Born in 1947, Baldemar Velasquez grew up in a migrant farmworker family based in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Each year, his family migrated to the Midwest and other regions to work in the fields, planting, weeding, and harvesting. The family eventually settled in Ohio, and during this time Velasquez worked in the fields seasonally through high school to help support the family. In 1969, he became the first member of his family to graduate from college, earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Bluffton College and an advanced degree in theology from Florida International Seminary.
Incensed by the injustices suffered by his family and other farmworkers, Velasquez founded the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in 1967. Under his leadership, FLOC has set international precedents in labor history, including being the first union to negotiate multi-party collective bargaining agreements, and the first union to represent H2A international guest workers under a labor agreement.
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