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Tobacco workers to protest at Reynolds American shareholders meeting

By staff

Winston-Salem, NC – For the eighth consecutive year, hundreds of people are expected to join the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), AFL-CIO for a rally and march at the Reynolds American shareholders meeting on May 7 to demand the company finally act to ensure that their supply chain is free of human rights abuses.

Baldemar Velasquez, the president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, a union that represents tobacco farm workers in North Carolina and the American South, said “We’re back again for our eighth year,” Velasquez said. “We’ll keep coming back until Reynolds American decides to really do something about the conditions farm workers endure in North Carolina tobacco fields.”

The delegation going inside the meeting is expected to focus on the three areas FLOC has been broaching with the tobacco industry: reliance on human trafficking for their labor supply on contract farms; squalid conditions found in the labor camps; and the state of fear of retaliation for workers who complain about these abuses.

Velasquez believes that only when migrant farm workers have a recognized worker organization can their complaints about their working and living conditions be effectively addressed. He wants Reynolds American put into practice the company’s commitments to human rights and sign an agreement guaranteeing freedom of association on their contract farms. After nearly three years of discussions Reynolds American has yet to sign an agreement with FLOC.

Velasquez said, “It took us five years just to get a meeting and we’ve been waiting for nearly three years for a signed agreement. How many more years will it take before Reynolds American signs an agreement with FLOC guaranteeing freedom of association on their contract farms?”

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