Human Rights Watch Releases Report Revealing Child Labor in US Tobacco Fields

May 14, 2014

Today, Human Rights Watch released a new report revealing child labor in US tobacco fields throughout North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, where 90% of the country’s tobacco is grown.

The report documents serious health problems among the children working in the fields, dangerous working conditions, long hours and low pay. Check out the video which includes interviews with children in the report. 

Child labor in the tobacco industry is not new, and in the wake of this report we have the opportunity to raise up the voices of farmworkers who are on the ground organizing and waging a campaign to eliminate child labor and secure fair pay and working conditions.

This morning, FLOC released the following statement on the HRW report:

“There is only one way to remedy the problem of child labor and other horrendous abuses that plague the tobacco industry. That remedy is that tobacco manufacturers guarantee freedom of association and collective bargaining rights for tobacco farmworkers. We can push for tougher laws or stronger company policies, but the reality is that child labor won’t end until families are able to negotiate better wages so that children don’t have to work in the fields to help sustain their family. Child labor won’t end until farmworkers themselves have a safe and effective way to speak out when abuses happen, without fearing retaliation from their employer. This can only happen when workers have a recognized voice in the work place.

In two weeks, FLOC will be launching the largest organizing drive since Chavez to call on America’s tobacco giants to recognize their collective voice. 5,000 new farmworker union members across North Carolina and Kentucky will be speaking out against human rights violations such as child labor, while working together to negotiate fair wages, better housing conditions, and safe and healthy work places.”