Reviews of "A state of fear: Human rights abuses
in North Carolina's tobacco industry"
Migrant Farmworker Justice Project
Florida Legal Services
Lake Worth, Florida
As an attorney who has represented thousands of H-2A workers and U.S. farmworkers for over 30 years, I have thoroughly and carefully read A State of Fear: Human rights abuses in North Carolina’s tobacco industry, the report FLOC produced in conjunction with Oxfam.
Although I consider myself fairly knowledgeable on farmworkers, I learned a great deal from the report. I never had previously fully appreciated just how horrible tobacco work is, especially the health problems from green tobacco sickness. I also was unaware of just how large the tobacco workforce was and that the vast majority remains outside the H-2A program.
The report should be required reading for all Farmworker advocates , unions, and organizers who see nothing worthwhile in the admittedly-flawed H-2A program. One theme that comes through the report is that the H-2A workers are far better off than their undocumented counterparts in every respect, most notably in the quality of the housing provided and the fact that they are covered by worker’s compensation, while non-H2A workers are not. The report also is a strong testimonial for the role FLOC has played in educating workers regarding their rights and encouraging them to assert them. Surprisingly, the report also helped me understand the mindset of the NCGA leadership. It’s easy to appreciate their resentment about the extensive scrutiny they receive when the non-H-2A employers are routinely violating every provision of federal and state labor law.
It is ironic that in all the deal-making about guestworker legislation, FLOC’s input is at best an afterthought. FLOC has a very good story to tell, but because it has devoted most of its efforts to organizing workers rather than to promoting its public image, few are aware of the truly impressive changes it has produced for the tobacco workers lucky enough to be employed under a FLOC contract.
In this tobacco report, FLOC and its project partner, Oxfam, got it right.
Rubén Martinez, Ph.D.
Julian Samora Research Institute
Michigan State University
This community study by Oxfam America sheds new light on the violations of labor rights of tobacco workers and the challenges of protecting transnational workers. In a global economy where capital has complete freedom of movement, policies protecting labor, health and human rights are absent from the daily lives of these workers. This remains one of the greatest challenges of our century.