Tobacco Farmworker Justice Campaign
CMFN supports the campaign headed by the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC, AFL-CIO) targeting Reynolds American Inc. (RAI), one of the largest purchases of tobacco in the world, over the living and working conditions of farmworkers in the tobacco fields at the bottom of Reynolds’ supply chain. After several years of campaigning, in 2012 RAI finally began meeting directly with FLOC.
On September 5, 2012 CMFN was one of over 200 leaders and representatives from diverse religions who signed a letter to Daniel Delen, President and CEO of RAI, urging the company to reach a written agreement with FLOC to guarantee the rights of farmworkers. Read the letter here.
In early 2013, FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez provided Reynolds with a proposal that would end human trafficking in their supply chain, improve conditions in labor camps, and end the fear that keeps workers from speaking out against abusive conditions. Reynolds has yet to respond to the proposal.
On May 9, 2013 during the Reynolds American Annual Shareholders Meeting, at RAI headquarters in Winston Salem, NC, farmworkers and their supporters marched through the city calling on Reynolds to do more than just talk with FLOC. Read FLOC’s report here and more news here.
Reynolds continues to engage in multi-lateral talks with a variety of stakeholders in addition to talking directly with FLOC, which represents an improvement from a time just a few years ago when Reynolds refused to talk with FLOC or to even acknowledge that problems existed in the fields. Another small step came when RAI donated $140,000 to Telamon in July 2013 for improvements to farmworker housing in North Carolina. View a video of Reynold’s statements here.
Unfortunately, these talks and small advances have not led to the concrete outcomes that are needed to fully protect the rights of tobacco workers to organize and bargain collectively with growers and purchasers of tobacco. The campaign continues as FLOC, CMFN and other supporters await meaningful action that would guarantee safe and healthy working conditions and the right to freedom of association to all farmworkers in RAI’s supply chain.
For more background on the conditions that farmworkers face in the tobacco fields of the Southern United States and for updates on this campaign, visit FLOC’s website.
The Catholic Migrant Farmworker Network connected with migrant farmworkers in North Carolina during the II Gathering of Farmworkers in the Diocese of Raleigh in August 2013 (pictured above). We look forward to continued collaboration with the Diocese to train outreach workers and hold Pastoral Leadership Courses for farmworkers.