In a ceremony at a church in Raleigh, N.C., last week, the Mount Olive Pickle Co. and the North Carolina Growers Association signed a contract with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC). In return, the union ended its five-year-old boycott of the company.
More than 8,000 foreign guest workers, most from Mexico, will now enjoy the benefits of union representation, including a 10 percent pay raise over the next three years, a grievance process and establishment of a seniority system. Churches across the country, including the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, had endorsed the boycott of Mount Olive Pickles. Protests at shareholder meetings and other events have frequently urged the Kroger Co. to eliminate Mount Olive products from its shelves.
"This agreement will set an important standard to the rest of the agricultural industry," says Baldemar Velasquez, president of FLOC. "Everyone else almost exclusively utilizes undocumented workers, and the conditions of those workers are tragic and shameful."
The union contract calls for the more than 1,000 farmers who make up the growers association to improve housing, health care and other employment conditions for cucumber pickers.
Boycotts can lead to strange coalitions. The organization working for repeal of legal discrimination against gays and lesbians in Cincinnati, for example, finds itself calling for people to support the Procter & Gamble Co. Citizens to Restore Fairness (CRF) is campaigning for the repeal of Article 12 of the city charter — a referendum endorsed by P&G. The company's support for the repeal movement prompted the American Family Association to call a boycott of P&G products.
CRF has come out in support of the corporate behemoth, saying the boycott is unfair.
"We urge those who stand for fairness and ending discrimination to support Procter & Gamble during this time and to continue to buy P&G products," says Justin Turner, CRF campaign manager.
That message might be irksome to some supporters of repeal. Animal rights activists have been boycotting P&G for several years because of what it calls cruel practices in laboratory experiments involving animals.
The American Family Association, headed by the Rev. Donald Wildmon, a notorious right-wing gadfly, asserts that P&G has effectively endorsed gay marriage, even though Article 12 has nothing to do with the subject. The statement P&G sent its employees is straightforward.
"Respect for all individuals is a key P&G value," the statement says. "The company believes that all people deserve protection from discrimination. We value differences and will not tolerate discrimination in any form, against anyone, for any reason. In supporting repeal, P&G is not promoting any particular lifestyle; instead, we are supporting values of respect and tolerance."
The repeal campaign has broad-based support from churches. Last week the Rev. James Forbes of Riverside Church in New York City spoke at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center to support repeal of Article 12.
Some Ministers, Some Activists and a Dick
The Rev. Richard Rohr, formerly of Cincinnati, was one of 45 nationally known religious leaders who signed a full-page ad bearing the message, "God is not a Republican. Or a Democrat." The ad appeared Aug. 30, the first day of the Republican National Convention, in The New York Times and has since appeared in other newspapers across the country. The ad says the ministers aren't single-issue voters and proposes seven measures of "responsible Christian citizenship," including respect for the poor and for human rights. Rohr, who founded the New Jerusalem lay Catholic community in Winton Place, heads the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque.
Other activists sometimes prefer to stay out of the spotlight. The night before the Bengals' first home game of the season Sept. 19, a small troupe plastered utility poles and sidewalks around Paul Brown Stadium with stickers declaring, "W is for War Crimes." The stickers bore an iconic image from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, in which U.S. occupation forces tortured Iraqi POWs.
A communiqué issued by someone calling himself or herself "Commander Charlie" said the sticker campaign was a public literacy project meant to remind voters exactly what W stands for. The project was associated with the Wednesday Group, whose Web site (www.wednesdayslist.com) contains a picture of the sticker project. Now the Wednesday Group is organizing Beers Against Bush, a party from 3-10 p.m. Oct. 3 at Rosie's Tavern in Covington.
Mayor Charlie Luken's comments on a recent visit by Vice President Dick Cheney were unintentionally funny. Luken criticized Cheney for saying the United States risks being attacked by terrorists if voters throw out President Bush.
"Vice-President Cheney has stooped to the lowest of lows by insinuating that America would be attacked if John Kerry were president," Luken said. "After four years of no clear plan for America, Dick Cheney is left with nothing but negative attacks, scare tactics and distortions. We need new leadership."
Luken is the same person who had to apologize after branding supporters of the civil rights boycott of Cincinnati "economic terrorists."
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