After 4 years, Reynolds agrees to meet with FLOC!
Other major tobacco companies also agree to meet with FLOC and discuss farmworkers’ right to freedom of association
In May, 2012, hundreds of farmworkers and allies gathered at Reynolds’ annual shareholders meeting to call on the company to meet with FLOC and discuss human rights abuses in NC tobacco fields. Nearly 50 supporters were inside the meeting, where Reynolds executives appeared to have a change of heart and agreed to meet directly with FLOC. This is a huge step in the right direction for the company, as they have denied direct meetings with FLOC for more than four years.
This announcement comes after another landmark breakthrough in late August, when several of the largest tobacco companies agreed to designate a committee made up of representatives of tobacco manufacturers, tobacco growers, and farmworkers. The committee is charged with organizing a meeting to discuss the issue of freedom of association without fear of retaliation, wages, housing and forced labor, among other supply chain inequities. The meeting was organized by the Keystone Group, a professional facilitating organization, at the request of the tobacco companies.
For FLOC, the issue remains whether Reynolds will actually implement any agreed to measures. “We will continue to press each of the companies to meet with FLOC individually,” said FLOC Founder and President Baldemar Velasquez after a closed meeting. “This effort is not about meeting to just talk, this campaign will continue until Reynolds comes to an agreement with FLOC guaranteeing the right to freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively for all farmworkers in their supply chain.”
This exciting news comes after four years of pressure from FLOC members and supporters across the country, demanding that Reynolds, North Carolina’s largest tobacco manufacturer, begin to address the human rights abuses at the bottom of their supply chain. Now, more than ever, we need to keep the pressure on these companies to ensure that they take meaningful steps to protect farmworkers basic rights.