The growth of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, in photos

You might not realize it, but NW Ohio was once a battleground in the migrant farm laborer rights movement.

In 1978, 2,000 migrant workers walked off their jobs at Northwest Ohio’s Campbell Soup facility, citing workplace injustices. Those brave activists were all members of the Toledo-based group, The Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), founded almost a decade earlier to help organize migrant workers living in this area. While past growers were willing to work with FLOC, Campbell Soup Company refused— putting FLOC, and Northwest Ohio, center stage.

Since then, FLOC has become one of the most significant and important advocacy groups for migrant farm laborers. See the history of this important group and its significant place in the American civil rights movement, in the Toledo Lucas County Public Library’s photography exhibit, “A Fair Share of the Harvest,” though May 5.

A heroic chronicle

The events of the FLOC demonstrations, which made unprecedented strides for farm laborers through collective bargaining, are the main subject of this exhibit, spotlighting FLOC’s important history. The black-and-white photos showcase the passion and determination of these brave activists, who risked physical violence and arrest for their right to experience fair working conditions.

One of the most shocking and heart-wrenching photos bears the description: “Jack Kilroy, an attorney for FLOC, lies on the ground after being beaten unconscious by local deputies.” Others show the same level of violent opposition which FLOC members faced, the harrowing risks they took. In all, the exhibit explores the determination and dedication of FLOC members throughout the movement.

One image: a group of protesters praying with a priest before embarking on a strike. In another photo: Baldemar Velasquez, who founded FLOC in 1967, is shown walking side by side with notable faces of the civil rights movement, including Cesar Chavez and Jesse Jackson.

Local history

For the library, this exhibit carries out the institution's function: “To keep a record of significant local happenings,” says Jim Funk, manager of institutional and community initiatives at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library. “We worked with FLOC to try to understand the context of each of the photographs and to put the exhibit together in a way that communicated the history of the organization.”

Preserving this time in history for future historians is also an opportunity to expose current residents to “the kind of courage people have to express when they’re organizing for change,”

“A Fair Share of the Harvest” runs through May 5.

Toledo Lucas County Public Library Main Branch Gallery (on the second floor)
325 N. Michigan St. | 419-259-5200 | toledolibrary.org