By Peter Gilbert
Nashville, N.C.

Over 100 workers, organizers and community supporters packed the Nash
County, N.C., Courthouse Aug. 2 to defend workers' right to meet with
union organizers.

Francisco Heredia and Blake Pender grass, two organizers with the Farm
Labor Organizing Committee, faced charges of criminal trespass for
meeting with immigrant workers at their labor camp.

Heredia and Pendergrass's statement attacked the local sheriff's role:
"The Nash County Sheriff Department has chosen to violate farm workers'
right to freely associate by knowingly arresting us on groundless
charges. They maliciously colluded with an employer in his attempt to
manipulate and dominate the private lives of hard-working people to
maintain a racist system of repression and exploitation."

After being barred from the court for overfilling the courthouse, FLOC
Presi dent Baldemar Velasquez led the workers in chants in Spanish and
English. Overwhelming community pressure forced the judge to recognize
that the charges were illegal, and dismiss them.

According to the state's prosecutor, it was "not in the state's
interest" to pursue the charges.

After the defendants were released, sup porters and workers marched to
the local Lowe's Foods grocery store and picketed, demanding the store
honor their boycott of Mt. Olive Pickles. The mostly immigrant workers
who pick cucumbers that become Mt. Olive Pickles called for a boycott to
try to force the growers and Mt. Olive to recognize their right to form
a union.

Workers in North Carolina make one-quarter to one-third what their
unionized counterparts in Michigan and Ohio make for the same labor. And
they live in slave-like conditions in labor camps where they are denied
sanitation and adequate shelter.

Workers from these cucumber farms participated in last year's immigrant
workers' freedom ride, and are expected to participate in the Million
Worker March, which FLOC has endorsed.


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