May 4, 2016
A delegation of FLOC allies attended the Philip Morris International (PMI) shareholders meeting to confront the company about labor violations on PMI farms, and press the company to engage with FLOC about resolving problems and guaranteeing freedom of association for farmworkers in their supply chain.
Luis-Alfredo Cartagena Zayas, a minister at the Park Avenue Christian Church in New York, pressed the company for an answer about eight workers who were blacklisted from Hudson Farms, one of the farms where PMI buys tobacco, where workers reported rampant wage theft, threats of firing, and violence. PMI’s own audit found violations at this farm in 2015, and now the workers who spoke out are left without a job.
“Why have you not engaged with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, the chosen representative of these workers, to help resolve this issue?” Cargtagena Zayas asked company executives.
Brendan Griffith, Chief of Staff of the New York City Central Labor Council, pressed the company on other problems that were identified in the 2015 audit, including:
- 30 farmers who refused to participate in unannounced audits
- Workers who were coerced by growers to not tell the truth to auditors
- 23% of farms paid below the minimum wage
- 12% of workers reported 7 day work weeks
- 30% of workers were unaware of the minimum wage rate
- H2A workers often pay illegal recruitment fees and do not want to jeopardize their income by speaking out
- 10% of workers were not provided water in the fields by their growers
- 70% of workers did not have access to bathrooms while working
Despite the documentation of these problems, PMI continues to insist that they are doing everything possible to protect labor rights in tobacco fields, and that freedom of association is already a guaranteed right for farmworkers in their supply chain. In the meeting, PMI executives expressed concern over the situation at Hudson Farms and thanked the delegation for bringing it to their attention, but made no commitment to take additional steps with FLOC to prevent similar situations in the future.
On Thursday, May 12, a delegation delivered a 10,000 name petition to PMI headquarters, detailing another case of retaliation against seven workers who spoke out against wage theft and unjust firing at a farm in Autryville, NC. The petition calls on the farm and major companies to work with FLOC to establish a process to guarantee freedom of association, and give the seven blacklisted workers their jobs back.