Reynolds American Inc. has agreed to resume discussions with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) about ways to address alleged farm-worker abuse, according to a story by Federico Martinez for The Blade (Toledo, Ohio).
Reynolds was said to have agreed to resume the meetings after the farm-labor union and advocacy group staged a protest outside the tobacco company’s annual shareholders meeting in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA.
“It appears that there is some interest on their part,” said FLOC president Baldemar Velasquez, who added that he hadn’t heard from Reynolds’ officials since December. “Whether or not they are sincere about addressing the concerns is another issue.”
Velasquez and other critics say they want Reynolds’ officials to address several issues, including the human trafficking of workers from Mexico and Central America, and the numerous human-rights abuses from which they say tobacco-industry laborers frequently suffer.
FLOC’s primary mission was to persuade the tobacco company to support farm workers’ efforts to form a union, said Velasquez.
Many tobacco farm workers lived in labor camps with inadequate or non-functioning toilets or showers and other substandard conditions. They also suffered from nicotine poisoning and exposure to dangerous pesticides, he added.
Reynolds’ spokesman David Howard said the two sides hadn’t met since December but they had communicated by phone and email.
“We’ve had a series of discussions since December,” Howard said. “They are ongoing and we will continue meeting and having dialogue.”