Supporters of human rights and justice joined the National Farm Worker Ministry and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on Friday May 7, 2010 where Reynolds Tobacco held its annual shareholders meeting.
More than 30 farm worker supporters gained access to the meeting by purchasing a share of the company’s stock or by representing someone, through a proxy, who owned one. These included several NFWM staff and Youth and Young Adult Network (YAYA) members from Florida.
Those inside used the question and answer period to create a dominating presence inside the meeting, giving voice to the real human rights situation for tobacco farm workers in the fields of North Carolina. At the conclusion of the meeting, Rev. Carlton Eversley, President of the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem led the group out singing a civil-rights spiritual.
As Reverend Laura Spangler of Lloyd Presbyterian Church wrote:
“At the May 7th shareholders meeting, the concerns of farm workers dominated the event. CEO, Susan Ivey professionally held the microphone upfront, but nearly 30 farm worker advocates spoke beautifully and powerfully from the center of the room. No other voice was as profound. We gathered before 7:30am to prepare and register for our speaking blitz. Once we entered the auditorium for the shareholder meeting at 9:00am, we did not leave until our resounding closing prayer and musical exit. Our presence was unmistakably strong, representing at least one third of the many executives gathered.”
After the shareholders meeting ended, NFWM & FLOC supporters held a rally in downtown Winston-Salem and heard reports about the meeting from a number of the people inside, including Rosanna Panizo of the United Methodist Church and Rev. Dr. Miriam J. Burnett, chair of the National Council of Churches. Supporters then marched through the streets, past Reynold’s headquarters, to Lloyd Presbyterian Church.
FLOC has called on Reynolds for nearly three years to talk to FLOC about how to work together to improve farm worker conditions. Reynolds continues to refuse to do so.