Marching migrant workers greeted in New Jersey


CAMDEN, N.J. -- A group of migrant farm workers was greeted by flower-bearing supporters as it crossed from Philadelphia to Camden on the last leg of a 560-mile march to Campbell Soup Co.'s headquarters.

The marchers, members of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee seeking to unionize workers on farms that sell to Campbell's, began their journey July 7 in Toledo, Ohio, to promote a boycott of the company's products.


More than 200 supporters -- from priests and nuns to college students to small children -- shouted slogans in Spanish and sang union songs as the weary farmworkers, about 70 strong, braved the August heat Sunday.

'If everything I hear is true, then we have an obligation to be here,' said Doris Campbell, an elderly supporter who said her last name was 'unfortunately probably related to the soup people.'

The marchers had begun the day with a rally in Philadelphia, where they were joined by United Farm Workers chief Cesar Chavez, then walked across the Ben Franklin bridge into Camden.

Most of the group carried brightly colored signs reading 'Campbell's Cream of Exploitation Soup.' Another demonstration at Campbell's headquarters was planned for today.


Baldemar Velasquez, president of FLOC, said the five-year-old boycott of Campbell's products will continue until the company agrees to three-way contract talks with the union and growers.

'For every 33 pounds of tomatoes we get 22 cents,' Velasquez said. 'You see three and four generations working together just trying to make enough to eat.'

Campbell's does not directly employ the farmworkers, but contracts with growers for a set price-per-ton of vegetables.

Some 2,000 farm workers launched the boycott against Campbell's in 1978 and have since refused to pick tomatoes for growers who contract with the company.

'They (farmworkers) work mightily to bring food to you and me and it would be good for Americans when you sit down at your table to know that the food comes to you through a tremendous amount of sacrifice and exploitation,' Chavez told 400 people at a rally at Philadelphia's Independence Mall earlier in the day.

'I don't think it's (the boycott) going to have any impact,' said company spokesman Jams Moran. 'We recorded record earnings last quarter. We see it has had absolutely no impact.'

But Matya Velasquez, the 10-year-old daughter of the migrant's leader, disagreed.

'I think it will do a lot of good,' she said. 'We've got to get kids out of the fields.'


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