history professor to discuss FLOC

Dr. Perry Bush, professor of history, will present the Colloquium, “Christian Nonviolence and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee,” at 4 p.m. on Nov. 9 in Centennial Hall’s Stutzman Lecture Hall.

During the presentation, Dr. Bush will share research on the history of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), and in particular, how it integrated Christian nonviolence in its organizing efforts.

Begun by Bluffton College student Baldemar Velasquez in 1977, FLOC celebrated its 50-year anniversary last year. Velasquez, who remains FLOC’s national president, has led the group through a number of successful campaigns. In the 1970s and 1980s, FLOC began to target major food corporations including Campbell Soup and Libby tomato operations, headquartered out of Napoleon, Ohio, and North Carolina’s Mt. Olive Pickle Company in the 1990s.

In both instances, after extensive strikes that made use of picketers, boycotts and a growing national network of allies in religious and civic groups, FLOC was ultimately successful in pioneering innovative three-way contracts between the farmworkers, growers and their corporate partners. In the Campbell Soup/Libby campaign, FLOC achieved union recognition despite concurrent efforts by growers to mechanize tomato production. Altogether FLOC successfully unionized 3,000 to 4,000 migrant farmworkers, helping them achieve dramatic changes in their quality of life. Since the successful culmination of its Mt. Olive boycott and campaign in 2004, the organization has turned its attention to immigration reform and also efforts to unionize upwards of 20,000 migrant farmworkers in the North Carolina tobacco fields of agri-business giant R.J. Reynolds.

As the founder and head of FLOC, Velasquez himself has won increasing recognition as one of the most successful and creative labor leaders in the country, a recognition symbolized in 1989 by his being awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and, in 1994, the Aguila Azteca, the highest honor the government of Mexico bestows on a noncitizen. He also has remained committed to the calling and expression of Christian nonviolence, the germ of which, he has testified publicly on a number of occasions, stems back to his student days at Bluffton College.

This event is free and open to the public.