Tobacco produced in the United States is part of a global supply chain. Farms in North Carolina produce tobacco that is sold by Reynolds American, Inc. to its largest shareholder, British American Tobacco (BAT). Owning 42.02% of Reynolds, BAT is an important customer to Reynolds and can be a powerful voice in encouraging Reynolds to protect the human rights of tobacco farmworkers.
Unions representing BAT workers in the United Kingdom and around the world have joined the campaign to press BAT to take responsibility for ensuring the rights of workers in its supply chain.
In December 2013, the Trade Union Congress and UNITE the Union helped plan and carry out a briefing by President Baldemar Velasquez for members of the British House of Commons. Since then 41 British Parliamentarians have signed on to an Early Day Motion, a joint declaration of support for the rights of tobacco workers in the US that urges British American Tobacco to use its influence to build an agreement between Reynolds American Inc. and the workers who work on its supplier farms. Several have written to BAT directly to urge the corporation to take action.
At the British American Tobacco annual meeting in London on April 30, 2014, President Velasquez will speak on behalf of US tobacco farmworkers and will be accompanied by speakers from the AFL-CIO, the Farm Worker Ministry, UNITE the Union, and the International Union of Food Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF). Each speaker will challenge British American Tobacco on its labor practices in the supply chain and the need to implement concrete measures to ensure that farmworkers can exercise their fundamental rights in accordance with international labor standards.