FLOC Continues Struggle with British American Tobacco and Subsidiary Reynolds American Tobacco at Annual General Meeting in London
London, England– On Wednesday, April 19th FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez will be appearing at the British American Tobacco’s (BAT) Annual General Meeting. President Velasquez will communicate directly with shareholders concerning the ongoing inequities and abuses that continue to occur among the farm workers who tend their tobacco fields in North Carolina and Virginia.
Since 2007, FLOC has been calling attention to the abhorrent conditions farm workers face in the tobacco fields across the U.S., that BAT and Reynolds American Tobacco continue to profit from. A Human Rights report conducted by OXFAM America documented the dangerous working conditions and sub-poverty wages workers face, ranging from overcrowded, rodent infested housing to workers dying from heat stroke. Year after year FLOC has advocated for Reynolds American Tobacco to address these abuses and work with FLOC in bringing an accountable and sustainable system for farm workers and the employer small family farms that are suppliers to their company, and do the back breaking and arduous work. Historically FLOC has accomplished this with memorandums of understanding with giant manufacturers like Campbell’s Soup, Vlasic Pickles, H.J. Heinz USA, Dean’s Foods and the Mt. Olive Pickle Company. These memorandums of understanding basically codify Freedom of Association with the right to form unions!
Throughout BAT’s website, Modern Day Slavery Statement and 2022 Annual Report, the company claims to respect human rights and value farm workers’ living conditions. Stating “our tobacco supply chain is particularly vulnerable to human rights issues. We have extensive due diligence in place for all our tobacco leaf operations and third-party suppliers, … systematic farm monitoring and human rights impact assessments. We also take a long-term and collaborative approach to mitigating the risks and tackling the root causes, including rural poverty.” Their operations, with the exception of farms covered under FLOC’s union agreement with the North Carolina Growers Association, are a complete contradiction to these statements. There are rampant abuses throughout their supply chain and while FLOC has developed a sustainable solution that would drastically improve farm workers’ living conditions, BAT and Reynolds American decline to develop an agreement.
The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF), as the global trade union federation representing workers throughout the tobacco sector, has regularly communicated to BAT their concerns over the continuing violations of workers’ rights on the farms in the USA and will be in attendance with FLOC.
It is our hope that BAT will take note of our testimony and proceed with positive steps to reach a joint effort with FLOC in order to ameliorate these conditions.