shocked when I went out to the camps of the trabajadores with whom FLOC organizers work to build community power. It was shocking, I think, because for the first time I was faced with the harsh realization that there is a widespread human trafficking operation of cheap labor thriving in my back yard.

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North Carolina, Come On and Rise Up

 By Amy B Dean

Moral Monday march and interfaith social justice rally, July 29, 2013. (Photo:  twbuckner / Flickr)Moral Monday march and interfaith social justice rally, July 29, 2013. (Photo: twbuckner / Flickr)

Moral Monday march and interfaith social justice rally, July 29, 2013. (Photo: twbuckner / Flickr)Moral Monday march and interfaith social justice rally, July 29, 2013. (Photo: twbuckner / Flickr)

This past summer, “Moral Mondays” in North Carolina emerged as the locus of one of the country’s most insistent state-level movements against extremist efforts to slash the social safety net and roll back civil rights. But what has become of the protests in the past two months? And what’s next for the movement that catapulted Moral Mondays into national prominence?

It took several months last spring and early summer for the Moral Monday protests to reach a crescendo. While early statehouse rallies in North Carolina started by attracting about 50 protesters, by July thousands of people from around the state were swarming the state capitol. After three consecutive months of action, there had been around 920 arrests for civil disobedience at the weekly rallies.

Since the state’s legislative session closed July 26 and lawmakers left town, the fight has become more decentralized, with coalition activists showing up at district offices to protest. “The Legislature was going home,” says North Carolina AFL-CIO President James Andrews. “We went home with them.” Continue reading

North Carolina “Moral Mondays” vs. Washington’s ‘Wistful Wednesday’

by Jack Rasmus

Moral Monday photo by twbuckner FLICKR

Moral Monday photo by twbuckner FLICKR

On Wednesday, August 28, 2013, the 50th anniversary celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington, commemorative speeches spilled out over the DC mall. From President Obama and other carefully selected political ‘notables’, speakers sought to identify themselves with King and the historic event of 1963.

In a series of carefully scripted speeches—in some cases closely edited, according to reports, to avoid any indication of calls for grass roots action or a new civil rights movement—speakers talked mostly of the great achievements in civil and democratic rights in America set in motion by the historic 1963 event.

While politicians strained to identify themselves with, and wrap themselves in, the achievements in democratic rights set in motion by King and the 1963 march, none had much to say about what practical steps should be taken to address the growing assault on democratic, civil and labor rights rapidly gaining momentum today across the land.

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Join the March on Washington – Saturday

“You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of the slums. . . . There must be a better distribution of wealth . . . and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., speech to the SCLC staff, Frogmore, S.C., November 14, 1966

MARCH We March for the American Dream – August 24

Democratic socialists Bayard Rustin, Walter Reuther and A. Philip Randolph (ABOVE)  helped organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom 50 years ago.

They knew that ending legal segregation and winning political rights for African Americans were essential, but not sufficient, to ensure justice and freedom for all. Without access to good education, to health care and above all to decent jobs that paid living wages, the vote was not enough. Continue reading

Obama’s Choice of Charlotte a Slap in Face to Organized Labor

by Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw

In choosing Charlotte, North Carolina to host the 2012 Democratic National Convention, President Obama selected a city with no unionized hotels, a non-union convention center, and the least union membership of the four options. Last October, UNITE HERE President John Wilhelm wrote a letter to the Democratic National Committee, stating that Charlotte’s non-union hotels made it an unacceptable choice. Candidate Obama pledged to join UNITE HERE’s picket line at Chicago’s Congress Hotel if elected President – a promise he made no attempt to fulfill – but as President has increasingly courted corporate interests while ignoring labor’s needs. While some attribute Obama’s decision to the importance of North Carolina and neighboring Virginia in the 2012 presidential race, another factor could also be at play. UNITE HERE has been waging the most aggressive union campaign ever against the Hyatt Hotel chain, owned by the Chicago-based Pritzker family. Penny Pritzker was the national finance chair of Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. If Obama wanted to ensure ongoing Pritzker and corporate loyalty in 2012, choosing a city opposed by UNITE HERE and that only has non-union hotels sends a powerful message.

As most labor union leaders continue to publicly praise President Obama, it’s clear with each passing week that Obama feels he can actively court corporate America while taking labor support for granted. The President’s choice of non-union Charlotte is the latest example, as even the conservative Red State blog observed that Obama likely chose Charlotte “precisely because it is union-free.” Continue reading

Victory at Smithfield!

Jobs with Justice

WORKERS AT THE WORLD’S LARGEST MEATPACKING PLANT VOTE YES TO UNION REPRESENTATION

Tar Heel, N.C. This week workers at Smithfield Packing in Tar Heel, North Carolina, chose union representation with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). Workers voted 2041 to 1879 for a voice on the job.

“When workers have a fair process, they choose a voice on the job,” said UFCW Director of Organizing Pat O’Neill. “This is a great victory for the Tar Heel workers. I know they are looking forward to sitting down at the bargaining table with Smithfield to negotiate a contract. The UFCW has constructive union contracts with Smithfield plants around the country. Those union contracts benefit workers, the company and the community. We believe the workers here in Tar Heel can achieve a similar agreement.”

Ronnie Ann Simmons, a worker of 13 years at the plant said, “We are thrilled.  This moment has been a long time coming. We stuck together, and now we have a say on the job.” Continue reading