News

Follow-up: Members of British Parliament release report on inhumane treatment of farmworkers in NC

UnknownAt a meeting held yesterday, two members of the British Parliament, Ian Lavery and James Sheridan, released their fact-finding report about the conditions of farmworkers working in North Carolina tobacco fields.

The report, A Smokescreen for Slavery: Human Rights Abuses in UK Supply Chain, exposes a horrific list of human rights violations including child labor by children as young as seven, substandard housing with no ventilation and bug infested mattresses, and exploitation of workers by having them work inhumane hours for very little pay. Other areas of concern identified by the report include a lack of access to clean drinking water for workers and a lack of protective clothing to prevent infection from pesticides and even from the tobacco plant itself. The report also explains that some of the inhumane living and working conditions are permitted by lax labor standards. For example, under North Carolina law, it is legal for thirty men to share two toilets with no dividers.

The main problem, as explained by the report, is that farmworkers are afraid to report these issues for fear of being fired or deported (since many are undocumented). The National Labor Relations Act, the only law that allows workers to unionize and make demands without fear of retaliation, does not include agriculture workers. The report concludes that until farmworkers are free to join and form trade unions, they won’t be able to speak out about the injustices they face.

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) invited Lavery and Sheridan to observe the inhumane conditions firsthand in an effort to get Reynolds American Inc. (Reynolds), a major purchaser of the tobacco produced in these fields, to end the human rights injustices in its supply chain. British American Tobacco (BAT), a UK based company, owns 42% of Reynolds. Based on the report shared yesterday, an Early Day Motion signed by thirty-four members of Parliament urged BAT to use its influence over Reynolds to reach an agreement with FLOC which would allow the workers to organize and demand humane living and working conditions.

“After seven years of farmworkers bringing these issues to the tobacco industry, we deeply appreciate the members of Parliament visiting with our membership in North Carolina and look forward to their broad publicity of the injustices that that they witnessed first hand,” said FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez. “We hope BAT and Reynolds will take this seriously and finally move to clean up their supply chains.”

2 Comments


  1. Morning Post for Nov. 6, 2014

    November 6, 2014 at 9:31 am

    […] • Members of British Parliament release report on inhumane treatment of NC farmworkers: The title of the report is “A Smokescreen for Slavery: Human Rights Abuses in UK Supply Chain.” Read more. […]

  2. Alex

    November 6, 2014 at 9:39 am

    I would love to know why the Brits are concerned with this issue. They had no problem working folks to death when they were setting up colonies around the world. They probably need to be more concerned with their own problems. In case they haven’t noticed, they have terrorism knocking on their door as we speak.

Check Also

Pro-choice supporters energized despite divided court on abortion case

On the blistery cold morning of March 2, ...

Top Stories from NCPW

  • News
  • Commentary

When it began in 1919, it was “Armistice Day” — a celebration of the end of World War I. It became a [...]

Peter Romary worked for UNC board member Tom Fetzer, but claimed connections to Senate leader Phil B [...]

GREENSBORO – A Pender County graduate almost missed an opportunity to pursue his dream job because h [...]

Lawmakers criticize probe as "threat to academic freedom" U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Michigan [...]

Back in the early 1990’s, the late and sorely missed Bob Hensley – a talented, feisty and frequently [...]

The post Berger on shaky ground appeared first on NC Policy Watch. [...]

Today marks 100 days since I filed an official request with the Department of Public Instruction to [...]

Yesterday, the North Carolina Supreme Court considered whether immigrants detained unlawfully under [...]