For Immediate Release
Monday, Sept. 19, 2011
Patrick Scully, Oxfam America
Briana Connors, Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC)
NEW REPORT SHOWS WIDESPREAD HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN
NORTH CAROLINA TOBACCO FIELDS
Oxfam America – FLOC report shows workers in “A State of Fear”
(Dudley, North Carolina—Sept. 19, 2011) One in four tobacco farmworkers paid less than the federal minimum wage; Green Tobacco Sickness from absorbing nicotine through the skin and other illness; squalid living conditions such as insect infested mattresses, overcrowding, and nonfunctioning toilets and showers. These are just some of the inhumane conditions detailed in a new report from Oxfam America and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO (FLOC). The report was formally unveiled at a rally in Dudley, North Carolina where farmworkers and community supporters gathered for a series of meetings.
“This should be a wakeup call to all of the actors in the tobacco supply chain. Hidden in plain view are the thousands of workers suffering daily indignities. ” said Minor Sinclair, director of Oxfam America’s US Regional office. “A safe and humane working environment is not a radical vision---it should be the minimum standard upheld by all who produce and benefit from tobacco. ,” he said.
“This is nothing short of an indictment of the tobacco industry,” said Baldemar Velasquez, founder and president of FLOC and who in 2008 spent a week in the fields as a tobacco farmworker so he could see firsthand what the workers face. “It’s abhorrent what these workers have to go through. The tobacco companies need to step up and change this system.”
The report calls for:
- Manufacturers to respect the internationally recognized human rights of workers, including the right to freedom of association
- Industry leaders to create a council that brings together manufacturers, growers, farmworkers and their chosen representatives to address conditions
- Manufacturers work to ensure a stable industry by allowing more grower input in their pricing formulas
The full report, A State of Fear, can be seen here