FLOC Seeks Justice
for Reynolds Tobacco Field Workers
Campaign Update!After years of pressure from farmworkers and allies, several major tobacco companies, including Reynolds American, have agree to meet with FLOC and discuss farmworkers’ right to freedom of association. Read more
Big tobacco companies are among the richest parties in American agriculture. They have constructed a supply system that benefits themselves, at the expense of those who produce their leaf products. This includes both farmers and farmworkers. There are only a few large companies that purchase NC tobacco and they use their power to set the terms and prices for the farmers who grow their tobacco. These terms and prices directly affect the earnings and working conditions of field workers. With their wealth and industry power, companies like RJ Reynolds could be part of the solution, but have instead attempted to hold themselves out to the public as passive purchasers of tobacco.
RJ Reynolds is one of the largest tobacco corporations in the world, with annual profits of over $2 billion. Reynolds executives, who can receive up to $60 million a year in bonuses claim to be committed to corporate social responsibility, but their list of "stakeholders" excludes the farmworkers at the bottom of their supply chain.
FLOC has continuously called on Reynolds American to meet with representatives of the farmworkers their company relies on for its raw product. Instead of using resources to fix the problems in their supply chain, Reynolds executives have chosen to ignore this exploited workforce, while spreading mis-information about FLOC. Learn more about conditions in the fields
Reynolds Avoids Responsibility for its Repressive Tobacco Supply Chain
Reynolds, which earns $2 billion in annual profits and whose top executives can receive up to $60 million in bonuses, is in the dominant position to resolve the abuse and exploitation that is rampant in the tobacco fields of the South. Yet the corporation has refused to even talk with FLOC about possible solutions.
As community support has grown, pressure has increased on Reynolds to take responsibility for the exploitation that its supply system causes. In response, the company has continually attempted to deflect criticism by spreading mis-information about the tobacco procurement system and about FLOC as an organization.
Reynolds American has issued a statement which portrays FLOC as attacking the corporations' record of "social responsibility". Issuing such a statement itself, its tone, and the falsehoods and misleadingstatements indicate that the corporation is feeling popular pressure about this issue. FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez, responded to the letter point by point, questioning the validity and biases in corporation's posture towards the farmworkers at the bottom of their supply chain. The FLOC response makes it clear that Reynolds is simply sidestepping the issues and attempting to pass on accountability for the disastrous effects of the system that generates its wealth.
Although Reynolds' letter was simply a weak attempt to avoid responsibility for the system they control, we look forward to continuing the debate and have posted it in its entirety on our website; we look forward to the day that Reynolds would be willing to do the same with the FLOC response.
The FLOC movement seeks to change the structureof the system that currently fosters abuse of farmworkers. The system that agricultural corporations use to procure their raw product allows responsibility to continually be passed down: Corporations claim they are only passive purchasers, growers hang on to their thinning profits by using labor contractors who operate outside of the legal system, and those at the bottom continue to suffer.