Baldemar Velasquez

Baldemar Velasquez

Baldemar Velázquez (born Pharr, Texas, February 15 1947) is president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO, an organization he founded in 1967 in Toledo, Ohio.

Early life and education

Velázquez was born into a migrant farm worker family and began agricultural work when he was six years old. He attended what is now the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg, Texas from 1965-66, Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio 1966-67, and from 1967-69 attended Bluffton College, where he graduated with a BA in Sociology. He was the first member of his family to graduate from college.

Career with FLOC

Velázquez made FLOC a national organization in 1978 when he led more than 2,000 workers in one of the largest agricultural strikes in the history of the Midwest. He issued a call for unprecedented trade union recognition in a multi-party collective bargaining agreement.

In 1979, FLOC launched a nationwide boycott of Campbell's tomato harvesting operations to pressure the company into labor negotiations. In 1983, Velázquez led 600-mile march of 100 farm workers from FLOC headquarters in Toledo, Ohio to Campbell's headquarters in Camden, New Jersey. The march garnered extensive national media coverage for Velázquez and FLOC. In Feb. 1986, the migrant workers, growers and Campbell's announced a three-way pact in which the growers agreed to give limited medical insurance, a paid holiday and a wage increase to 600-800 workers on 28 farms. It was the first three-way pact in labor history. FLOC and Velázquez called off the boycott after Campbell's and their subsidiary Vlasic signed the contracts. The next year, Heinz U.S.A. and its growers signed a contract with FLOC covering an additional 700 workers. FLOC forced the growth of growers associations to facilitate collective signatories of multi-party agreements.

In 1997, FLOC won three major new contracts covering 1,200 additional workers in the pickle and fresh market tomato industry. In 1998, Velázquez led the national FLOC boycott of the Mt. Olive Pickle Co. in the campaign to organize the workers in North Carolina and the South. In 1999, Velázquez and FLOC played a key role in the creation of the National Coalition for Dignity and Amnesty for Immigrants.

Velázquez has attended the International Labor Conference in Paris (2001) where he met with the leaders of French labor unions, and attended the Open World Conference in Berlin (2002) where he opened dialog with international unions on halting the shipping of pickles by Mt. Olive to the United States. In the summer of 2004, Velázquez with a team of workers negotiated the first union contract with the North Carolina Growers' Association and an agreement with the Mt. Olive Pickle Co. to end the four and a half year boycott of the company.

In 2002, Velázquez led a delegation to the White House to meet with President George W. Bush's staff on the Freedom Act legislation developed by the National Coalition for Dignity and Amnesty for Undocumented Immigrants.

Honors

In 1986 Velázquez received the Midwest Academy award for outstanding contributions to social change. The Agricultural Missions of the National Council of Churches also awarded him for his unprecedented accomplishment of multi-party collective bargaining agreements. Velázquez received a Bannerman Fellowship in 1988 and the next year was named a MacArthur Fellow by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. In 1990, Velázquez received his degree in Practical Theology and was ordained in 1991 as chaplain to the farmworkers by Rapha Ministries.

Velázquez also served as an organizer of the National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 1991. In 1994, 29 national Hispanic organizations chose him as the recipient of the Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award. That same year he also received Mexico's Aguila Azteca Award—the highest award Mexico can award a non-citizen. The University of Toledo awarded him an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree in 1998.

He is married; he and his wife have four children and four grandchildren (as of 2006).

External links

* [http://www.floc.com/ FLOC home page]
* [http://www.floc.com/html/BVbio.html FLOC Velasquez Biography]


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