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Farm Labor Organizing Committee FLOC, AFL-CIO

Called upon to challenge the deplorable conditions of the broader workforce that remains voiceless, powerless, and invisible to mainstream America

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Conditions in NC Tobacco Fields

Every year, tens of thousands of migrant workers travel to North Carolina to harvest tobacco. While the contract between FLOC and the NC Growers' Association has helped end many of the abuses in the H2A "guest-worker" program, we estimate that around 90% of the workforce is made up of undocumented workers who are still denied the most basic labor rights. Corporations like RJ Reynolds continue to reap huge profits at the expense of this migrant workforce. In recent years, at least nine field workers have died in North Carolina tobacco fields, most of them due to heat stroke.




For an indepth look at conditions in the fields, check out the FLOC/Oxfam Report, "A state of fear: Human rights abuses in North Carolina’s tobacco industry."



You can download the full report here, or the Executive Summary in English or Spanish.








Most farmworkers continue to face slave-like hardships, such as:

  • racism
  • long hours of stoop labor in the fields
  • harassment in their work
  • abject poverty
  • staggering debt
  • exposure to lethal nicotine and pesticides
  • poor health
  • miserable housing in labor camps
  • denial of basic labor and human rights protections

After long, hot days in the fields, tobacco farmworkers return to labor camps that are deplorable, cramped and uncomfortable, and pose many hazards and health risks, including:

  • Isolation from the public and visitors.
  • Sleeping on bare bunks or moldy mattresses on the floor.
  • Poor ventilation.
  • Leaky roofs.
  • Hazardous wiring.
  • Poorly maintained plumbing and showers.
  • Poor ventilation.
  • Infestation by flies, mosquitoes, and other bugs.
  • Inadequate facilities for washing clothes contaminated by pesticides and tobacco residue.
  • No cooking facilities and having to buy food at high prices from the camp supervisor.



 Another Life Lost in the Fields


Urbano Ramirez came to N.C. from the mountains of Guerrero to support his family. One of his greatest dreams was that his children be able to go to school. When he told his supervisor that he was feeling sick, he was told to rest under a tree and was forgotten when the crew left the fields. Two weeks later, his decomposing body was found under the same tree. Tragedies like this could be avoided if conditions in the fields were improved and workers had a real voice in the workplace.

LISTEN URBANO´S SONG by Baldemar Velasquez




Working in the tobacco fields is dangerous.Farmworkers often suffer from serious health conditions as a result of the dangerous field work and living conditions. Adequate shower and laundry facilities are often lacking, making it difficult to wash off pesticide residue. Each year, thousands of workers suffer from Green Tobacco Sickness (GTS), which is caused by a high level of nicotine absorption through the skin. Short term effects include dizziness, nausea, and dehydration, which can lead to more serious health problems such as heat stroke.

The most serious problem faced by tobacco field workers is that, without union representation, they have no voice in those conditions that impact their lives. Everyone else makes decisions for them and if they complain about mistreatment or if their productivity declines from tobacco sickness, they can be fired without question.