Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tobacco farm workers unite!

Hi there, dedicated blog readers. My name's Darcie, and I'm the new lady at SmokeFree. For the past few months, I've been avoiding adding a blog entry, but today I learned that R.J. Reynold's has a hand in burning holes in U.S. workers' rights and spitting all over basic human freedoms. I can't help but tell you all about it...

The FLOC (Farm Labor Organizing Committee) represents about 7,000 tobacco farm workers in North Carolina, but there are almost 150,000 others without the power to negotiate to improve their poor wages and unsafe conditions. Most of these workers have limited citizenship status and work long hours handling tobacco plants in the hot sun. The nicotine in the plants can add to serious dehydration, and workers have LITERALLY DROPPED DEAD in the fields. The atrocities don't stop there. The FLOC workers make about $9.00/hour, but the non-union workers make minimum wage ($5.15/hour) or even less! The crew leaders smuggle people across the Mexican border and make them work in the tobacco fields to pay off the debt while, at the same time, forcing them to pay for food, calling cards, transportation, and substandard housing. The workers' undocumented status makes it very scary to report human rights abuses, but some have reported being beaten for complaining about their conditions, and those that have successfully organized tell a story of an industry plagued by corruption. Some of these tobacco farm owners employ illegal immigrants without properly declaring their taxes! For more information, go to FLOC's campaign website at http://www.floc.com/RJR%20Campaign.htm.

It's no surprise to me that R.J. Reynolds' CEO, Susan Ivey, has refused meeting requests from FLOC President , Baldemar Velazquez, who hopes to resolve this crisis in North Carolina. I think tobacco companies should take their part of responsibility for the deplorable conditions workers endure to create their deadly products and at least facilitate a meeting between farm owners and union leaders.

What do you think?



Liz @ SmokeFree Wisconsin said...

Welcome to the blog team Darcie, and WOW fuschia!

Darcie said...

Is fuschia bad? I consider it purple anyhow!