Camp Solidarity is a one day immersion experience into the world of agriculture and farmworkers in Eastern North Carolina. It is a chance for visitiors to learn more about the challenges many farmworkers face in their day to day lives, visit the labor camps to see living and working conditions with their own eyes, and talk with workers to share stories and build relationships of solidarity throughout the community.
The program runs June through August, and due to limited resources we can only facilitate a certain number of visits per season. If you are interested in organizing a Camp Solidarity visit, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out the USW report from their Camp Solidarity trip!
On Saturday August 17, FLOC hosted AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Schuler for a Camp Solidarity visit. Accompanying her were five organizers from the United Steel Workers, representatives from the NC AFL-CIO, President of Farmworker Justice Bruce Goldstein, and several other FLOC supporters and allies.
Mr. Goldstein and FLOC attorney Bob Willis, who have played an integral role in advocating for farmworkers’ rights in immigration reform negotiations, began the visit with an overview of the current status of reform and how it could affect farmworkers and their union contracts. President Velasquez presented on the progress of the Reynolds Campaign, and later led the group out to the labor camps to talk with workers. The delegation visited a camp in Sampson County where, huddled in a small dining room, they talked to the workers about their work, their families and their personal struggles. “I have been living in the United States for 40 years and have been working in the fields since the age of 17,” One worker told the group. He explained that when he was mugged a couple of years ago, he lost all forms of identification, and has not been able to go to the consulate to get an ID since it is 2 hours away and he has no transportation. Showing the delegation the scraps of paper scribbled with phone numbers in his wallet, he talked about the difficulty of being away from home and staying in touch with family back in Mexico. “Sometimes I’m afraid that they might think that I’m dead.”
The group also visited another camp in Wilson County, where the group heard from two workers about the difficulty surviving on the low wages farm work provides. These particular workers have been working at the farm for 6 years and paid the minimum wage, have never received a raise, and do not receive overtime pay, even though they often work over 60 hours per week. The workers led the group to a nearby tobacco field where they explained how tobacco is harvested to the delegates.
After visiting the camps the delegation reconvened at the FLOC office to have dinner with FLOC union members and community leaders. FLOC is very grateful to all who took the time to travel to North Carolina to participate in this important solidarity building experience. Many thanks to Mollie Relihan from USW, who documented the day with photos which you can see here.
Recent Camp Solidarity Visitors
On Saturday, June 8, 2013 FLOC hosted Camp Solidarity for delegates from various organizations and unions in North Carolina, including the N.C. AFL-CIO, A. Philip Randolph Institute, Alliance for Retired Americans, Amalgamated Transit Union, the Triangle CLC and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. These organizations have been strong FLOC allies in years past, and came to learn about the current struggles that farmworkers face in N.C. tobacco fields. We were joined by Noe Lopez, who currently labors in the N.C. tobacco fields in Wayne County, who spoke about how difficult farm work is. “Providing for my family and being able to send my children to school makes it all worth it,” he said. The delegation later visited a labor camp in Harnett County and met with a group of farmworkers at a labor camp. Huddled around in the kitchen, the delegation listened to their personal stories of hardship and perseverance. The group also traveled to Johnston County, where workers had already left for the store. Planning a scheduled delegation with farmworkers is difficult, as most do not have vehicles and have to rely on the person that provides transportation for personal errands like grocery shopping, sending money orders to family, and doing their laundry at the local Laundromat.
“The tour was definitely eye opening for me; I felt that I was in a third-world country,” commented Heather McLaughlin of the N.C. Alliance for Retired Americans. “We can only hope that through education and perseverance, the inhumane conditions these workers live in can be acknowledged and change can occur.”
Many thanks to the NC AFL-CIO for putting this delegation together and standing in solidarity with farmworkers in this struggle!
On Thursday September 20, 2012 FLOC hosted a Camp Solidarity visit with members of the Beloved Community Center (BCC). The Beloved Community Center is a community based organization that is committed to grassroots empowerment, especially among minorities, within the context and spirit of forging a beloved community for all residents. About 20 members of BCC gathered at the FLOC office to learn more about farmworkers, how they live and work, and current organizing efforts to ensure that all have safe and healthy working conditions and fair wages. Two farmworkers, Natividad and Carmen, joined us to share their stories as women farmworkers. Natividad explained how hard the job is and the difficulties of working in the fields and raising three children at the same time.
In the afternoon we loaded the vans and took a road trip to Nash county, which is one of the top tobacco and sweet potato producing counties in NC, and is home to thousands of farmworkers and dozens of growers. Veronica, the cook at the first camp we visited, showed us around the kitchen and explained to the group how with only one stove and two refrigerators, she cooks for all 25 people living in the camp.
Later we visited Wilson county, which is also among the top tobacco producing counties on NC. In a field nearby the camp, Rev. Johnson, who understands the hardships of tobacco harvesting from his own experiences when he was younger, showed the group how tobacco is harvested, and talked about the dangers of tar and nicotine as well as the pesticides and herbicides.
Following the visits we were joined by President Velazquez who spoke about the importance of building relationships between faith and labor communities, and what a key role BCC has played in pushing Reynolds to the table to talk with FLOC. Rev. Johnson and Wesley shared a message of solidarity and spoke about how crucial it is that we continue to close the black/brown divide and build unity throughout our communities.
Together, we continue to build the movement for justice! Many thanks to BCC for joining us for this powerful visit.
On August 29, 2012 Greg Junemann, International President of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), attended Camp Solidarity. He was joined by representatives from the Embassy of Japan and the Embassy of Taiwan, who also were interested in learning more about labor organizing in agriculture.
"The work camps are made of rows of shacks that encircle a stony yard. The shacks rest on concrete slabs. The crude buildings are made of bare wood with bare pipe in the few buildings that have running water (the kitchens, the laundry rooms and the bathrooms are all located in the same buildings). A lone 50-gallon water heater is used to accommodate up to 100 people, who all need to bathe, wash their clothes and eat in the same complex. When the hot water runs out, the workers simply have to shower and do their laundry in cold water. There is no running water in any of the shacks used for sleeping.
We arrived in time to find most of the workers had just washed after the day’s work. They were all incredibly friendly and in good spirits, although none of them could hide the fact that they were dog tired. At this point in their day, the simple act of sitting down was a joyous experience." Read more
In July, representatives from the National and State AFL-CIO joined FLOC for a Camp Solidairty visit. Arlene Holt Baker, Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO, Fred Redmond, International Vice President of the United Steelworkers, and James Andrews, President of the North Carolina AFL-CIO, spent the day with FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez touring the fields and labor camps of NC.
At the Executive Council meeting of the AFL-CIO shortly after the visit, all of the visitors spoke passionately about the need for all affiliates to support farmworkers in their struggle to organize. Vice President Holt Baker pledged to send a letter to Reynolds encouraging them to work with FLOC, signed by herself, President Trumka, and Secretary Treasurer Shuler.
In order to help spread awareness about dire conditions in NC and the urgency of the organizing work, Vice President Holt Baker created the video below, which was also shown to all of the members of the AFL-CIO Executive Council.