He works with the people Él trabaja con la gente
I don’t remember ever encountering a union leader who worked from sun up to sun down besides the people he led. But Baldemar Velasquez is different. One time in North Carolina, I was with him when we encountered a farmer angry that he was visiting his workers. He took a look at Baldemar, a small, muscular man with a friendly Texas accent, and figured he was just one of the folks broiling in the sun. He didn’t realize for a while that Baldemar was the head of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC).
And that’s why Baldemar’s recent days in the tobacco fields of North Carolina are so unique. Farm work is brutual. It kills every sense when you are straining from the chilled morning to boiling hot afternoon, always moving, always grabbing to fill the bucket in front you.
This is a fine story from the Toledo Blade about his recent effort, and it includes his daily diary, which is worth reading. If only the reporter would have stepped back and put his effort into a bigger context, then the payoff would be greater. The bigger story is the number of workers who die from heat, and the latest figures are available from state and federal officials on the numbers who have given their lives this way.
Here’s the story:
Toledo-based farm labor leader tackles tobacco in North Carolina
‘My feeling is that if I’m going to represent somebody, I better do the work that they’re doing to know what they’re going through,’ says Baldemar Velásquez of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee of his work in North Carolina.
( PHOTO BY CHRISTIANA VELÁSQUEZ )
The sun was up and already beating strong when Baldemar Velásquez awakened inside the concrete block building to a stinging sunburn and tingling numbness in his hands and fingers.
With no air-conditioning in the farm labor camp, there would again be little escape this day from the unrelenting summer heat. Before long, his entire body felt drenched in sweat.
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