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Farm Labor Organizing Committee FLOC, AFL-CIO

Called upon to challenge the deplorable conditions of the broader workforce that remains voiceless, powerless, and invisible to mainstream America

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Baldemar Velasquez

President and Founder of FLOC

Born in 1947, Baldemar grew up in a migrant farmworker family based in the Rio Grande valley of Texas. Every year, his family would migrate to the Midwest and other regions to work in the fields planting, weeding, and harvesting crops like pickles, tomatoes, sugar beets, and berries. They traveled in trucks and old cars, and often lived in barns and converted chicken coops. The family eventually settled in Ohio, and Baldemar worked in the fields seasonally through his high school years to help support the family. In 1969 he became the first member of his family to graduate from college, graduating from Bluffton College with a BA in Sociology.


Incensed by the injustices suffered by his family and other farmworkers, Baldemar founded the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in 1967. The basic issue was the right of farmworkers to have their own voice in the conditions that affect their lives.  As he struggled for justice for farmworkers, Baldemar realized that it was the agricultural corporations, rather than the growers, who control the conditions which affect farm laborers. The focus of FLOC became changing the structure of the agricultural industry through three-way negotiations among the major parties involved in agricultural production--farmworkers, growers, and corporations.


In 1978, Baldemar led over 2,000 FLOC workers on strike, the largest in agricultural history of Midwest, who demanded union recognition and a multi-party bargaining agreement. The following year, FLOC held its first constitutional convention as a labor union, and the workers voted to boycott Campbell Soup in their call for negotiations.  After an eight year struggle, FLOC signed its first three-way contracts with Campbell Soup and its tomato and pickle grower associations in Ohio and Michigan. FLOC went on to expand its work to the South and won a similar contract covering farmworkers in North Carolina after a six year campaign against Mt. Olive Pickle Company.


Under Baldemar’s leadership FLOC has set international precedents in labor history, including being the first union to negotiate multi-party collective bargaining agreements, and the first to represent H2A international guestworkers under a labor agreement.  Baldemar is an internationally recognized leader in the farmwoker and immigrants rights movements. His commitment to justice and human dignity have led to recognition by many labor, government, academic, and progressive organizations, including a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship, a Development of People Award by the Campaign for Human Development of the U.S. Catholic Conference, an Aguila Azteca Award by the Government of México, and several Honorary Doctorates from Bowling Green State University, Bluffton University, and University of Toledo. In 2009 Baldemar was elected to the AFL-CIO Executive Council.

 


 


Sesario Duran

Secretary Treasurer

 

Born April 24, 1938 in Crystal City, Texas, Sesario Duran was the 7th of 12 children raised traveling the country in a migrant worker family.  His childhood years were spent on the road working Minnesota’s sugar beet fields,  North Dakota’s onion fields, Oklahoma cotton and Ohio tomato and cucumber farms.   The family settled in Waseon, Ohio at the Waseon Canning Company labor camp living in an elongated building in rooms separated by plywood walls where several families occupied an individual stall.   To alleviate the cramped quarters the family was moved to a hog barn that had recently been vacated by the hogs and converted to housing for migrant workers.

 

After several years the family bought 7 acres of land in Swanton and started small scale farming.    Sesario entered the Swanton school system and graduated in 1958 where he was a standout athlete in football and basketball.  

 

Sesario went on to serve in the Army.  He served active duty at Ft. Leonardwood in Missouri and 7 years in the Army Reserve.   Later, he enrolled in school in Chicago at the DeVry Technical Institute where he received a degree in Radio, TV and Communications.   He worked various jobs back in Toledo before joining a union at Toledo Vending Co. with the Teamsters.   After 3 years there and a short stint at Continental Aviation he went to work at DeVilbiss and became a member of the UAW.   After 17 years, the company closed to move its operation to Jackson, Mississippi.   After plant closed the UAW paid his tuition to attend the University of Toledo and received his Associate Degree in Social Work.

 

During his employment at DeVilbiss he became involved in the farm worker’s fight for justice with FLOC.  Beginning in 1968 he served FLOC in various positions to shape and form the foundation of the organization with his many talents and skills.  Apart from being a talented organizer he was also an accountant and an effective negotiator.

 

Currently, he manages the CMWJ (Campaign for Migrant Worker Justice)  Worker Center and continues to advocate for migrants and immigrants.    As Director of the CMWJ Worker Center, he defends immigrants in their workplace rights, deportations and profiling cases.   He continues to defend those who cannot defend themselves, taking to task unscrupulous employers, local police and others who abuse and exploit the migrant and immigrant community.