Farmworkers in North Carolina Facing Dire Conditions

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO (FLOC), is both a social movement and a labor union. Their immediate constituency is migrant workers in the agricultural industry, but they are also involved with immigrant workers, Latinos, local communities, and national and international coalitions concerned with justice.

In North Carolina, farmworkers harvest nearly 40 different types of crops, including fruit, vegetables, and tobacco. North Carolina is the leading tobacco producing state in the country.

Sadly, the situation for farm workers in North Carolina is dire.

A report from Oxfam America and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) released in 2012 shows that many tobacco farm workers often live in labor camps with inadequate or non-functioning toilets and showers and other substandard conditions, suffer from illnesses resulting from nicotine poisoning and exposure to dangerous pesticides, and work long hours for below poverty wages.

Farm workers have been organizing for nearly five years to get tobacco giant Reynolds American— the largest tobacco company in North Carolina which reaps billions in profit from each year—to help improve living and working conditions in the fields of the tobacco growers they contract with.

Reynolds American claims that the company has taken steps to ensure these exploitative conditions do not exist on their contract farms, but more can be done to guarantee that all farm workers have a safe and healthy work place. Reynolds should work with FLOC to develop a written agreement that guarantees freedom of association and collective bargaining to tobacco farm workers.

Reynolds still hasn’t signed an agreement with FLOC, and concerned consumers are turning to major retailers for support.  Last year, FLOC began pressuring Wawa, a convenience store chain in the northeast that sells tobacco products including Reynolds American, to use its power and influence to help farm workers in their fight for justice.

Wawa has said they won’t get involved, but labor and student groups have sent letters to Wawa expressing the urgency of the situation and calling on the company to take action.  Unfortunately, Wawa hasn’t responded to their concerns.

FLOC has organized an e-fax action to help convince Wawa that they need to convey their consumers concerns to Reynolds, and calling on the tobacco giant to sign an agreement with FLOC to help make the working conditions of farmworkers safer and healthier.  Please take a minute to send an e-fax to Wawa in support of justice for farmworkers!

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