Inside and Out the Convention Hall, A Fight for Farm Labor

Baldemar Velasquez, president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee and member of the Labor Notes Policy Committee, spoke to “Democracy Now!” yesterday about organizing in the fields and in the neighborhoods.

Velasquez is attending his first Democratic convention, but made a more familiar stop first: outside, protesting with the Southern Workers Assembly. The assembly is a sort of counter-convention called by the United Electrical Workers and other groups organizing in the region. The UE, which builds non-majority unions among the public sector workers of North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, has pointed out that the locale chosen by the Democrats denies basic rights to public workers. Public officials will not even “meet and confer” with their employees, much less bargain. (The state also has no union hotels, few building trades unions, and a right-to-work law that hamstrings private sector unions.)

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Valasquez traced his union experience to the civil rights movement, where he learned that winning laws are just one step in the fight to winning power for poor people.

How do we as poor people, who have nothing, who have no power, who have no money, we can’t influence people—how do we compel the world’s largest corporations, like Campbell Soup Co., Heinz USA, the manufacturers whose tomatoes we pick and cucumbers we pick—how do we compel them to sit down and talk to us poor people who have nothing? And the response was that when you impede the rich man’s ability to make money, anything is negotiable.

Mischa Gaus was the editor of Labor Notes from 2008 to 2012.mischagaus@gmail.com