TOLEDO, Ohio -- Saying it's time for bygones to be bygones, the founder of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee Friday ended a seven-year-old boycott that produced a labor contract with the Campbell Soup Co.
FLOC leader Baldemar Velasquez said the boycott has served its purpose by producing an agreement acceptable to FLOC, Campbell's and tomato and cucumber growers associations in Ohio and Michigan.
'With that, let the bygones be bygones,' said Velasquez, who began organizing farm workers in 1967 to improve their wages and living conditions.
'We look forward to the kind of relationships out in the field that we should have had over a hundred years ago,' he said..
The announcement came during a joint news conference held at the Toledo Catholic Diocese headquarters, where details of the contract signed in Detroit Wednesday were explained.
The agreement will cover nearly 600 workers this year and between 160 to 170 more in 1987, said Velasquez.
'I think it is certainly a victory for all citizens of this country who care for justice, who care for fairness and who believe that workers ougth to receive a fair day's pay for a fair day of work,' said Velasquez.
'I don't exclude Campbell's, Vlasic and the growers, because I think the fact that they're here today with us and have signed the agreement is a sign that in fact they do care, said Velasquez, a Texas native and a former migrant worker.
He credited the National Council of Churches, which supported the boycott and later established an independent commission to mediate the dispute between FLOC and Campbell's, as the catalyst for the contract breakthrough.
'The company is very pleased with the resolution of the long-standing dispute,' said Roald Waraas, director of procurment for Campbell's.
The agreement is primarily between the grower associations and the labor organization. It recognizes FLOC as a union and covers wages, a paid holiday, and provides for medical and hospitalization for farm workers.
The company has long held that Campbell's does not hire farm workers. Waraas said the company maintains that position, but it recognizes its responsibility to the workers and growers.
The agreement is in two parts. One is a three-year contact with FLOC, Campbell's and the Campbell Tomato Growers Association, covering farm laborers who work on mechanical harvesters, truck drivers, and handpicking operations.
Laborers who hoe and plant will be covered in 1987.
It provides a $4.50 an hour wage and major medical and hospitalization coverage. Farm workers will be given a paid holiday on Labor Day and it provides for two paid union representatives.
A similar agreement to extend over four years was signed by FLOC, Vlasic and cucumber growers.
Waraas, who was unable to estimate the contract's affect on the company, said Campbell will pay growers more money per ton to avoid them having to absorb increased costs.
Wally Wagner, a member of the Campbell Soup Company Growers Association, said the agreement will work even though unresolved issues remain. It calls for reviews by the Dunlop Commission and contains clauses for grievence hearings.
'We're going to need the help, though, of the religious community to help promote John Q. Public to pay another cent or two or whatever it takes so that we in agriculture can stay in business,' said Wagner, who operates a family farm south of Toledo.
'Everything has its price,' Wagner said. 'The consumer has to be willing to put forth an extra few pennies.'