Workers in tobacco fields suffer the same injustices that other farmworkers face, including the low wages, weak workplace protections, and harsh conditions. However, their work is even more unhealthy and dangerous because of risks posed by pesticides and Green Tobacco Sickness, a health risk specific to prolonged exposure to tobacco plants. Such abuses have been documented and reported in recent years by Oxfam. More recently, Human Rights Watch released an updated report on child labor that has received much public attention. Children who work in tobacco fields are at an increased risk for health problems because their bodies are still developing, as well the risks posed by operating heavy machinery and dangerous tools.
For the past seven years, farmworker advocates, faith leaders and the Farmworker Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) have been working to improve the lives of workers in tobacco fields in North Carolina. FLOC is not backing down. This summer they are launching a new campaign called Respect, Recognition, Raise, which aims to sign up 5,000 new tobacco workers. This demonstration of grassroots power aims to prove to Reynolds and other tobacco companies that workers in their supply chain demand respect, want union representation, and expect a raise above the current sub-poverty level wages.
Faith leaders also play a pivotal role in organizing other people of faith to support FLOC. As such, religious leaders from across the nation are being asked to add their names to a letter to Susan Cameron, president and CEO of Reynolds American, Inc. A religious leader is defined as anyone who self-identifies as such, and we encourage you to sign on if you feel led. This letter calls on Reynolds American to:
- Negotiate a memorandum of understanding with FLOC that will guarantee freedom of association.
- Prohibit growers from retaliating against farmworkers for exercising basic workplace rights like signing a union card.
We encourage you to add your name if you feel led and to share with your friends, colleagues, congregants, and family. The letter is due June 27. Let tobacco workers know that you as a person of faith stand in solidarity with them as they seek justice. To sign onto this letter, please follow the specific instructions below:
Reply to RLTFJustice@aol.com by June 27, 2014 with the following:
*ORGANIZATION (if applicable)
CITY, STATE, ZIP
*Organizations will be listed on the open letter for identification purposes only.
Or Mail To:
Religious Leaders for Tobacco Farm Workers Justice PO Box 10645 Raleigh, North Carolina 27605
If you have questions or concerns, please contact Rev. Lindsay Comstock at National Farm Worker Ministry at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-807-8707.