Members of the IAM joined with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in a 125-person march on Reynolds American’s shareholder meeting in Winston-Salem, NC, to demand justice for tobacco farm workers.
“The conditions the farmworkers toil under are inhumane,” said IAM District Lodge 110 President Teddy McNeil. “Sub-minimum wages, child labor, pesticide exposure, uninhabitable housing, green tobacco sickness, lack of water, no breaks, even fatalities.”
The National Labor Act specifically excludes farm workers, providing them with little to no protections or rights under labor law.
“R.J. Reynolds (RJR) doesn’t directly employ the farm workers,” said McNeil. “But FLOC has protested the shareholder meeting for six years to bring pressure to Reynolds to sign an agreement guaranteeing the right to organize and collectively bargain for all farmworkers in the supply chain.”
The protests have had an effect. After last year’s protest, RJR has agreed to meet with FLOC and discuss the issues. FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez met with both Reynolds American CEO Dan Delen and Vice President and General Counsel Mark Holton for substantive talks.
“The IAM fights for the rights of ALL workers to have safe working conditions and the right to organize,” said Southern Territory General Vice President Bob Martinez, Jr. “This is a gross injustice that shouldn’t be happening in the United States in 2013. We are there to stand with the farm workers in the tobacco fields, and we’ll be there with FLOC until the tobacco workers have justice.”