“The men found me a pair of rubber boots and a roll of plastic bags which I turned into a poncho to keep the morning dew from soaking my clothes.
“My job, which began at 7 a.m., was topping, suckering and weeding.
“The flower had to be broken off the top and the suckers had to be gleaned from the leaf. The suckers look like little shoots of romaine lettuce.
“One of my co-workers, El Nino, was divorced last year but remains a loyal father by supporting four children ages 17, 16, 12 and 4. He wants the kids to get an education to escape a life of dead-end jobs in Mexico. Being in the U.S. for so long a time destroyed El Nino’s marriage, but lack of work in Mexico left him little choice but to sign up for the H2A guest worker program.”
Thus Baldemar Velasquez, founder and president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), described the first of seven days he spent last month as an anonymous field laborer. His aim was to see firsthand the conditions faced by tobacco workers in North Carolina where they are paid $7 a day.
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