02/22/04 — Farm laborer group rallies in Goldsboro

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Farm laborer group rallies in Goldsboro

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on February 22, 2004 2:03 AM

Around 130 people demonstrated in Goldsboro on Saturday afternoon for better living and working conditions for immigrant laborers.

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee, which wants to organize people who harvest cucumbers for Mt. Olive Pickle Co., held a rally at Herman Park, followed by a march through some surrounding streets.

Marchers carried signs with such slogans as, "Legalize, Yes, Criminalize, No," "No Human Being Is Illegal," "Workers Create All Wealth" and "We Are All Immigrants."

The event was peaceful and no incidents were reported.

Speakers protested a recent decision by the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles not to accept Mexican licenses and identification cards as part of the process of getting N.C. licenses.

The change was reportedly made at the request of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, but James Andrews, president of the N.C. chapter of the AFL-CIO, called it misguided.

Gesturing to the crowd, he said, "These people are not likely to load up their cars with bombs; they're here to make a living."

The state shouldn't put roadblocks in the way of workers, said Elizabeth Gomez of Dudley, a FLOC activist. "If they cannot get licenses, they are going to drive anyway because they have families to support."

People at the rally also criticized President Bush's proposal to rewrite immigration policies covering temporary "guest workers."

These changes would benefit industries, not workers, they said. People would come into this country only for the purpose of working for one company and would have to return home after three years or when they left that company's employment, whichever came first.

"We have to be clear who the enemy is," said Beatriz Maya, FLOC's national education director. "It's corporations like Mt. Olive Pickle and Smithfield Packing that are building wealth on the shoulders of our people."

Federal laws need to be rewritten to give immigrant workers "a clear road to citizenship," she said. "We're not asking for favors; we are demanding what is just."

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee, part of the AFL-CIO, is a labor union that is working with farm workers in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio. It has called for a boycott of Mt. Olive Pickles.