Ohio State University head football coach John Cooper put himself in a pickle when he agreed to endorse a company that the Farm Labor Organizing Committee AFL-CIO (FLOC) says engages in unfair labor practices. FLOC president Baldemar Velasquez invited Cooper to discuss his endorsement of the Mt. Olive Pickle Company, located in North Carolina, a company the union plans to boycott until a collective bargaining agreement is signed.
In a letter to Cooper, Velasquez wrote that the company's workers live and work in "squalid conditions" and are paid "less than one-third of what workers in Ohio and Michigan get for doing the same work." They are regularly exposed to toxic and carcinogenic chemicals, Velasquez said, and they have no readily available health care.
In 18 months, FLOC has signed up more than 2,000 migrant workers who harvest pickling cucumbers for the company. The union's organizing drive is endorsed by more than 60 religious, labor, and community organizations that are now being contacted to support a pickle boycott scheduled to begin on St. Patrick's Day, 1999.