On April 25, 2018, a FLOC and IUF (International Union of Food and Allied Workers) delegation traveled to London to attend British American Tobacco’s 2018 Annual General Meeting. This trip marked the first time that FLOC met with BAT as complete owners of Reynolds supply chain and the first meeting since the launch of FLOC’s boycott of Reynolds’s e-cigarette brand VUSE. Despite having brought to BAT’s attention numerous investigative reports and examples of human rights abuses on BAT and Reynolds’s contact farms, Chairman Richard Burros insisted that BAT’s policies were satisfactory and “doing the job.”
During the shareholders meeting, President Velasquez challenged BAT to stop promoting charity programs as an alternative to freedom of association and collective bargaining. “How long are you going to follow a model that is proven to be a failed model?” citing the US’s War on Poverty charity programs. “They fail because they don’t address the systemic inequities in the supply chain. Farmworkers do the most arduous jobs in this industry. We’re not asking for handouts, we’re asking for a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.” He also asked why BAT continues to either support or remain neutral when their growers sponsor legislation that inhibits freedom of association like NC SB615 and the NC Agricultural Right to Work law.
In a private meeting afterwards with BAT executives, President Velasquez pushed BAT to sign a memorandum of understanding to guarantee freedom of association to farmworkers in their supply chain. He also encouraged BAT to fix their pricing structure so that the price of tobacco would cover the true costs of doing business and allow farmers to provide better working conditions and fair wages, instead of marginalizing the farmworkers at the bottom of the supply chain with bad legislation.
“I encourage BAT to see FLOC as a real partner in transforming the tobacco industry and helping to fix the inequities in their supply chain. But until we have a written agreement from BAT and Reynolds, we’ll continue to organize and boycott Reynolds’s product VUSE.”